Call records of third party cannot be sought for husband to prove wife’s illicit relationship: Karnataka High Court

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The Karnataka High Court recently said that call records/ tower details of third person, who is not a party to the case, cannot be sought to be produced as evidence, to enable a husband to prove alleged adultery on the part of his wife [Vishwas Shetty v Preethi Rao].

Single-judge Justice M Nagaprasanna while quashing an order of lower court, which permitted production of tower details of the petitioner, said that informational privacy forms an integral part of right to privacy.

“The order which directs tower details of the petitioner to be placed before the Court in a proceeding, which he is not even a party, undoubtedly violates informational privacy…Third party’s privacy cannot be permitted to be violated on the specious plea of the husband that he wants to prove illicit relationship between the petitioner and the wife,” the Court said.

As per the facts of the present case, the Additional Principal Judge, Bangalore had allowed submission of mobile tower records containing mobile details of petitioner (third party) in a matrimonial dispute between a husband and wife.

In 2018, wife had filed a plea for annulment of marriage before family court on account of cruelty.

Subsequently, the husband filed an application before the same court seeking call details of his wife and her lover (petitioner in present case) which was allowed by the family court through an order dated August 24, 2018.

However, wife moved the High Court seeking review of order passed by family court. The High Court rejected the application but directed to furnish tower details only from concerned authority, i.e. the mobile operator.

In 2019, the petitioner (lover) who is a third party then alleged that as he is not a party to the proceedings, his right to privacy is being violated by the Court’s order to produce call records.

Accordingly, an interim stay was granted on production of tower records was granted.

The petitioner then filed this present plea to quash the order passed by family court, contending that it was violative of his privacy.

On the other hand, the husband contended that the call records were absolutely essential to disprove the allegation of cruelty filed by wife as she just wanted to annul marriage because of her illicit relationship with petitioner.

The counsel for husband submitted that there is child born out of wedlock and due to illicit relationship of his wife with petitioner, the future of child is in jeopardy.

To this contention the Court noted that if this was the intention of the husband, he would not have waited for four long years before preferring a petition seeking restitution of conjugal rights.

The bench said that husband wanted to fight the matrimonial case instituted by the wife for divorce and does not want to file a case for restitution of conjugal rights.

“He wants to fight the matrimonial case instituted by the wife for divorce and does not want to file a case for restitution of conjugal rights. Therefore, the intention of the husband is only to prove alleged adultery on the part of the wife for which reason the tower details of the third party cannot be permitted to be divulged,” the Court ruled.

It said that permitting tower details of petitioner would be contrary to law without him being in the know of any proceedings between the husband and the wife.

“It is trite that right to privacy is implicit in the right to life and liberty guaranteed to the citizens of the Country under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It is a right to be ‘let alone’. A citizen has a right to safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage and other incidental relationships,” observed the bench.

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