Notary Cannot Grant Divorce By Executing Agreement of Separation: Madhya Pradesh HC

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The court noted “The parties are not Muslim by religion, therefore there cannot be any divorce by mutual consent without approaching the Court”

In a recent ruling, the High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Jabalpur has held that a Notary cannot authorise a divorce by executing an agreement signed by the parties as the same held no legal sanctity.

The court, presided over by Justice G.S. Ahluwalia, held that “Since the agreement of separation has no sanctity in the eye of law, therefore it cannot be said that any divorce has taken place between the parties.”

The court made the observation while dismissing an application under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure seeking to quash a First Information Report (FIR), involving allegations under Sections 498-A, 506, 34 of the IPC and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

The petitioners argued that the FIR was unfounded as a mutual divorce agreement was executed between the husband (applicant No.1) and the wife (respondent No.2) in Vadodara on June 22, 2022. It was further contended that since the marital relationship had ended prior to the FIR's lodging on December 20, 2023, charges under Section 498-A of IPC were not sustainable. Additionally, it was highlighted that the wife had filed an application under Section 11 of the Hindu Marriage Act to declare the marriage null and void, and that the allegations were general in nature. Furthermore, it was stated that the wife had previously undertaken not to pursue legal action against the petitioners.

The court, after examining the FIR lodged by the wife, noted the detailed allegations of harassment. According to the FIR, she married applicant No.1 on April 21, 2022, and her family provided substantial dowry, including Rupees Eight Lakhs in cash and household items worth approximately Rupees Twenty Lakhs. However, she alleged that five days after the marriage, the harassment began with taunts about insufficient dowry, demands for a car, and additional money amounting to Rupees Ten Lakhs. Physical assault and abusive behaviour followed, continuing even during reconciliation attempts in Bhopal.

The court, pointed out that the divorce agreement executed in Vadodara cannot be held legally valid, stating that “The parties are not Muslim by religion, therefore there cannot be any divorce by mutual consent without approaching the Court.”

The court also expressed apprehension as to the manner of execution of an agreement of such nature. “How the Notary could notarize such an agreement, is also a matter of concern. A Notary cannot grant divorce by executing the agreement of separation,” the court said.

The court rejected the petitioners' claim that the wife's undertaking to refrain from legal action was binding, citing Section 28 of the Contract Act, which deems agreements restricting legal proceedings as void. Moreover, it was emphasised that Section 41 of the Specific Relief Act prohibits injunctions that prevent legal recourse.

The court further noted that the application filed by the wife under Section 11 of the Hindu Marriage Act supports the allegations made in her FIR, rather than undermining them.

“Even otherwise, if any divorce has taken place, still the FIR under Section 498-A of IPC can be lodged in respect of cruelty meted out to the complainant prior to the divorce but that situation has not arisen in the present case because no divorce has taken place between the parties,” the court noted, dismissing the application and allowing the FIR and subsequent legal proceedings to continue.

Conclusively, the court ruled “Considering the totality of facts and circumstances of the case and in view of specific allegations made in the FIR, this Court is of considered opinion that no case is made out warranting interference.”


Cause Title: Ravindra Pratap v State of Madhya Pradesh [M.Cr.C No.14908/2024]