The Court rejected an appeal by a man who invoked the right to privacy and challenged a family court order summoning hotel records where he stayed with his ‘friend’.
The Delhi High Court recently held that demanding details of hotel room bookings and call detail records (CDR) for proving a case of adultery does not amount to violation of the right to privacy.
Justice Rekha Palli held that the right to privacy is not an absolute right and is subject to reasonable restrictions if they are in public interest.
“The Hindu Marriage Act specifically recognises adultery as a ground for divorce and therefore, it would not at all be in public interest that the Court should on the ground of right to privacy, come to the aid of a married man who, during the subsistence of his marriage, is alleged to have indulged in sexual relationships outside his marriage,” the order said.
Justice Palli made the observations while upholding a family court order that allowed a woman’s application to summon the records of a hotel room where her husband allegedly stayed with another woman. The Court also called for the CDR of the two numbers belonging to the husband.
The woman had filed a divorce petition against her husband on the grounds of cruelty and adultery. It was her case that her husband stayed at a Jaipur hotel with another lady and her daughter. The CDR as well as the hotel records are necessary to prove the case of adultery, she argued.
However, the husband contended that the trial court’s directions amount to infringement of not only his, but also his friend’s right to privacy.
He argued that if the directions are complied with, the same would cast grave aspersions not only on the reputation and character of the woman whom he coincidentally met at the hotel, but would also put a question mark on the legitimacy and paternity of the woman’s minor child.
After considering the case, the Court said that the direct evidence of adultery can rarely be available. Therefore, the wife has not only been able to make out a prima facie case, but also the information that she is seeking would definitely be relevant for proving the charge of adultery.
“The payment and reservations details along with the ID proofs of the occupants of the room will surely throw light on this crucial issue as to whether the petitioner was indeed staying with a lady other than his wife in the same room. Similarly, the call details will surely be indicative of the fact as to whether the conversations of the petitioner with the lady were of such duration and frequency as is not expected between colleagues,” the Court noted.
It rejected the argument that the direction to produce the records amounts to a roving and fishing inquiry.
“I may observe that it is not as if the respondent is seeking information about any stranger staying in the hotel, her plea is only for records pertaining to her legally wedded husband, who she has a reason to believe is indulging in adultery with a particular lady in a particular room.”
Justice Palli added that when, in a case like this, a wife seeks the help of a court for procuring evidence which would go a long way to prove adultery on the part of her husband, the court must step in.
“This would be in consonance with Section 14 of the Family Courts Act which gives a leeway to the Court to consider evidence which may be not admissible or relevant under the Indian Evidence Act.”
The Court, therefore, upheld the family court’s order and dismissed the husband’s appeal.