Divorce granted to husband on Grounds of cruelty, Desertion and False criminal Cases.

Divorce  granted to husband on Grounds of cruelty, Desertion and False criminal Cases.

“The contention of the husband was that the appellant was in the habit of quarrelling with him on petty issues without any cause and reason and had even refused to prepare food for him and do the household chores. She also humiliated him in the presence of his friends on several occasions by refusing to serve them tea. The appellant never wanted to stay with him or his parents at the village and always used to force him to drop her at her parental home; she did not have any love and affection for him and his parents; that the appellant had also pressurised him to leave the job and settle down in Delhi; he bought a land in Burari and constructed two storey house from his savings but the appellant preferred staying in her parental home at Gulabi Bagh, Delhi and used to come to their newly constructed house once a week. The husband had all along supported the appellant and their children financially as well as morally. When the construction of the house was completed, the appellant had refused to live with him at the place of his posting. She also forced her mother-in-law to leave the house who thereafter started living in her native village. She used to say that “yeh log hamare status kay neie hain.”

On these facts, the respondent/husband had alleged that he had suffered severe mental agony, tension, harassment and distress and that the behaviour of the appellant had caused him great anguish and amounted to cruelty. He had alleged that the appellant had also deserted him since she had refused to live with him. He had also averred that they had been living separately since March 2006 and it was not possible for him to continue living with her since there was a danger to his life and limb.

The first contention of the appellant is that the learned Family Court has given undue weightage to the evidence of the respondent and has discarded the evidence of the appellant. However, this contention has no merit. On the contrary, the evidence on record (including that of the appellant) was duly considered and distinguished and elaborately discussed in the impugned judgment and only thereafter the conclusion was drawn. Record shows that the appellant had examined herself alone in support of her pleas but here is no corroboration to her testimony. Several contradictions in her testimony have been discussed in the impugned judgment. Even otherwise, the burden to prove that the respondent/husband was subjected to cruelty by the appellant, was upon him and it was for him to discharge the same by leading cogent evidence.

The settled proposition of law in civil proceedings is that the principle of proof of a fact is established on a preponderance of possibility and the respondent/husband is not required to prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt. If the evidences on record points out to the existence of  a particular fact, then the said fact can be accepted as having been proved. We may note that the expression “cruelty” has not been defined under the HMA. Cruelty can be mental or physical. It is easy for a party to prove physical cruelty, but mental cruelty depends on various factors.

. In the case of G.V.N. Kameswara Rao vs. G. Jabilli reported at (2002) 2 SSC 296, the Supreme Court had observed that false police complaints would result in mental cruelty as it leads to loss of reputation and standing in the society at the instance of one’s spouse. The act of leveling of unsubstantiated charges of adultery against the husband not only during the stay of the spouses together, but also during the divorce proceedings was treated as an act of cruelty on the part of the wife. In R. Balasubramanian vs. Vijaylakshmi Balsubramanian (SMT) reported at (1999) 7 SCC 311, the Supreme Court held that an

unfounded allegation of adultery is a serious allegation amounting to cruel conduct, and found that these factors cumulatively proved cruelty on the part of the appellant therein for entitling the husband to dissolution of the marriage.

In the case titled Santosh Sahay vs. Hanuman Sahay reported as 2016 IX AD (Delhi) 1, a Division Bench of this Court has held that false character assassination and allegations of such a nature made by a spouse amounts to mental cruelty and the wronged spouse is entitled to seek divorce on that ground.

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IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI

+      MAT.APP.(F.C.) 95/2017, CM No. 19921/2017, CM No. 19923/2017

 

SANTOSH                                                                                        ….. Appellant

versus

HORI LAL                                                                                                     ….. Respondent

CORAM:

HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE HIMA KOHLI

HON’BLE MS. JUSTICE DEEPA SHARMA

HON’BLE MS. JUSTICE DEEPA SHARMA

  1. Vide the present appeal, the appellant has challenged the order dated 31.03.2017 passed by Principal Judge (Family Court), Tis Hazari, Delhi whereby her marriage with the respondent was dissolved under Section 13 (1) (ia) & (ib) of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (hereinafter referred to as “HMA”).
  2. As per the admitted facts, the marriage between the appellant and the respondent was solemnized in Delhi on 29.06.1993, according to the Hindu rites and ceremonies. The marriage was consummated and two children, one female and one male child were born from out of this wedlock. The respondent has been working with the Border Road Organization and at all times, has remained posted at different border areas of the country.
  3. The petition for divorce was filed by the respondent (hereinafter referred to as “respondent/husband”). The case of the husband was that the marriage was very simple and after the marriage, he took the appellant to the matrimonial home at Village Bhopal Garhi Post Kurhar Distt, Etah, UP and stayed there for about 40 days. When he left for his duty, he left the appellant at her parental home on her request. After some time, the appellant joined him at his place of posting at Arunachal Pradesh where they stayed happily. She became pregnant and insisted upon the respondent/husband that she will deliver the first child at her parental home at Delhi and so, he brought her to Delhi and left her at her parental home. A female child was born on 29.03.1994. After about two months i.e. in May 1994, he took the appellant to his place of posting i.e. Arunachal Pradesh along with the minor daughter. The second child was born on 04.05.2002.
  4. The contention of the husband was that the appellant was in the habit of quarrelling with him on petty issues without any cause and reason and had even refused to prepare food for him and do the household chores. She also humiliated him in the presence of his friends on several occasions by refusing to serve them tea. The appellant never wanted to stay with him or his parents at the village and always used to force him to drop her at her parental home; she did not have any love and affection for him and his parents; that the appellant had also pressurised him to leave the job and settle down in Delhi; he bought a land in Burari and constructed two storey house from his savings but the appellant preferred staying in her parental home at Gulabi Bagh, Delhi and used to come to their newly constructed house once a week. The husband had all along supported the appellant and their children financially as well as morally. When the construction of the house was completed, the appellant had refused to live with him at the place of his posting. She also forced her mother-in-law to leave the house who thereafter started living in her native village. She used to say that “yeh log hamare status kay neie hain.”
  5. The husband had referred to the incidents that took place in February 2006, which ultimately culminated in their separation. He alleged that on MAT.APP.(F.C) 95/2017 Page 3 26.02.2006, he had informed the appellant, on telephone, at around 8 p.m. that his father was unwell and that he was taking leave to visit him and asked her to accompany him to the village. However, once he reached Delhi, the appellant refused to accompany him to the village. She also refused to join him at his place of posting along with the children. She and her parents beat him on his visit to her parental home. He visited his house at Burari on 04.03.2006 where the appellant and her parents quarrelled with him and registered a false case against him under Section 107/150 of CrPC. He left for his village on 05.03.2006 and returned to Delhi on 07.03.2006 and went to his house at Burari and found that the appellant had removed all the household goods and had filed a false complaint under Section 498A/406/34 of IPC before Crime against Women Cell after 13 years of their marriage, alleging inter alia that he had demanded dowry of Rs. 35.00 lakhs. The respondent/husband was arrested in the FIR No. 61/2006 on 04.04.2006 and remained in judicial custody for about 20 days. With the help of police, the appellant removed the remaining articles from his house at Burari. She also removed all the jewellery lying in the locker at State Bank of India, Pratap Nagar, Delhi on 06.03.2006. She also filed several civil and criminal cases against him and his relatives on false and frivolous MAT.APP.(F.C) 95/2017 Page 4 grounds, just to harass and torture the husband. The appellant did all this with the intention of extracting more money from him and his relatives. Details in this respect have been furnished by the husband in para No. 15 of his petition. It was also averred that she had filed various complaints against the husband in different departments and authorities, which on investigation, were found to be false and baseless and that she had been making defamatory complaints against him and his family members.
  6. On these facts, the respondent/husband had alleged that he had suffered severe mental agony, tension, harassment and distress and that the behaviour of the appellant had caused him great anguish and amounted to cruelty. He had alleged that the appellant had also deserted him since she had refused to live with him. He had also averred that they had been living separately since March 2006 and it was not possible for him to continue living with her since there was a danger to his life and limb.
  7. The suit was contested by the appellant who filed her written statement wherein she had denied all the averments in the plaint, being false. She had further averred that she was forced to withdraw the FIR and other proceedings filed by her under compelling circumstances and since she did not want to take divorce from the husband, she did not file any suit MAT.APP.(F.C) 95/2017 Page 5 for divorce and that the respondent was taking undue advantage of his own wrong doings and that of his parents, sisters and brother-in-law. Her contention was that it was she, who had been treated with utmost cruelty by the husband and his family members. Her husband failed to maintain her and their two children and they were at the mercy of her father for day-to- day necessities and their school fees was also paid by her father. As per her version, their marriage was solemnised with great pomp and show and her parents had spent lakhs of rupees on their marriage and dowry articles, gifts and cash was given in the marriage which did not satisfy the husband and his family members who kept on raising demands and started harassing and treating her with cruelty, forcing her to fulfil their demands for brining additional dowry and cash amounts.
  8. The appellant claimed that the respondent/husband demanded a Santro car on 28.02.2006 which her parents failed to provide. This refusal enraged the husband. He and his brother asked her to sign on certain blank papers and on her refusal to do so, and in view of the inability of her parents to provide a new Santro car, the respondent/husband got so infuriated that he did not allow her to enter the house. She was beaten by him and his other relatives and sustained injuries. She admitted that she MAT.APP.(F.C) 95/2017 Page 6 had filed a complaint under Section 107/150 of the CrPC against him and his family members on 04.03.2006. It was also contended that she was forced to live in Delhi with her parents because husband refused to keep her at the place of his posting for the reason best known to him.
  9. It was further averred by the appellant that she had been fulfilling all the obligations as a devoted wife and had always remained faithful to the respondent; she was always ready and willing to accompany the respondent/husband to his native village to look after her ailing father-in- law but he had refused to take her along with him to the village. On 04.03.2006 when she was beaten up, she had been medically examined. It was contended that it was her father who had purchased plot no. 55, Block A, Gali No. 8/1, Kaushik Enclave Swaroop Nagar Road, Burari, Delhi measuring 100 square yards in her name and constructed double storeyed house over it; that the husband had fraudulently procured her signatures on a General Power of Attorney executed in his favour and sold the house first to his brother, Sh. Bhopal Singh on 08.03.2006 and thereafter, to Mr. Satish Sisodia for a sum of Rs. 6,25,000/- and mis-appropriated the sale proceeds. The appellant urged that the respondent/husband could not be allowed to MAT.APP.(F.C) 95/2017 Page 7 take advantage of his own wrong and thus, was not entitled for a decree of divorce.
  10. On the basis of the pleadings of the parties, on 26.08.2009, the learned Trial Court had framed the following issues:-

“(1) Whether the respondent has treated the petitioner with cruelty? (OPP)

(2) Whether the respondent has deserted the petitioner for a period of more than two years before the filing of the present petition? (OPP)

(3) Relief.”

  1. Both the parties had led their evidence. The respondent/husband had examined five witnesses in support of his case. In his statement, the petitioner/husband proved on record, the complaints filed by the appellant against him and marked as A to E. He also summoned a witness from the bank to prove that locker bearing no. 192 in the joint name of the parties was lastly operated by the appellant on 06.03.2006. The said record was exhibited by the witness as Ex.PW 2/1 to Ex. PW 2/5. The appellant, however, examined herself alone in support of her case. After hearing the parties at length and considering the evidences on record, the learned Trial Court reached the conclusion that the appellant had treated the respondent with cruelty and that she had deserted him without any just cause and resultantly, dissolved their marriage. Hence the present appeal.
  2. The appellant has challenged the impugned order on the grounds that the learned Family Court has not properly appreciated the evidence on record and did not take into consideration the torture and the harassment she was subjected to; that reliance on the evidence of the respondent and rejection of the testimony of the appellant is unfounded; that the learned Family Court failed to consider the contradictions in the testimony of the respondent and the fact that the husband has not been able to produce any corroborative evidence to prove the allegations levelled by him against the appellant; that the Family Court failed to take into account the fact that it was the respondent who had treated the appellant with cruelty and, therefore, he cannot be permitted to take advantage of his own wrong in view of the provisions of Section 23 of HMA. It was also contended by Mr. Chaudhary, learned counsel for the appellant that the learned Family Court has wrongly granted divorce on the ground that the marriage between them has broken down because no such ground is available for divorce under the HMA. It is therefore prayed that the impugned judgment being illegal, perverse and contrary to law, is liable to be set aside.
  3. We have heard the arguments addressed by learned counsel for the appellant and gone through the LCR which includes the pleadings and evidence of the parties.
  4. The first contention of the appellant is that the learned Family Court has given undue weightage to the evidence of the respondent and has discarded the evidence of the appellant. However, this contention has no merit. On the contrary, the evidence on record (including that of the appellant) was duly considered and distinguished and elaborately discussed in the impugned judgment and only thereafter the conclusion was drawn. Record shows that the appellant had examined herself alone in support of her pleas but here is no corroboration to her testimony. Several contradictions in her testimony have been discussed in the impugned judgment. Even otherwise, the burden to prove that the respondent/husband was subjected to cruelty by the appellant, was upon him and it was for him to discharge the same by leading cogent evidence.
  5. The settled proposition of law in civil proceedings is that the principle of proof of a fact is established on a preponderance of possibility and the respondent/husband is not required to prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt. If the evidences on record points out to the existence of MAT.APP.(F.C) 95/2017 Page 10 a particular fact, then the said fact can be accepted as having been proved. We may note that the expression “cruelty” has not been defined under the HMA. Cruelty can be mental or physical. It is easy for a party to prove physical cruelty, but mental cruelty depends on various factors.
  6. In Samar Ghosh vs. Jaya Ghosh reported at (2007) 4 SCC 511 while dealing with the concept of mental cruelty, the Apex Court has observed as under:

“99. The human mind is extremely complex and human behaviour is equally complicated. Similarly human ingenuity has no bound; therefore, to assimilate the entire human behaviour in one definition is almost impossible. What is cruelty in one case may not amount to cruelty in the other case. The concept of cruelty differs from person to person depending upon his upbringing, level of sensitivity, educational, family and cultural background, financial position, social status, customs, traditions, religious beliefs, human values and their value system.

  1. Apart from this, the concept of mental cruelty cannot remain static; it is bound to change with the passage of time, impact of modern culture through print and electronic media and value system, etc. etc. What may be mental cruelty now may not remain a mental cruelty after a passage of time or vice versa. There can never be any straitjacket formula or fixed parameters for determining mental cruelty in matrimonial matters. The prudent and appropriate way to adjudicate the case would be to evaluate it on its peculiar facts and circumstances….”
  2. Further, in Ravi Kumar vs. Julmidevi reported at (2010) 4 SCC 476, the Supreme Court held that cruelty is to be judged from the behavior, taking into account the entire facts and circumstances of the case and observed that:-

“20. Therefore, cruelty in matrimonial behaviour defies any definition and its categories can never be closed. Whether the husband is cruel to his wife or the wife is cruel to her husband has to be ascertained and judged by taking into account the entire facts and circumstances of the given case and not by any predetermined rigid formula. Cruelty in matrimonial cases can be of infinite variety–it may be subtle or even brutal and may be by gestures and words…”

(emphasis supplied)

  1. Therefore, there is no mathematical formula to assess cruelty. If the consistent behaviour of a spouse is of such a nature as to causes pain, discomfort or it brings disrespect or disrepute to the other spouse, such behavior would constitute cruelty. Trust, mutual respect, understanding and commitment sustain a marriage. When two persons live together in matrimony, it is expected that they will be tolerant towards each other’s attitude, behaviours, moods etc. and not be over sensitive towards innocent and natural behaviour/attitude or stray mood swings of the spouse.

Spouses are expected to be supportive of each others’ needs and MAT.APP.(F.C) 95/2017 Page 12 requirements which includes extending due respect to the family members of the spouse.

  1. While appreciating the evidence in such matters, in Deb Narayan Halder vs. Anushree Halder reported at (2003) 11 SCC 303, the Supreme Court held that Courts should rely on evidence, which is contemporaneous and observed as under:-

20…..In cases where there is a dispute between husband and wife it is very difficult to unravel the true reason for the dispute. After separation when the relationship turns sour, all sorts of allegations and counter allegations are made against each other. Evidence of contemporaneous nature therefore plays an important role in such cases as it may reveal the thinking and attitude of the parties towards each other at the relevant time. Such evidence is usually found in the form of letters written by the parties to each other or to their friends and relatives or recorded in any other document of contemporaneous nature. If really the respondent was subjected to cruelty and harassment in the manner alleged by her, we have no doubt she would have written about such treatment to her friends and relatives with whom she may have corresponded…”

(emphasis supplied)

  1. The evidence brought on record clearly reveals that the parties got married on 29.06.1993 and from the period from 1993 to 2001, the appellant had been staying with the husband at the place of his posting and she was visiting her parents in Delhi during this period. The husband was employed in the Border Road Organization and was posted to different MAT.APP.(F.C) 95/2017 Page 13 places outside Delhi including Arunachal Pradesh. The appellant had stayed with him at those places but she had not written any letter even to her parents, complaining about the misbehaviour of the respondent. There appears no dispute between them during their entire stay at the places of posting, as no complaint of any nature had been filed by the appellant before any authority in this regard. It is also evident that the appellant did not produce any document which could suggest that she had any complaint of any nature against the respondent during her stay with him.
  2. During this entire period, till the filing of the complaint of demand of dowry under Section 498 A IPC, no complaint of any nature has been placed on record by the appellant against the respondent. The evidence also shows that the appellant started living in the Burari house since the year 2001 and during this period, the respondent had been visiting her in that house. The appellant has also failed to prove that it was her father who purchased the property in her name. No document has been produced on record by the appellant to prove that she was the registered owner of the property and it was sold by the respondent by fraudulently obtaining her signatures on a Power of Attorney. No document was also produced on record to prove that the construction undertaken over the plot was raised by MAT.APP.(F.C) 95/2017 Page 14 her father. During the existence of a marriage of about 13 years, no complaint of demand of dowry was ever lodged by the appellant against the respondent or his family members.
  3. Apparently, the dispute between the parties arose sometime in March 2006. The appellant has not disputed that in March 2006, the respondent wanted to visit his ailing father at the village and he did visit him. While respondent/husband contends that it was the appellant who had refused to accompany him, the appellant took the plea that he did not take her along, which she had failed to substantiate by leading any evidence. The appellant has not produced any substantive evidence in support of her contention that she had been visiting her in-laws in the village. On the contrary, the evidence on record clearly shows that whenever she was in Delhi, she used to reside with her parents. Although she has contended that the respondent was not providing her money towards her maintenance and that of their children and it was her father who was bearing all the expenses during her stay in the Burari house, she has not produced any evidence to prove that the school fees of the children was being paid by her father. In fact, she has failed to examine her father. It is also a fact that the appellant never made any complaint to anyone including the respondent’s department MAT.APP.(F.C) 95/2017 Page 15 to the effect that he was not giving them any money for their subsistence, nor had she filed any case claiming maintenance from him. There is no contemporaneous evidence on record which can even remotely suggest that the respondent had demanded dowry and that he and his family members had beaten the appellant or that he was not taking care of her and children and was not providing financial support to them.
  4. The other plea of the appellant is that her husband and his family members used to demand dowry and harass her and had demanded a Santro car on 04.06.2006 and, on refusal, beaten her and turned her out of the house, thus compelling her to file a complaint under Section 498A. It turns out that the husband was discharged in the said case under Section 498A IPC, which only goes to show that there was no substance in the allegations made by the appellant in her complaint under Section 498A IPC. She has also contended that the respondent had forced her to abort their child against her wishes, but has failed to produce any evidence on record to prove the said allegations. During the cross-examination of Sh. Bhopal Singh (PW-4), the respondent’s witness, a suggestion was made that the respondent had got married to another women but it remained a mere suggestion, without any proof. The appellant has also admitted in her MAT.APP.(F.C) 95/2017 Page 16 testimony that the respondent had visited her at her parental home at Gulabi Bagh, Delhi on 28.02.2006 and that after 28.02.2006, she had never visited Etah, UP, where her in-laws reside.
  5. On the other hand, the respondent has produced on record the evidence to demonstrate that the appellant had removed all the items lying in the locker held in their joint names, without obtaining his consent. The witness from the Bank, PW-2 had duly proved the fact that the locker was operated lastly by the appellant on 06.03.2006. This fact clearly shows that after the alleged incident of 04.03.2006, the appellant had taken out all the articles lying in the locker without the consent of her husband. The respondent has also examined PW-3 who brought the records from the Border Roads Organisation which proves the fact appellant had filed that several complaints making various allegations against the respondent not only in his office, but also to several other authorities with a copy marked to his office. Enquires were made into the allegations in the complaints, but no substance was found therein and ultimately, the respondent was exonerated. The husband had taken a plea that this act of the wife had caused him grave distress, agony and had also lowered his reputation in the department, among his friends and colleagues and in the society.
  6. In the case of G.V.N. Kameswara Rao vs. G. Jabilli reported at (2002) 2 SSC 296, the Supreme Court had observed that false police complaints would result in mental cruelty as it leads to loss of reputation and standing in the society at the instance of one’s spouse. The act of leveling of unsubstantiated charges of adultery against the husband not only during the stay of the spouses together, but also during the divorce proceedings was treated as an act of cruelty on the part of the wife. In R. Balasubramanian vs. Vijaylakshmi Balsubramanian (SMT) reported at (1999) 7 SCC 311, the Supreme Court held that an unfounded allegation of adultery is a serious allegation amounting to cruel conduct, and found that these factors cumulatively proved cruelty on the part of the appellant therein for entitling the husband to dissolution of the marriage.
  7. In the present case, the evidence clearly establishes the facts that the appellant had filed a false criminal complaint under Section 498 A of IPC, and Court had discharged the respondent. On her complaints, the department had also conducted enquiry against the respondent and thereafter, exonerated him, finding no truth in such complaints. Further, during the trial, the appellant had taken a stand that her husband had got remarried to another woman by giving an suggestion of this nature to PW-4, but could not prove it.
  8. In the case of Vijaykumar Ramchandra Bhate vs. Neela Vijaykumar Bhate reported as (2003) 6 SCC 334, the Supreme Court has settled the proposition of law by observing as under:-

“7. The question that requires to be answered first is as to whether the averments, accusations and character assassination of the wife by the appellant husband in the written statement constitutes mental cruelty for sustaining the claim for divorce under Section 13(1) (i-a) of the Act. The position of law in this regard has come to be well settled and declared that disgusting levelling accusations of unchastity and indecent familiarity with a person outside wedlock and allegations of extramarital relationship is a grave assault on the character, honour, reputation, status as well as the health of the wife. Such aspersions of perfidiousness attributed to the wife, viewed in the context of an educated Indian wife and judged by Indian conditions and standards would amount to worst form of insult and cruelty, sufficient by itself to substantiate cruelty in law, warranting the claim of the wife being allowed. That such allegations made in the written statement or suggested in the course of examination and by way of cross- examination satisfy the requirement of law has also come to be firmly laid down by this Court. On going through the relevant portions of such allegations, we find that no exception could be taken to the findings recorded by the Family Court as well as the High Court.

We find that they are of such quality, magnitude and consequence as to cause mental pain, agony and suffering amounting to the reformulated concept of cruelty in matrimonial law causing profound and lasting disruption and driving the wife to feel deeply hurt and reasonably apprehend that it would be dangerous for her to live with a husband who was taunting her MAT.APP.(F.C) 95/2017 Page 19 like that and rendered the maintenance of matrimonial home impossible.” (emphasis added)

  1. Again, in a recent decision in the case of Narendra vs. K. Meena reported as AIR 2016 SC 4599, applying the ratio of its earlier decision in the case of Vijaykumar (supra) the Supreme Court has reiterated that unsubstantiated allegations if levelled, amounts to mental cruelty and is a ground for divorce under Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Act. In a very recent judgment in the case of Raj Talreja vs. Kavita Talreja reported as AIR 2017 SC 2138, relying on the ratio of an earlier decision in the case of Ravi Kumar (supra), the Supreme Court has held that “reckless, defamatory and false accusations against her husband, his family members and colleagues, which would definitely have the effect of lowering his reputation in the eyes of peers” amounting to cruelty. In the case titled Santosh Sahay vs. Hanuman Sahay reported as 2016 IX AD (Delhi) 1, a Division Bench of this Court has held that false character assassination and allegations of such a nature made by a spouse amounts to mental cruelty and the wronged spouse is entitled to seek divorce on that ground.
  2. To sum up, the allegations leveled by the appellant which she failed to substantiate even on the yardstick of preponderance of evidence, are of such a nature that would have lowered the image of the respondent in the eyes of his superiors, subordinates and peers and this act would certainly constitute cruelty. It is an undisputed position that the parties have been living separately since 04.03.2006 and in all this duration, the appellant seems to have made no effort to join the company of the respondent. Rather, her act of 06.03.2006 of cleaning out the joint locker of the parties shows an animus descendi.
  3. In view of the above discussion, we are of the opinion that the findings of the learned Trial Court are based on the evidence on record. The argument of learned counsel for the appellant that the learned Family Court had given more weightage to the evidence of the respondent is turned down as baseless. We find no reason to unsettle the impugned judgment which is accordingly upheld. As a result, the appeal is dismissed in limine with no order as to costs.

 

DEEPA SHARMA (JUDGE) HIMA KOHLI (JUDGE)

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Divorce on Adultery Grounds in India under HMA.

What  is Adultery and  when  it may be proved in Court ?

Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offense of rape, is guilty of the offense of adultery.

According to Hinduism dictionary,” Adultery is sexual intercourse between a married man and a woman not his wife, or between a married woman and a man not her husband.”

adultery is, as a general rule, proved by presumptive proof based upon;

(a) circumstantial evidence;

(b) evidence of non-access and the birth of children;

(c) contracting venereal diseases;

(d) by evidence of visits to house of ill-repute;

(e) decrees and admissions made in previous proceedings; and

(f) confessions and admissions of the parties which should be generally corroborated though in exceptional circumstances, even if uncorroborated may be acted upon.

Therefore, it is important to understand that mere bald allegations by a spouse that his/her partner was having adulterous relationship with his/her lover after marriage, in absence of any cogent evidence, would not be sufficient to prove.

What is the Punishment in Indian Penal Code for Adultery. ?

In India the offence of adultery is punishable under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860. As it stands, this Section makes only men having sexual intercourse with the wives of other men without the consent of their husbands punishable and women cannot be punished even as abettors.

Section-497- Adultery “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case, the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor.

What is the Legal Position when  refusal to have sexual intercourse by Partner ?

Whether refusal to have sexual intercourse amounts to cruelty or not depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case. Sexual intercourse is just one of marital rights. No doubt, the denial of sexual relations causes frustration and misery to the aggrieved party and is likely to destroy the fibre of marriage yet reasonable denial on the part of either party does not constitute cruelty. This aspect of marital obligation has been dealt with in most elaborate manner in Jacobson vs. Jacobson, 130 Ny.S.II D 762. It is observed that this obligation is of a personal and delicate nature and depends on sentiments and feelings to such an extent that it would be an intrusion into the privacy of domestic life to stipulate reasonable denial on the part of either party to submit to marital intercourse constitutes cruelty. Such denial does not constitute cruelty even though refusal to have marital sexual relations undermines the essential structure of a marriage.

What  is the definition of adultery  in Divorce Laws:

According to divorce laws, adultery is voluntary sexual intercourse of a married person with a person other than the offender’s wife or husband. Rayden defines it as “Consensual sexual intercourse between a married person and a person of the opposite sex not the other spouse, during the subsistence of marriage. It is no more necessary that a person should continue living in adultery. Single act of intercourse constitutes adultery.

Thus the adultery is to be inferred from circumstances which must indicate inclination, guilty intention and opportunity to commit adultery. Bed room evidence is one of such strong circumstances as way back in 1909 in Kerr v. Kerr, 114 App. Div. 1421, it was observed that where man and a woman who are not husband and wife have bed room privacy, there is strong inference of adultery as they do not sing prayers there.


 

Delhi High Court

Smt. Linda Constance Edwards vs Shri William Edwards & Anr

Equivalent citations: 2001 IIIAD Delhi 482, 91 (2001) DLT 355, I (2001) DMC 746, 2001 (58) DRJ 731

ORDER J.D. Kapoor, J.

  1. Marriage between the parties who are Christians took place more than 25 years ago. Its dissolution has been sought on the ground of cruelty coupled with adultery.
  2. It is alleged that right from day one respondent No.1, i.e. the husband started exhibiting symptoms of cruelty, apathy and lack of interest towards the petitioner and somehow or other the petitioner pulled on with the marriage till the year 1978 in the hope that the respondent No.1 may change. The impression of the petitioner was that the problems of his character may be due to temperament and not a basic trait of his character that may be incorrigible or unchangeable. That off and on the respondent No.1 used to come home fully drunk and indulged in physical beatings. However, when all efforts failed, the petitioner found that respondent No.1 was psychologically ill and has maniac traits right from his childhood and his character is unsuitable for a marital life and so much so the doctors, psychologists and priests have advised him not to entry into a marital life but the respondent No.1 played a fraud upon the petitioner and obtained her consent. In spite of the fact that two children were born to the petitioner during the three years of their joint stay the respondent No.1 developed hatred towards her and stopped having intercourse with her and rather spurned and rejected the advances and offers sometimes fiercely and sometimes in most hateful manner from 1978 to 1980. It is further alleged that during 1978-1980 respondent No.1 used to beat the petitioner almost daily and also used to remain absent from home continuously for 2-3 days without any reason or intimation.
  3. On making inquires through friends and relatives the petitioner came to know that respondent No.1 was having illicit relationship with woman of bad character named Ms. Sonia residing in Paharganj area. When she objected to respondent No.1’s conduct and absenteeism and cruel behavior towards the petitioner and his adulterous affairs he became violent and threw the petitioner and children out of matrimonial home. However, the repeated entreaties did not find favor and he refused to accept the petitioner and children back to matrimonial home. Being compelled by the circumstances she undertook a job for her survival as also for survival of the children.
  4. Now for the last five years the respondent No.1 has been living with another woman Ms.Rubi Mehra, respondent No.2, and when petitioner requested him to leave respondent no. 2 and accept petitioner and children back he did not pay any heed and when she approached his mother, she also expressed her inability by saying that he was no more under her control.
  5. Last attempt to reconcile and mend respondent No.1 was made by the petitioner on 28.9.1997. At about 2.30 afternoon she went to the house where respondent No.1 has been living with aforesaid Ms.Rubi Mehra and finding no response from the doorbell and knock at the door she tried to open the door and moment she pushed it, it got opened since no latch was put inside. When she went inside and did not find anybody in the drawing room, she proceeded to the bedroom and knocked at the door. The respondent No.1 removed the latch and half-opened the door but when she pushed it, respondent No.1 lost the control of his hold and the door got opened. She saw respondent No.2 lying in the bed stark naked. She pulled the bed sheet and covered herself. The only inference was that both of them were having sexual intercourse at that time. Respondent No.1 became very angry and hurt the petitioner on her face and pushed her out of the room and abused her by calling her a bitch and also threatened to kill her in case she again tried to enter the house. Thus, the respondent no.1 has not only committed physical and mental cruelty upon the petitioner but has also been committing adultery since long apart from deserting her and her children.
  6. In spite of having been served with the notice of the petition, none of the respondents came forward to contest it. The petitioner filed the affidavit by way of evidence in support of aforesaid allegations.
  7. As is apparent, there are allegations of physical beating, remaining absent for days from the matrimonial home without information or intimation and having adulterous affairs with two women and lastly having been found in suspicious and questionable circumstances with respondent no.2 in the bed room and the long desertion of the petitioner and the children and failure of all efforts on the part of the petitioner to bring back the respondent no.1 on the path of virtue or attend the husbandly duties.
  8. It is no more valid to say the cruelty occurs only when there is bodily harm or infliction of physical blows endangering life, limb or health. The concept of cruelty in marital relations has widened its net and brought the mental cruelty into its fold. Since element of happiness in marriage has gained currency, the definition of cruelty cannot be put in strait-jacket manner. Marital cruelty which includes mental cruelty also has been enunciated by the Supreme Court in , V. Bhagat vs. Mrs. D.Bhagat. as under :-

“Mental cruelty in S.13(1)(ia) can broadly be defined as that conduct which inflicts upon the other party such mental pain and suffering as would make it not possible for that party to live with the other. In other words, mental cruelty must be of such a nature that the parties cannot reasonably be expected to live together. The situation must be such that the wronged party cannot reasonably be asked to put up with such conduct and continue to live with the other party. It is not necessary to prove that the mental cruelty is such as to cause injury to the health of the petitioner.”

  1. Thus it is not always essential that a course of conduct should aim at causing mental pain and suffering in order to constitute the cruelty. It is the effect produced by the course of conduct and acts of a spouse and not the motive that is relevant. It has been rightly said that sometimes words inflict a more painful blow and cause psychological sufferings and emotional distress than physical cruelty, though occasional bickerings or pinpricks are part of normal marital life as human fragility generates such skirmishes.
  2. Whether refusal to have sexual intercourse amounts to cruelty or not depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case. Sexual intercourse is just one of marital rights. No doubt, the denial of sexual relations causes frustration and misery to the aggrieved party and is likely to destroy the fibre of marriage yet reasonable denial on the part of either party does not constitute cruelty. This aspect of marital obligation has been dealt with in most elaborate manner in Jacobson vs. Jacobson, 130 Ny.S.II D 762. It is observed that this obligation is of a personal and delicate nature and depends on sentiments and feelings to such an extent that it would be an intrusion into the privacy of domestic life to stipulate reasonable denial on the part of either party to submit to marital intercourse constitutes cruelty. Such denial does not constitute cruelty even though refusal to have marital sexual relations undermines the essential structure of a marriage.
  3. It is further observed that, if refusal is occasional, or for a short period, it is against public policy to treat it as cruelty. However, complete failure to have sexual intercourse for a prolonged period or its total or irrevocable negation despite advances and requests does constitute cruelty as in the absence of an adequate excuse such refusal strikes at the basic obligations springing from marriage undermining its essential structure.
  4. For instance a denial on the ground of ill health or say after child birth or for some such reasons including excessive or obsessive sexual demands of a spouse may fall in the category of reasonable denial.
  5. Here for several years the petitioner has been denied the sexual relations despite her advances and requests even during the period both were living under the same roof. Such denial is total negation of one of the most important marital obligations and amounts to cruelty.
  6. Though the statutory provisions of Section 10of the Indian Divorce Act all for proof of adultery also if the divorce is sought on the ground of cruelty but in view of the view taken by the Special Bench of Kerala High Court in , Ammini E.J. and etc. v. Union of India and others and the Full Bench of Maharashtra in , Mrs. Pragati Varghese and etc. vs. Cyril George Varghese and etc., it is no more necessary for a party seeking divorce on the ground of cruelty to prove adultery.
  7. In Ammini’s case (supra) the provisions of Section 10were held to be violative of Article 21as well as 14 of the Constitution of India as they compel a deserted or cruelly treated Christian wife to live perpetually tied down to a marriage which has for all intents and purposes ceased to exist as a result of desertion and cruelty shown by the husband concerned are highly harsh and oppressive and as such arbitrary and violative of Article 14of the Constitution of India. Christian spouses alone are not entitled to get dissolution of their marriage on the ground of cruelty and desertion even if perpetrated continuously for any length of time. They are entitled to get only a decree for judicial separation under Section 22 of the Act. Spouses belonging to all other religions governed by the other religions Acts are entitled to get dissolution of their marriage on the ground of cruelty and desertion for the period fixed by the respective Acts. The provisions of Section 10 are held to be discriminatory vis-a-vis Christians spouses merely on the basis of religion.
  8. In Pragati’s case (supra) the Bombay High Court also held the provisions of Section 10as violative of Article 14, 15and 21 of the Constitution of India for the following reasons:

“The different treatment which is accorded to Christian woman under S.10 of the Act is based merely on grounds of sex. Similarly, if one compares the provisions of the other enactments on the subject of divorce, it would be clear that Christian wives are discriminated and have been treated differently as compared to wives who are governed by the other enactments. The discrimination is, therefore, based merely on grounds of religion. The aforesaid discrimination, in the circumstances, is violative both, of Art. 14 and of Art. 15 of the Constitution. Similarly, if one has regard to the dealing with protection of life and personal liberty, it would be clear that the position of Christian women, has been rendered most demeaning as compared to Christian husbands, as also wives governed by other enactments. The provisions contained in S.10 in the circumstances, are violative of Art.21 also.”

  1. This being the position of law the petitioner is even otherwise entitled to decree of divorce on the ground of cruelty though she has also proved successfully the ground of adultery.
  2. According to divorce laws, adultery is voluntary sexual intercourse of a married person with a person other than the offender’s wife or husband. Rayden defines it as “Consensual sexual intercourse between a married person and a person of the opposite sex not the other spouse, during the subsistence of marriage. It is no more necessary that a person should continue living in adultery. Single act of intercourse constitutes adultery.
  3. Here when the petitioner wife came to know that the respondent No.1 has started living with respondent No.2 at premises C-125, Dayanand Colony, Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi – 110024, she visited the premises and found the door closed. There was no response to the doorbell as well as the knock. She pushed open the door that led her to the drawing room. There was nobody. Feeling suspicious she knocked at the door of the bed room. The moment it was in the process of being opened, the petitioner pushed it open forcefully and found respondent No.2 lying stark naked in the bed. On seeing her, she pulled the bed sheet to cover her up.
  4. It is said that the adultery is committed in darkness and secrecy and, therefore, it is difficult to provide a direct proof. Rather eyewitness account or photographic account of evidence of intercourse is taken as offending. A celebrated jurist Raydon in Raydon on Divorce observes that a direct evidence is rather apt to be disbelieved as it smacks of manipulation. It is rare that the parties are surprised in direct act of adultery. In the opinion of Sir William Scott in Lovedon vs. Lovedon, 2 Hagg Con, 1810, (Australian Family Law, p.455), “the only general rule that can be laid down upon the subject is that the circumstances must be such as would lead the guarded discretion of a reasonable and just man to the conclusion, for it is not to lead a harsh and intemperate judgment, moving upon appearances that are equally capable of two interpretations, neither is it to be a matter of artificial reasoning, judging upon such things differently from what would strike the careful and cautious consideration of a discreet man”.
  5. Thus the adultery is to be inferred from circumstances which must indicate inclination, guilty intention and opportunity to commit adultery. Bed room evidence is one of such strong circumstances as way back in 1909 in Kerr v. Kerr, 114 App. Div. 1421, it was observed that where man and a woman who are not husband and wife have bed room privacy, there is strong inference of adultery as they do not sing prayers there.
  6. In the instant case sufficient bed room evidence has been furnished by the petitioner culminating in proof of adultery.
  7. Taking over-all view and the long course of cruel conduct coupled not only with adulterous dispositions but actual indulgence in adultery, I feel pursuaded to allow the petition and grant decree for dissolution of marriage. Accordingly the marriage is dissolved. A decree sheet be prepared.

 

Statutory Period of six months can be waived in Mutual Consent divorce By Supreme Court of India,

 

Statutory Period of six months can waived in Mutual Consent divorce By Supreme Court of India,    

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Divorce by mutual consent is the fastest way or procedure of getting divorce in India. All marriages which have been solemnized before or after the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act 1976, are entitled to make use of the provision of divorce by mutual consent. However, for filing for a divorce under mutual consent, it is necessary for the husband and wife to have lived separately for at least a year. Divorce by mutual consent is fastest because parties can get divorce in six months only and can be shortened if the parties are living separately since long time spam. In this case, estranged spouses can mutually agree to a settlement and file for a “no-fault divorce” under under following Acts which very according to law applicable to parties:-

Sec. 13-B of The Hindu Marriage Act.

Sec. 28 of The Special Marriage Act.

Sec.10-A of The Indian Divorce Act.

The procedure for seeking a divorce by mutual consent is same under each Act, which is initiated by filing a petition, supported by affidavits from both partners, in the Court of Civil Judge Senior Division. Known as the First Motion Petition for Mutual Consent Divorce, this should contain a joint statement by both partners present in Court, that due to their irreconcilable differences, they can no longer stay together and should be granted a divorce by the court. After six months, the Second Motion Petition for Mutual Consent Divorce should be filed by the couple and they are required to reappear in the court. A gap of six months is given between the two motions, so as to offer the estranged couple adequate time to reconsider their decision of dissolving their marriage. After hearings from the husband and wife, if the judge is satisfied that all the necessary grounds and requirements for the divorce have been met, the couple is granted a mutual divorce decree. Some of the important issues on which the couple should have agreed, before filling petition are custody of child, alimony to wife, return of dowry items or “Istreedhan” and litigation expenses which should be mentioned in their petition for divorce by mutual consent,.

However, if either party withdraws the divorce petition within 18 months of the filing of the First Motion Petition, the court will initiate an inquiry. And if the concerned party continues to refuse consent to the divorce petition, the court will no longer have the right to grant a divorce decree. But if the divorce petition is not withdrawn within the stipulated 18 months, the court will pass a divorce decree on the basis of mutual consent between both parties

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 In The Matter of Amardeep Singh   Vs    Harveen Kaur     the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that:-                               …

It was submitted that Section 13B(1) relates to jurisdiction of the Court and the petition is maintainable only if the parties are living separately for a period of one year or more and if they have not been able to live together and have agreed that the marriage be dissolved. Section 13B(2) is procedural. He submitted that the discretion to waive the period is a guided discretion by consideration of interest of justice where there is no chance of reconciliation and parties were already separated for a longer period or contesting proceedings for a period longer than the period mentioned in Section 13B(2). Thus, the Court should consider the questions:

  1. i)     How long parties have been married?
  2. ii)    How long litigation is pending?

iii) How long they have been staying apart?

  1. iv) Are there any other proceedings between the parties?
  2. v) Have the parties attended mediation/conciliation?
  3. vi) Have the parties arrived at genuine settlement which takes care of alimony, custody of child or any other pending issues between the parties?

14 AIR 2010 Ker 157

The Court must be satisfied that the parties were living separately for more than the statutory period and all efforts at mediation and reconciliation have been tried and have failed and there is no chance of reconciliation and further waiting period will only prolong their agony.

We have given due consideration to the issue involved. Under the traditional Hindu Law, as it stood prior to the statutory law on the point, marriage is a sacrament and cannot be dissolved by consent. The Act enabled the court to dissolve marriage on statutory grounds. By way of amendment in the year 1976, the concept of divorce by mutual consent was introduced. However, Section 13B(2) contains a bar to divorce being granted before six months of time elapsing after filing of the divorce petition by mutual consent. The said period was laid down to enable the parties to have a rethink so that the court grants divorce by mutual consent only if there is no chance for reconciliation.

The object of the provision is to enable the parties to dissolve a marriage by consent if the marriage has irretrievably
broken down and to enable them to rehabilitate them as per available options. The amendment was inspired by the thought that forcible perpetuation of status of matrimony between unwilling partners did not serve any purpose. The object of the cooling off the period was to safeguard against a hurried decision if there was otherwise possibility of differences being reconciled. The object was not to perpetuate a purposeless marriage or to prolong the agony of the parties when there was no chance of reconciliation. Though every effort has to be made to save a marriage, if there are no chances of reunion and there are chances of fresh rehabilitation, the Court should not be powerless in enabling the parties to have a better option.

In determining the question whether provision is mandatory or directory, language alone is not always decisive. The Court has to have the regard to the context, the subject matter and the object of the provision. This principle, as formulated in Justice G.P. Singh’s “Principles of Statutory Interpretation” (9th Edn., 2004), has been cited with approval in Kailash versus Nanhku and ors.15as follows:

15 (2005) 4 SCC 480
“The study of numerous cases on this topic does not lead to formulation of any universal rule except this that language alone most often is not decisive, and regard must be had to the context, subject-matter and object of the statutory provision in question, in determining whether the same is mandatory or directory. In an oft-quoted passage Lord Campbell said: ‘No universal rule can be laid down as to whether mandatory enactments shall be considered directory only or obligatory with an implied nullification for disobedience. It is the duty of courts of justice to try to get at the real intention of the legislature by carefully attending to the whole scope of the statute to be considered.’ “ ‘For ascertaining the real intention of the legislature’, points out Subbarao, J. ‘the court may consider inter alia, the nature and design of the statute, and the consequences which would follow from construing it the one way or the other; the impact of other provisions whereby the necessity of complying with the provisions in question is avoided; the circumstances, namely, that the statute provides for a contingency of the non-compliance with the provisions; the fact that the non-compliance with the provisions is or is not visited by some penalty; the serious or the trivial consequences, that flow therefrom; and above all, whether the object of the legislation will be defeated or furthered’. If object of the enactment will be defeated by holding the same directory, it will be construed as mandatory, whereas if by holding it mandatory serious general inconvenience will be created to innocent persons without very much furthering the object of enactment, the same will be construed as directory.”

Applying the above to the present situation, we are of the view that where the Court dealing with a matter is
satisfied that a case is made out to waive the statutory period under Section 13B(2), it can do so after considering the following :

  1. i) the statutory period of six months specified in Section 13B(2), in addition to the statutory period of one year under Section 13B(1) of separation of parties is already over before the first motion itself;
  2. ii) all efforts for mediation/conciliation including efforts in terms of Order XXXIIA Rule 3 CPC/Section 23(2) of the Act/Section 9 of the Family Courts Act to reunite the parties have failed and there is no likelihood of success in that direction by any further efforts;

iii) the parties have genuinely settled their differences including alimony, custody of child or any other pending issues between the parties;

  1. iv) the waiting period will only prolong their agony.

The waiver application can be filed one week after the first motion giving reasons for the prayer for waiver.

. If the above conditions are satisfied, the waiver of the waiting period for the second motion will be in the discretion of the concerned Court.

Since we are of the view that the period mentioned in Section 13B(2) is not mandatory but directory, it will be open to the Court to exercise its discretion in the facts and circumstances of each case where there is no possibility of parties resuming cohabitation and there are chances of alternative rehabilitation.

. Needless to say that in conducting such proceedings the Court can also use the medium of video conferencing and also permit genuine representation of the parties through close relations such as parents or siblings where the parties are unable to appear in person for any just and valid reason as may satisfy the Court, to advance the interest of justice.
The parties are now at liberty to move the concerned court for fresh consideration in the light of this order.

 

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 11158 OF 2017

(Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil)No. 20184 of 2017)

Amardeep Singh                                              …Appellant

Versus

Harveen Kaur                                                …Respondent

 

Statutory Period of Six Months in Mutual Consent Divorce Under Sec.13-B of HMA.

When statutory Period of six months can waived in Mutual Consent divorce 

 

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satisfied that a case is made out to waive the statutory period under Section 13B(2), it can do so after considering the following :

  1. i) the statutory period of six months specified in Section 13B(2), in addition to the statutory period of one year under Section 13B(1) of separation of parties is already over before the first motion itself;
  2. ii) all efforts for mediation/conciliation including efforts in terms of Order XXXIIA Rule 3 CPC/Section 23(2) of the Act/Section 9 of the Family Courts Act to reunite the parties have failed and there is no likelihood of success in that direction by any further efforts;

iii) the parties have genuinely settled their differences including alimony, custody of child or any other pending issues between the parties;

  1. iv) the waiting period will only prolong their agony.
  2. The waiver application can be filed one week after the first motion giving reasons for the prayer for waiver.

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IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 11158 OF 2017

(Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil)No. 20184 of 2017)

Amardeep Singh                                              …Appellant

Versus

Harveen Kaur                                                …Respondent

JUDGMENT

ADARSH KUMAR GOEL, J.

  1. The question which arises for consideration in this appeal is whether the minimum period of six months stipulated under Section 13B(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (the Act) for a motion for passing decree of divorce on the basis of mutual consent is mandatory or can be relaxed in any exceptional situations.

Signature Not Verified Digitally signed by SWETA DHYANI Date: 2017.09.12 16:23:52 IST Reason:

  1. Factual matrix giving rise to this appeal is that marriage between the parties took place on 16 th January, 1994 at Delhi. Two children were born in 1995 and 2003 respectively. Since 2008 the parties are living separately. Disputes between the parties gave rise to civil and criminal proceedings. Finally, on 28 th April, 2017 a settlement was arrived at to resolve all the disputes and seeks divorce by mutual consent. The respondent wife is to be given permanent alimony of Rs.2.75 crores. Accordingly, HMA No. 1059 of 2017 was filed before the Family Court (West), Tis Hazari Court, New Delhi and on 8 th May, 2017 statements of the parties were recorded. The appellant husband has also handed over two cheques of Rs.50,00,000/-, which have been duly honoured, towards part payment of permanent alimony. Custody of the children is to be with the appellant. They have sought waiver of the period of six months for the second motion on the ground that they have been living separately for the last more than eight years and there is no possibility of their re union. Any delay will affect the chances of their resettlement. The parties have moved this Court on the ground that only this Court can relax the six months period as per decisions of this Court.
  2. Reliance has been placed inter alia on decision of this Court in Nikhil Kumar vs. Rupali Kumar 1 wherein the statutory period of six months was waived by this Court under Article 142 of the Constitution and the marriage was dissolved.

The text of Section 13B is as follows:

“13-B. Divorce by mutual consent.— (1) Subject to the provisions of this Act a petition for dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce may be presented to the district court by both the parties to a marriage together, whether such marriage was solemnized before or after the commencement of the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976, on the ground that they have been living separately for a period of one year or more, that they have not been able to live together and that they have mutually agreed that the marriage should be dissolved.

(2) On the motion of both the parties made not earlier than six months after the date of the presentation of the petition referred to in sub-section (1) and not later than eighteen months after the said date, if the petition is not withdrawn in the meantime, the court shall, on being satisfied, after hearing the parties and after making such inquiry as it thinks fit, that a marriage has been solemnized and that the averments in the petition are true, pass a decree of divorce declaring the marriage to be dissolved with effect from the date of the decree.”

  1. There is conflict of decisions of this Court on the question whether exercise of power under Article 142 to waive the statutory period under Section 13B of the Act was appropriate. In 1 (2016) 13 SCC 383
    Manish Goel versus Rohini Goel2, a Bench of two-Judges of this Court held that jurisdiction of this Court under Article 142 could not be used to waive the statutory period of six months for filing the second motion under Section 13B, as doing so will be passing an order in contravention of a statutory provision. It was observed :

“14. Generally, no court has competence to issue a direction contrary to law nor can the court direct an authority to act in contravention of the statutory provisions. The courts are meant to enforce the rule of law and not to pass the orders or directions which are contrary to what has been injected by law. (Vide State of Punjab v. Renuka Singla[(1994) 1 SCC 175], State of U.P. v. Harish Chandra [(1996) 9 SCC 309], Union of India v. Kirloskar Pneumatic Co. Ltd. [(1996) 4 SCC 453], University of Allahabad v. Dr. Anand Prakash Mishra [(1997) 10 SCC 264] and Karnataka SRTC v. Ashrafulla Khan [(2002) 2 SC 560]

  1. A Constitution Bench of this Court in Prem Chand Garg v. Excise Commr.[AIR 1963 SCC 996] held as under: (AIR p. 1002, para 12) “12. … An order which this Court can make in order to do complete justice between the parties, must not only be consistent with the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution, but it cannot even be inconsistent with the substantive provisions of the relevant statutory laws.” (emphasis supplied) The Constitution Benches of this Court in Supreme Court Bar Assn. v. Union of India [(1998) 4 SCC 409] and E.S.P.

Rajaram v. Union of India [(2001) 2 SCC 186] held that under Article 142 of the Constitution, this Court cannot altogether ignore the substantive provisions of a statute and pass orders concerning an issue which can be settled only 2 (2010) 4 SCC 393
through a mechanism prescribed in another statute. It is not to be exercised in a case where there is no basis in law which can form an edifice for building up a superstructure.”

  1. This Court noted that power under Article 142 had been exercised in cases where the Court found the marriage to be totally unworkable, emotionally dead, beyond salvage and broken down irretrievably. This power was also exercised to put quietus to all litigations and to save the parties from further agony 3. This view was reiterated in Poonam versus Sumit Tanwar4.
  2. In Neeti Malviya versus Rakesh Malviya5, this Court observed that there was conflict of decisions in Manish Goel (supra) and Anjana Kishore versus Puneet Kishore6. The matter was referred to bench of three-Judges. However, since the matter became infructuous on account of grant of divorce in the meanwhile7.

3 Para 11 ibid, noting earlier decisions in Romesh Chander v. Savitri (1995) 2 SCC 7; Kanchan Devi v. Promod Kumar Mittal (1996) 8 SCC 90; Anita Sabharwal v. Anil Sabharwal (1997) 11 SCC 490; Ashok Hurra v. Rupa Bipin Zaveri (1997) 4 SCC 226; Kiran v. Sharad Dutt (2000)10 SCC 243; Swati Verma v. Rajan Verma (2004) 1 SCC 123; Harpit Singh Anand v. State of W.B. (2004) 10 SCC 505; Jimmy Sudarshan Purohit v. Sudarshan Sharad Purohit (2005) 13 SCC 410; Durga Prasanna Tripathy v. Arundhati Tripathy (2005) 7 SCC 353; Naveen Kohli v. Neelu Kohli (2006) 4 SCC 558; Sanghamitra Ghosh v. Kajal Kumar Ghosh (2007) 2 SCC 220; Rishikesh Sharma v. Saroj Sharma (2007) 2 SCC 263; Samar Ghosh v. Jaya Ghosh (2007) 4 SCC 511 and Satish Sitole v. Ganga (2008) 7 SCC 734 4 (2010) 4 SCC 460 5 (2010) 6 SCC 413 6 (2002) 10 SCC 194 7 Order dated 23rd August, 2011 in Transfer Petition (Civil)No. 899 of 2007

  1. Without any reference to the judgment in Manish Goel (supra), power under Article 142 of the Constitution has been exercised by this Court in number of cases 8 even after the said judgment.
  2. We find that in Anjana Kishore (supra), this Court was dealing with a transfer petition and the parties reached a settlement. This Court waived the six months period under Article 142 in the facts and circumstances of the case. In Anil Kumar Jain versus Maya Jain9, one of the parties withdrew the consent. This Court held that marriage had irretrievably broken down and though the civil courts and the High Court could not exercise power contrary to the statutory provisions, this Court under Article 142 could exercise such power in the interests of justice. Accordingly the decree for divorce was granted. 8 Priyanka Singh v. Jayant Singh(2010) 15 SCC 390; Sarita Singh v. Rajeshwar Singh (2010) 15 SCC 374; Harpreet Singh Popli v. Manmeet Kaur Pople (2010) 15 SCC 316; Hitesh Bhatnagar v. Deepa Bhatnagar (2011) 5 SCC 234; Veena v. State (Govt of NCT of Delhi) (2011) 14 SCC 614; Priyanka Khanna v. Amit Khanna (2011) 15 SCC 612; Devinder Singh Narula v. Meenakshi Nangia (2012) 8 SCC 580; Vimi Vinod Chopra v. Vinod Gulshan Chpra (2013) 15 SCC 547; Priyanka Chawla v. Amit Chawla (2016) 3 SCC 126; Nikhil Kumar v. Rupali Kumar (2016) 13 SCC 383 9 (2009) 10 SCC 415
  3. After considering the above decisions, we are of the view that since Manish Goel (supra) holds the field, in absence of contrary decisions by a larger Bench, power under Article 142 of the Constitution cannot be exercised contrary to the statutory provisions, especially when no proceedings are pending before this Court and this Court is approached only for the purpose of waiver of the statute.
  4. However, we find that the question whether Section 13B(2) is to be read as mandatory or

discretionary needs to be gone into. In Manish Goel (supra), this question was not gone into as it was not raised. This Court observed :

“23. The learned counsel for the petitioner is not able to advance arguments on the issue as to whether, statutory period prescribed under Section 13-B(1) of the Act is mandatory or directory and if directory, whether could be dispensed with even by the High Court in exercise of its writ/appellate jurisdiction.”

  1. Accordingly, vide order dated 18th August, 2017, we passed the following order :

“List the matter on 23rd August, 2017 to consider the question whether provision of Section 13B of the Hindu Marriage, Act, 1955 laying down cooling off period of six months is a mandatory requirement or it is open to the Family Court to
waive the same having regard to the interest of justice in an individual case.

Mr. K.V. Vishwanathan, senior counsel is appointed as Amicus to assist the Court. Registry to furnish copy of necessary papers to learned Amicus”.

  1. Accordingly, learned amicus curiae has assisted the Court. We record our gratitude for the valuable assistance rendered by learned amicus who has been ably assisted by S/Shri Abhishek Kaushik, Vrinda Bhandari and Mukunda Rao Angara, Advocates.
  2. Learned amicus submitted that waiting period enshrined under Section 13(B)2 of the Act is directory and can be waived by the court where proceedings are pending, in exceptional situations. This view is supported by judgments of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in K. Omprakash vs. K. Nalini 10, Karnataka High Court in Roopa Reddy vs. Prabhakar Reddy11, Delhi High Court in Dhanjit Vadra vs. Smt. Beena Vadra12 and Madhya Pradesh High Court in Dinesh Kumar Shukla vs. Smt. Neeta13. Contrary view has been taken by Kerala High Court in M. Krishna Preetha vs. Dr. Jayan 10 AIR 1986 AP 167 (DB) 11 AIR 1994 Kar 12 (DB) 12 AIR 1990 Del 146 13 AIR 2005 MP 106 (DB)
    Moorkkanatt14. It was submitted that Section 13B(1) relates to jurisdiction of the Court and the petition is maintainable only if the parties are living separately for a period of one year or more and if they have not been able to live together and have agreed that the marriage be dissolved. Section 13B(2) is procedural. He submitted that the discretion to waive the period is a guided discretion by consideration of interest of justice where there is no chance of reconciliation and parties were already separated for a longer period or contesting proceedings for a period longer than the period mentioned in Section 13B(2). Thus, the Court should consider the questions:
  3. i)     How long parties have been married?
  4. ii)    How long litigation is pending?

iii) How long they have been staying apart?

  1. iv) Are there any other proceedings between the parties?
  2. v) Have the parties attended mediation/conciliation?
  3. vi) Have the parties arrived at genuine settlement which takes care of alimony, custody of child or any other pending issues between the parties?

AIR 2010 Ker 157

  1. The Court must be satisfied that the parties were living separately for more than the statutory period and all efforts at mediation and reconciliation have been tried and have failed and there is no chance of reconciliation and further waiting period will only prolong their agony.
  2. We have given due consideration to the issue involved. Under the traditional Hindu Law, as it stood prior to the statutory law on the point, marriage is a sacrament and cannot be dissolved by consent. The Act enabled the court to dissolve marriage on statutory grounds. By way of amendment in the year 1976, the concept of divorce by mutual consent was introduced. However, Section 13B(2) contains a bar to divorce being granted before six months of time elapsing after filing of the divorce petition by mutual consent. The said period was laid down to enable the parties to have a rethink so that the court grants divorce by mutual consent only if there is no chance for reconciliation.
  3. The object of the provision is to enable the parties to dissolve a marriage by consent if the marriage has irretrievably
    broken down and to enable them to rehabilitate them as per available options. The amendment was inspired by the thought that forcible perpetuation of status of matrimony between unwilling partners did not serve any purpose. The object of the cooling off the period was to safeguard against a hurried decision if there was otherwise possibility of differences being reconciled. The object was not to perpetuate a purposeless marriage or to prolong the agony of the parties when there was no chance of reconciliation. Though every effort has to be made to save a marriage, if there are no chances of reunion and there are chances of fresh rehabilitation, the Court should not be powerless in enabling the parties to have a better option.
  4. In determining the question whether provision is mandatory or directory, language alone is not always decisive. The Court has to have the regard to the context, the subject matter and the object of the provision. This principle, as formulated in Justice G.P. Singh’s “Principles of Statutory Interpretation” (9th Edn., 2004), has been cited with approval in Kailash versus Nanhku and ors.15as follows:

15 (2005) 4 SCC 480
“The study of numerous cases on this topic does not lead to formulation of any universal rule except this that language alone most often is not decisive, and regard must be had to the context, subject-matter and object of the statutory provision in question, in determining whether the same is mandatory or directory. In an oft-quoted passage Lord Campbell said: ‘No universal rule can be laid down as to whether mandatory enactments shall be considered directory only or obligatory with an implied nullification for disobedience. It is the duty of courts of justice to try to get at the real intention of the legislature by carefully attending to the whole scope of the statute to be considered.’ “ ‘For ascertaining the real intention of the legislature’, points out Subbarao, J. ‘the court may consider inter alia, the nature and design of the statute, and the consequences which would follow from construing it the one way or the other; the impact of other provisions whereby the necessity of complying with the provisions in question is avoided; the circumstances, namely, that the statute provides for a contingency of the non-compliance with the provisions; the fact that the non-compliance with the provisions is or is not visited by some penalty; the serious or the trivial consequences, that flow therefrom; and above all, whether the object of the legislation will be defeated or furthered’. If object of the enactment will be defeated by holding the same directory, it will be construed as mandatory, whereas if by holding it mandatory serious general inconvenience will be created to innocent persons without very much furthering the object of enactment, the same will be construed as directory.”

  1. Applying the above to the present situation, we are of the view that where the Court dealing with a matter is
    satisfied that a case is made out to waive the statutory period under Section 13B(2), it can do so after considering the following :
  2. i) the statutory period of six months specified in Section 13B(2), in addition to the statutory period of one year under Section 13B(1) of separation of parties is already over before the first motion itself;
  3. ii) all efforts for mediation/conciliation including efforts in terms of Order XXXIIA Rule 3 CPC/Section 23(2) of the Act/Section 9 of the Family Courts Act to reunite the parties have failed and there is no likelihood of success in that direction by any further efforts;

iii) the parties have genuinely settled their differences including alimony, custody of child or any other pending issues between the parties;

  1. iv) the waiting period will only prolong their agony.
  2. The waiver application can be filed one week after the first motion giving reasons for the prayer for waiver.
  3. If the above conditions are satisfied, the waiver of the waiting period for the second motion will be in the discretion of the concerned Court.
  4. Since we are of the view that the period mentioned in Section 13B(2) is not mandatory but directory, it will be open to the Court to exercise its discretion in the facts and circumstances of each case where there is no possibility of parties resuming cohabitation and there are chances of alternative rehabilitation.
  5. Needless to say that in conducting such proceedings the Court can also use the medium of video conferencing and also permit genuine representation of the parties through close relations such as parents or siblings where the parties are unable to appear in person for any just and valid reason as may satisfy the Court, to advance the interest of justice.
  6. The parties are now at liberty to move the concerned court for fresh consideration in the light of this order.

The appeal is disposed of accordingly.

…………………………………..J.

(ADARSH KUMAR GOEL) …………………………………..J.

(UDAY UMESH LALIT) NEW DELHI;

 

Setting aside ex parte divorce decree.

 

Setting aside decree ex parte against defendant.– In any case in which a decree is passed ex parte against a defendant, he may apply to the court by which the decree was passed for an Order to set it aside; and if he satisfies the court that the summons was not duly served, or that he was prevented by any sufficient cause from appearing when the suit was called on for hearing, the court shall make an Order setting aside the decree as against him upon such terms as to costs, payment into court or otherwise as it thinks fit, and shall appoint a day for proceeding with the suit:

images-123

Provided that where the decree is of such a nature that it cannot be set aside as against such defendant only it may be sent aside as against all or any of the other defendant also:

Provided further that no court shall set aside a decree passed ex parte merely on the ground that there has been an irregularity in the service of summons, if it is satisfied that the defendant had notice of the date of hearing and had sufficient time to appear and answer the plaintiff’s claim.

Explanation : Where there has been an appeal against a decree passed ex parte under this rule, and the appeal has been disposed of on any ground other than the ground that the appellant has withdrawn the appeal, no application shall lie under this rule of setting aside the ex parte decree.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court held in the matter of :  Arjun Singh v. Mohindra Kumar & Ors., AIR 1964 SC 993, this Court observed that every good cause is a sufficient cause and must offer an explanation for non-appearance. The only difference between a “good cause” and “sufficient cause” is that the requirement of a good cause is complied with on a lesser degree of proof than that of a “sufficient cause”. (See also: Brij Indar Singh v.

Lala Kanshi Ram & Ors., AIR 1917 P.C. 156; Manindra Land and Building Corporation Ltd. v. Bhutnath Banerjee & Ors., AIR  1964 SC 1336; and Mata Din v. A. Narayanan, AIR 1970 SC 1953).

In the matter of  Arjun Singh vs Mohindra Kumar & Ors To set aside this ex parte decree  it would be convenient  to mention a point, not seriously pressed before us, but which at earlier stages was thought to have considerable significance for the decision of this question viz., the difference between the words “good cause” for non- appearance in        O. IX, r. 7 and “sufficient cause” for the same purpose in O. IX, r. 13                as pointing to different criteria of “goodness” or “sufficiency” for succeeding in the two proceedings

The Hon’ble Supreme Court further Held in the matter of Basawaraj & Anr vs Spl.Laq Officer The expression “sufficient cause” should be given a liberal interpretation to ensure that substantial justice is done, but only so long as negligence, inaction or lack of bona fides cannot be imputed to the party concerned, whether or not sufficient cause has been furnished, can be decided on the facts of a particular case and no straitjacket formula is possible. (Vide: Madanlal v. Shyamlal, AIR 2002 SC 100; and Ram Nath Sao @ Ram Nath Sahu & Ors. v. Gobardhan Sao & Ors., AIR 2002 SC 1201.)

 

JUDGMENTS

IN THE HIGH COURT AT CALCUTTA CIVIL REVISIONAL JURISDICTION APPELLATE SIDE

C.O. No. 1697 of 2013 Present :

The Hon’ble Mr. Justice Prasenjit Mandal

Sri Prabir Kishore Chakravarty.

Versus

Smt. Soma Chakravarty.

For the petitioner/husband: Mr. Aniruddha Chatterjee, Mr. Kushal Chatterjee.

For the opposite party/wife: Mr. Anit Kr. Rakshit. Heard On: 24.01.2014 & 07.02.2014 Judgement On: February 12, 2014.

Prasenjit Mandal, J.: This application is at the instance of the husband/petitioner and is directed against the judgment and order dated March 19, 2013 passed by the learned Additional District Judge, 14th Court, Alipore in Misc. Case No.16 of 2009 under Order 9 Rule 13 of the C.P.C. arising out of the Matrimonial Suit No.1565 of 2008 (renumbered as Matrimonial Suit No.78 of 2009) thereby allowing the said misc. case with costs of Rs.5,000/- to be paid by the wife/opposite party herein to the husband/petitioner herein. The result is that the ex parte decree for divorce passed on June 29, 2009 in the aforesaid matrimonial suit has been set aside.

The husband/petitioner herein preferred the aforesaid matrimonial suit for divorce before the learned District Judge, Alipore and accordingly, summons was duly served upon the wife/opposite party herein, but, she did not prefer to contest the said matrimonial suit for divorce. As a result, the said matrimonial suit was decreed ex parte on June 29, 2009 thereby decreeing the suit ex parte and declaring that the marriage ties between the parties be dissolved by the decree for divorce under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Thereafter, the wife/opposite party herein filed an application under Order 9 Rule 13 of the C.P.C. and the said application was converted into the Misc. Case No.16 of 2009. Both the parties adduced evidence in support of their contentions and upon analysis of the evidence on record, the learned Trial Judge allowed the said misc. case on March 19, 2013 with costs of Rs.5,000/- thereby setting aside the ex parte decree dated June 29, 2009. Being aggrieved by such judgment and order, the husband/petitioner herein has preferred this application.

The wife/opposite party herein is contesting the said application.

Now, the question is whether the impugned order should be sustained.

Upon hearing the learned Counsel for the parties and on going through the materials on record, I find that before disposal of the said matrimonial suit ex parte on June 29, 2009, the learned Trial Judge took necessary steps for service of summons. Even steps for substituted service under Order 5 Rule 20 of the C.P.C. were also taken up by making a paper publication in a widely circulated newspaper. In spite of that, the wife did not come to contest the said matrimonial suit.

Mr. Kushal Chatterjee, learned Advocate appearing for the husband/petitioner herein has contended that the said application under Order 9 Rule 13 of the C.P.C. is not maintainable at all, in view of the fact that though the ex parte decree had been passed on June 29, 2009, the application for setting aside the ex parte decree was filed only on August 29, 2009 and an interpolation had been made in the application to show that the said application had been filed on July 29, 2009.

He has also contended that since the application under Order 9 Rule 13 of the C.P.C. had been filed beyond the period of limitation, there being no application under Section 5 of the Limitation Act for condonation of the delay, the said application is not maintainable at all being barred by the limitation.

He has also contended that there being an interpolation as to the date of filing of the application, the wife/opposite party herein had committed fraud upon the Court and for that reason, the wife is not entitled to get any relief as sought for in the misc. case.

Mr. Kushal Chatterjee has also contended that the wife has failed to show that she was prevented by sufficient cause from appearing before the Court and the fact that, mere irregularity in the service of summons is not at all a ground for setting aside the ex parte decree under Order 9 Rule 13 of the C.P.C.

He has also drawn my attention to the fact that, during the cross-examination of the wife in Misc. Case No.16 of 2009, it has transpired that she came to learn about the institution of the matrimonial suit against her in the Durgapur Court when she went there to appear in a case under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C.

Moreover, the criminal case under Section 498A had been filed at Alipore Court and so, from the application filed by the husband in the said case it would reveal that the husband had clearly stated about the institution of the said matrimonial suit for divorce.

Mr. Aniruddha Chatterjee, learned Advocate appearing for the petitioner has also added that as per second proviso to Order 9 Rule 13 of the C.P.C., no Court shall set aside a decree passed ex parte merely on the ground that there has been an irregularity in the service of summons, if it is satisfied that the defendant had notice of the date of hearing and had sufficient time to appear and answer the plaintiff’s claim.

In support of the contention Mr. Chatterjee has submitted that in the instant case it is not the case of the wife that no summons was ever served upon her, but, she had no knowledge of the date of hearing of the said suit. The husband had taken all the steps including the steps for substituted service. Not only that, while the husband filed an application for anticipatory bail for the criminal case lodged by the wife under Section 498A of the I.P.C., he stated in the application that he had already filed a suit for divorce and for that reason such criminal case had been filed by the wife.

He has also contended that the wife engaged a lawyer as de facto complainant and he has submitted through the public prosecutor opposing the prayer for bail and so, from such conduct it appears that the declaration of the husband in the said application for bail that he had already filed a suit for divorce proves that the wife had knowledge about the institution of the said suit for divorce. Yet she did not appear in the suit. Since, no application under Section 5 of the Limitation Act has been filed in support of the application under Order 9 Rule 13 of the C.P.C., the same being barred by limitation, the learned Trial Judge was not justified at all in allowing the said application under Order 9 Rule 13 of the C.P.C.

Mr. Aniruddha Chatterjee has also contended that there is no evidence on limitation. The misc. case under Order 9 Rule 13 of the C.P.C. is not maintainable at all and in support of his contention he has referred to the decisions of Mahabir Singh v. Subhas & Ors reported in 2008 (1) SCC 358 particularly paragraph no.6 to 9 thus, he has contended that to set aside a decree passed ex parte, the limitation is 30 days from the date of the decree or where the summons for notice was not duly served, when the applicant had knowledge of the decree. He has also contended that in terms of Section 3 of the Limitation Act, 1963, no Court shall have jurisdiction to entertain any suit or application if the same has been filed after the expiry of the period of limitation.

Mr. Chatterjee has also relied on the second proviso to Order 9 Rule 13 of the C.P.C. and submitted that as per decision of Parimal v. Veena alias Bharti reported in 2011 (3) SCC 545 particularly paragraph no.12, it is obligatory for the Appellate Court not to interfere with an ex parte decree unless it meets the statutory requirement particularly the paragraph no.12 and thus, he has contended that the ex parte decree may be set aside, if the party satisfies the Court that summons had not been duly served or she was prevented by sufficient cause from appearing when the suit was called on for hearing. In the instant case, the appropriate steps were taken under Order 5 Rule 20 of the C.P.c. by publication in a widely circulated newspaper when the notice to the addressee was returned ‘unserved’. So, all the necessary steps had been taken by the husband and, therefore, mere irregularity will not be a ground for setting aside the ex parte decree.

He has also relied upon the decision of Chiranjilal Agarwalla & Anr. v. Jai Hind Investments and Industries Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. reported in AIR 1978 Cal 177 particularly paragraph no.17 and thus, he has contended that mere non-service of summons is not enough to find a cause of action for setting aside a decree. Fraud must be proved for vacating an ex parte decree, otherwise not. Thus, he has contended that the application is not maintainable at all and since fraud had been committed, the said misc. case is liable to be dismissed.

Per contra, Mr. Anit Rakshit learned Advocate appearing for the wife/opposite party herein has contended that, in fact, the application under Order 9 Rule 13 of the C.P.C. had not been filed at all on August 29, 2009 as contended by the husband/petitioner herein but, in fact, it was filed on July 29, 2009 and this fact would reveal from the acknowledgement sheet shown by him to this Court which lays down the date of filing the misc. case on July 29, 2009.

The matrimonial suit was filed in the Court of Alipore and not in any Court under the district of Burdwan. Admittedly, the wife is residing at Durgapur and the husband has contended that he took a rented accommodation at Thakur pukur and he requested the wife to come and stay in the said rental accommodation with the child and the wife has contended that she never stayed in the rented accommodation at Thakurpukur even for a single day. So, when the wife resides outside the jurisdiction of the Court, summons was also to be served upon the wife under the provisions of Order 5 Rule 9(4) and Order 5 Rule 21 of the C.P.C. But, this procedure has not been followed in the instant case.

Having due regard to the submissions of the learned Advocates of both the sides and on perusal of the materials on record, I find that the matrimonial suit is for a decree of divorce at the instance of the husband under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and so, when a decree of desolution of marriage is passed, the marriage tie between the two comes to an end. Admittedly, a child was born in the wedlock and the future of the child is to be considered by passing appropriate orders upon hearing both the sides.

Mr. Anit Rakshit has also pointed out the receipt showing filing of the misc. case under Order 9 Rule 13 of the C.P.C. on July 29, 2009 and thus, he has the materials in support of such contention.

The parties have adduced evidence in support of the respective contentions and from the deposition, it transpires that no notice/summons was served upon the wife through the process server of the Court. Since the wife has taken so other steps such as, filing of a case under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C., a criminal case under Section 498A of the I.P.C. and another case under Section 94 of the C.P.C., it is expected that had she received a notice or summons of the suit for divorce, she would have contested the same. So, the allegation of fraud as contended by the husband cannot be accepted and in my view, the question of limitation does not arise at all, the misc. case having been filed within the statutory period of 30 days from the date of the ex parte decree.

It is a specific contention of the wife that the said application was fixed for hearing, but, she cannot state the exact date of hearing of the said application or the fact that, the said application was fixed for hearing on July 20, 2009. But, it is a specific contention that she came to know about the ex parte decree in the middle of July, 2009. She has also contended that the husband did not inform her of the institution of the divorce proceeding and by this, fraud had been committed upon her.

Anyway, the steps taken for substituted service by the husband become rebuttable and the entire matter reveals the fact of the particular case as to service and there cannot be any straight jacket formula to decide that in this case, summons should be treated as duly served under Order 5 Rule 20 of the C.P.C. Since there is a rebuttal on behalf of the wife, in my view, the learned Trial Judge has rightly set aside the ex parte decree so that, the rights and obligations between the parties arising out of marriage tie could be decided upon hearing both the sides. It is not the case of the husband that immediately on getting the ex parte decree he had married and issues were born out of such marriage and so, in my view, the decision of Parimal (supra) will not be applicable in the instant case. So, in consideration of the nature of the relief sought for in that matrimonial proceeding and such situation, in my view, the learned Trial Judge has rightly dealt with the matter thereby setting aside the ex parte decree. There is no ground to reverse the findings of setting aside the ex parte decree.

Though both the parties to the proceeding are educated and are earning from the respective profession, in my view, the awarding costs against the wife and in favour of the husband to the tune of Rs.5,000/- cannot be sustained in a matrimonial proceeding. Therefore the order of the awarding costs of Rs.5,000/- by the learned Trial Judge be set aside.

The application is, therefore, disposed of in the manner indicated above and the impugned judgment and order is modified to the extent as indicated above.

However, there will be no order as to costs. Urgent xerox certified copy of this order, if applied for, be supplied to the learned Advocates for the parties on their usual undertaking.

(Prasenjit Mandal, J.)

 

 

 

 

Transfer Petition of Divorce in Supreme Court of India.

“This petition is filed under Section 25 of the Code of Civil Procedure seeking transfer of proceedings initiated by the respondent under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act at Jabalpur. According to the petitioner, who is the wife of the respondent, she will face acute hardship in contesting the proceedings at Jabalpur as she is living at Hyderabad. The marriage took place at Hyderabad. The petitioner has to look after her minor daughter who is living with her.

Undoubtedly under Section 19 of the Hindu Marriage Act, the petition of the present nature could be filed at the place where the marriage is solemnized or the respondent, at the time of the presentation of the petition, resides or where the parties to the marriage last resided together or where the wife is residing on the date of the presentation of the petition, in case she is the petitioner or in certain situations (as stipulated in clause iv) where the petitioner resides. This Court is flooded with petitions of this nature and having regard to the convenience of the wife transfer is normally allowed. However, in the process the litigants have to travel to this Court and spend on litigation. Question is whether this can be avoided?

We are of the view that if orders are to be passed in every individual petition, this causes great hardship to the litigants who have to come to this Court. Moreover in this process, the matrimonial matters which are required to be dealt with expeditiously are delayed. In these circumstances, we are prima facie of the view that we need to consider whether we could pass a general order to the effect that in case where husband files matrimonial proceedings at place where wife does not reside, the court concerned should entertain such petition only on the condition that the husband makes appropriate deposit to bear the expenses of the wife as may be determined by the Court. The Court may also pass orders from time to time for further deposit to ensure that the wife is not handicapped to defend the proceedings. In other cases, the husband may take proceedings before the Court in whose jurisdiction the wife resides which may lessen inconvenience to the parties and avoid delay. Any other option to remedy the situation can also be considered.


REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL original JURISDICTION

Transfer petition (CIVIL) NO. 1912 OF 2014

Krishna Veni Nagam                                 …PETITIONER

VERSUS

Harish nagam                                            …RESPONDENT

J U D G M E N T

ADARSH KUMAR GOEL, J

 

  1. This transfer petition has been filed for transfer of Case No.179A/2013 u/s 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (the Act) titled “Harish Nagam vs. Krishna Veni Nagam” pending on the file of II Presiding Judge, Family Court, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh to the Family Court Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh.
  2. Case of the petitioner-wife is that she was married to the respondent- husband in the year 2008 at Kukatpally, Hyderabad. She was blessed with a girl child in 2009. While living in her in-law’s house at Jabalpur, she was ill-treated. She was subjected to mental and physical torture. She suffered injury on her spinal cord. She left the matrimonial home in 2012.
  3. The respondent-husband filed application for restitution of conjugal rights which was later on got dismissed as withdrawn. Thereafter, a divorce petition has been filed at Jabalpur while the petitioner has filed a domestic violence case at Hyderabad. Since the petitioner-wife, along with her minor daughter, is living with her parents, she cannot undertake long journey and contest the proceedings at Jabalpur by neglecting her minor child. She also apprehends threat to her security in attending proceedings at Jabalpur.
  4. On 7th January, 2015, notice was issued and stay of proceedings was granted. The matter has been pending in this Court for more than two years.
  5. On 9th January, 2017 when the matter came-up for hearing, the following order was passed:

“This petition is filed under Section 25 of the Code of Civil Procedure seeking transfer of proceedings initiated by the respondent under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act at Jabalpur. According to the petitioner, who is the wife of the respondent, she will face acute hardship in contesting the proceedings at Jabalpur as she is living at Hyderabad. The marriage took place at Hyderabad. The petitioner has to look after her minor daughter who is living with her.

Undoubtedly under Section 19 of the Hindu Marriage Act, the petition of the present nature could be filed at the place where the marriage is solemnized or the respondent, at the time of the presentation of the petition, resides or where the parties to the marriage last resided together or where the wife is residing on the date of the presentation of the petition, in case she is the petitioner or in certain situations (as stipulated in clause iv) where the petitioner resides. This Court is flooded with petitions of this nature and having regard to the convenience of the wife transfer is normally allowed. However, in the process the litigants have to travel to this Court and spend on litigation. Question is whether this can be avoided?

We are of the view that if orders are to be passed in every individual petition, this causes great hardship to the litigants who have to come to this Court. Moreover in this process, the matrimonial matters which are required to be dealt with expeditiously are delayed. In these circumstances, we are prima facie of the view that we need to consider whether we could pass a general order to the effect that in case where husband files matrimonial proceedings at place where wife does not reside, the court concerned should entertain such petition only on the condition that the husband makes appropriate deposit to bear the expenses of the wife as may be determined by the Court. The Court may also pass orders from time to time for further deposit to ensure that the wife is not handicapped to defend the proceedings. In other cases, the husband may take proceedings before the Court in whose jurisdiction the wife resides which may lessen inconvenience to the parties and avoid delay. Any other option to remedy the situation can also be considered.

However, before passing a final order, we consider it necessary to hear learned Attorney General who may depute some law officer to assist this Court.

List the matter on 31st January, 2017.

We also request Mr. C.A. Sundaram, Senior Advocate to assist this Court as amicus curiae. A set of papers may be furnished to the amicus.” (Emphasis added)

  1. Thus, the question is whether an order can be passed so as to provide a better alternative to each individual being required to move this Court.
  2. We have already noted that large number of transfer petitions of the present nature are being filed in this Court and are being mechanically allowed. Similar observation was made by this Court more than 10 years ago in Anindita Das v. Srijit Das[1] “…On an average at least 10 to 15 transfer petitions are on board of each court on each admission day.” It has also been observed in a number of cases that in absence of any male member being available to accompany the wife who is party to matrimonial proceedings to a different place, it may render it “expedient for ends of justice” to transfer proceedings[2].
  3. Of course in some cases, it was observed that instead of proceedings being transferred, the husband should pay travel, lodging and boarding expenses of the wife and/or person accompanying for each hearing[3]. This trend has also been followed in other matrimonial disputes, including guardianship dispute, etc.[4]
  4. Spirit behind the orders of this Court in allowing the transfer petitions filed by wives being almost mechanically allowing is that they are not denied justice on account of their inability to participate in proceedings instituted at a different place on account of difficulty either on account of financial or physical hardship. Our Constitutional scheme provides for guaranteeing equal access to justice[5], power of the State to make special provisions for women and children[6] and duty to uphold the dignity of women[7]. Various steps have been taken in this direction[8].
  5. As noted in the Order dated 9th January, 2017 quoted above, Section 19 of the Act permits proceedings to be filed not only at a place where the wife resides but also at place where marriage is solemnized or the place where the parties last resided together. It is mostly in the said situations that the wife has hardship in contesting proceedings. At the same time, under the law the husband is legally entitled to file proceedings at such places. Territorial jurisdiction of court is statutorily laid down in C.P.C. or other concerned statutes.
  6. Accordingly, we have heard Shri C.A. Sundaram, learned senior counsel as amicus curiae. Learned amicus has suggested that Section 19 of the Act should be interpreted to mean that the jurisdiction at the place other than where wife resides being available only at the option of the wife or that such jurisdiction will be available in exceptional cases where the wife is employed and the husband is unemployed or where the husband suffers from physical or other handicap or is looking after the minor child. Even though we are unable to give such interpretation in the face of plain language of statute to the contrary and it is for the legislature to make such suitable amendment as may be considered necessary, we are certainly inclined to issue directions in the interest of justice consistent with the statute.
  7. Mr. Nadkarni, learned Addl. Solicitor General has suggested that it will be appropriate to give some directions to meet the situation. He submitted that paramount consideration in dealing with the issue ought to be the interest of justice and not mere convenience of the parties. Thus, where husband files a petition at a place away from the residence of the wife, the husband can be required to bear travel and incidental expenses of the wife, if it is so considered appropriate in the interest of justice. At the same time, if the husband has genuine difficulty in making the deposit, proceedings can be conducted by video conferencing. At least one court room in every district court ought to be equipped with the video conferencing facility. The interest of the minor child has also to be kept in mind along with the interest of the senior citizens whose interest may be affected by one of the parties being required to undertake trips to distant places to face the proceedings. Protracted litigation ought to be avoided by better management and coordination so that number of adjournments can be reduced.
  8. We have considered the above suggestions. In this respect, we may also refer to the doctrine of forum non conveniens which can be applied in matrimonial proceedings for advancing interest of justice. Under the said doctrine, the court exercises its inherent jurisdiction to stay proceedings at a forum which is considered not to be convenient and there is any other forum which is considered to be more convenient for the interest of all the parties at the ends of justice. In Modi Entertainment Network and anr. v. W.S.G. Cricket Pte. Ltd.[9] this Court observed: “19. In Spiliada Maritime [10]case the House of Lords laid down the following principle:

“The fundamental principle applicable to both the stay of English proceedings on the ground that some other forum was the appropriate forum and also the grant of leave to serve proceedings out of the jurisdiction was that the court would choose that forum in which the case could be tried more suitably for the interest of all the parties and for the ends of justice.” The criteria to determine which was a more appropriate forum, for the purpose of ordering stay of the suit, the court would look for that forum with which the action had the most real and substantial connection in terms of convenience or expense, availability of witnesses, the law governing the relevant transaction and the places where the parties resided or carried on business. If the court concluded that there was no other available forum which was more appropriate than the English court, it would normally refuse a stay. If, however, the court concluded that there was another forum which was prima facie more appropriate, the court would normally grant a stay unless there were circumstances militating against a stay. It was noted that as the dispute concerning the contract in which the proper law was English law, it meant that England was the appropriate forum in which the case could be more suitably tried.” Though these observations have been made in the context of granting anti suit injunction, the principle can be followed in regulating the exercise of jurisdiction of the court where proceedings are instituted. In a civil proceeding, the plaintiff is the dominus litis but if more than one court has jurisdiction, court can determine which is the convenient forum and lay down conditions in the interest of justice subject to which its jurisdiction may be availed[11].

  1. One cannot ignore the problem faced by a husband if proceedings are transferred on account of genuine difficulties faced by the wife. The husband may find it difficult to contest proceedings at a place which is convenient to the wife. Thus, transfer is not always a solution acceptable to both the parties. It may be appropriate that available technology of video conferencing is used where both the parties have equal difficulty and there is no place which is convenient to both the parties. We understand that in every district in the country video conferencing is now available. In any case, wherever such facility is available, it ought to be fully utilized and all the High Courts ought to issue appropriate administrative instructions to regulate the use of video conferencing for certain category of cases. Matrimonial cases where one of the parties resides outside court’s jurisdiction is one of such categories. Wherever one or both the parties make a request for use of video conference, proceedings may be conducted on video conferencing, obviating the needs of the party to appear in person. In several cases, this Court has directed recording of evidence by video conferencing.
  2. The other difficulty faced by the parties living beyond the local jurisdiction of the court is ignorance about availability of suitable legal services. Legal Aid Committee of every district ought to make available selected panel of advocates whose discipline and quality can be suitably regulated and who are ready to provide legal aid at a specified fee. Such panels ought to be notified on the websites of the District Legal Services Authorities/State Legal Services Authorities/National Legal Services Authority. This may enhance access to justice consistent with Article 39A of the Constitution.
  3. The advancement of technology ought to be utilized also for service on parties or receiving communication from the parties. Every district court must have at least one e-mail ID. Administrative instructions for directions can be issued to permit the litigants to access the court, especially when litigant is located outside the local jurisdiction of the Court. A designated officer/manager of a district court may suitably respond to such e-mail in the manner permitted as per the administrative instructions. Similarly, a manager/ information officer in every district court may be accessible on a notified telephone during notified hours as per the instructions. These steps may, to some extent, take care of the problems of the litigants. These suggestions may need attention of the High Courts.
  4. We are thus of the view that it is necessary to issue certain directions which may provide alternative to seeking transfer of proceedings on account of inability of a party to contest proceedings at a place away from their ordinary residence on the ground that if proceedings are not transferred it will result in denial of justice.
  5. We, therefore, direct that in matrimonial or custody matters or in proceedings between parties to a marriage or arising out of disputes between parties to a marriage, wherever the defendants/respondents are located outside the jurisdiction of the court, the court where proceedings are instituted, may examine whether it is in the interest of justice to incorporate any safeguards for ensuring that summoning of defendant/respondent does not result in denial of justice. Order incorporating such safeguards may be sent along with the summons. The safeguards can be:-
  6. i) Availability of video conferencing facility.
  7. ii) Availability of legal aid service.

iii) Deposit of cost for travel, lodging and boarding in terms of Order XXV CPC.

  1. iv) E-mail address/phone number, if any, at which litigant from out station may communicate.
  2. We hope the above arrangement may, to an extent, reduce hardship to the litigants as noted above in the Order of this Court dated 9th January, 2017. However, in the present case since the matter is pending in this Court for about three years, we are satisfied that the prayer for transfer may be allowed. Accordingly, we direct that proceedings in Case No.179A/2013 under Section 13 of the Act titled “Harish Nagam vs. Krishna Veni Nagam” pending on the file of II Presiding Judge, Family Court, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh shall stand transferred to the Family Court, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. If the parties seek mediation the transferee court may explore the possibility of an amicable settlement through mediation. It will be open to the transferee court to conduct the proceedings or record evidence of the witnesses who are unable to appear in court by way of video conferencing. Records shall be sent by court where proceedings are pending to the transferee court forthwith.
  3. The Registry to transmit a copy of this order to the courts concerned. A copy of this order be sent to all the High Courts for appropriate action.
  4. We place on record our appreciation for the valuable assistance rendered by Mr. Atmaram N.S. Nadkarni, learned Additional Solicitor General and Mr. C.A. Sundaram, learned Senior Advocate.
  5. The transfer petition is disposed of accordingly.

…………..…………………………….J.

 

[ADARSH KUMAR GOEL] .….……………………..……………..J.

 

[UDAY UMESH LALIT] NEW DELHI;

How and where I Can File my divorce Petition in India.

Instructions

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Hindu marriage joins two individuals for life, so that they can pursue dharma (duty), artha (possessions), kama (physical desires), and moksha (ultimate spiritual release) together. It is a union of two individuals as husband and wife, and is recognized by law.

The marriage tied their nuptial knot to bring about the union of souls. The marriage creates a new relationship of love, affection, care and concern between the husband and wife. According to Hindu Vedic philosophy, it is sanskar- sacrament, one of the sixteen important sacraments essential to be taken during one’s lifetime. As a result of marriage there may be physical union between the parties of the marriage for procreation of lineal progeny and for ensuring spiritual salvation and performance of religious rites but what is essentially contemplated is the union of two souls. Marriage is considered to be a junction of three important duties i.e. social, religious and spiritual

Divorce

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According to the Indian divorce laws there are mainly two ways to obtain you divorce, the mutual divorce and the contested divorce. In case of a mutual divorce, you can have a talk with your estranged spouse to come to a settlement and get a “no-fault divorce”. If you are seeking a contested divorce, you can file your divorce on the grounds that are specified under the particular Indian marriage act that you are entitled to. There are separate divorce laws for Hindus, Christians, Parsis and Muslims. Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists are governed by the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for filing for divorce in India. Laws are even laid down for Inter-cast marriages under the Special Marriage Act, 1956.

Types of Divorce

Mutual Consent – Both the spouses are in agreement that divorce cannot be avoided and they both opt for a “no fault” Divorce.

Section 28. Divorce by mutual consent Under Special Marriage Act

mutual divorce

(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act and to the rules made thereunder, a petition for divorce may be presented to the District Court by both the parties together on the ground that they have been living separately for a period of one year or more, that they have not been able to live together and that they have mutually agreed that the marriage should be dissolved.

(2) On the motion of both the parties made not earlier than six months after the date of the presentation of the petition referred to in sub-section (1) and not later than eighteen months after the said date, if the petition is not withdrawn in the meantime, the District Court shall, on being satisfied, after hearing the parties and after making such inquiry as it thinks fit, that a marriage has been solemnized under this Act and that the avertments in the petition are true, pass a decree declaring the marriage to be dissolved with effect from the date of the decree

Section 13-B of Hindu Marriage Act,1955,

Divorce by mutual Consent.

(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act a petition for dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce may be presented to the district court by both the parties to a marriage together, whether such marriage was solemnized before or after the commencement of the Marriage Laws Amendment Act, 1976 , (68 of 1976 .) on the ground that they have been living separately for a period of one year or more, that they have not been able to live together and that thy have mutually agreed that the marriage should be dissolved.

(2) On the motion of both the parties made not earlier than six months after the date of the presentation of the petition referred to in sub- section (1) and not later than eighteen months after the said date, if the petition is not withdrawn in the meantime, the court shall, on being satisfied, after hearing the parties and after making such inquiry as it thinks fit, that a marriage has been solemnized and that the averments in the petition are true, pass a decree of divorce declaring the marriage to be dissolved with effect from the date of the decree.

Contested Divorce – The spouse seeking divorce can file under the appropirate faith based law under which they got married or in case of civil marriage under the appropirate law under which they married or their marriage was registered.

Governing Laws

Hindus – The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

Christians – The Divorce Act,1869, The Indian Christian Marriage Act,1872

Parsis – The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act,1936

Muslims – Shariat Law, The Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act,1939

Inter-cast/Secular – Special Marriage Act, 1954, The Foreign Marriage Act,1969

Major Grounds for Divorce

Adultery

Deserting the spouse for two or more years

Physical or mental cruelty

Conversion to another religion in case of religious marriage

Incurable disease such as leprosy, venereal disease in a communicable form

Insanity, unsound mind or mental disorder

Renounced the world by entering any religious order in case of religious marriage

Unheard of as being living for a period of seven years or more

Section 19 in The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (Jurisdiction to File Divorce Petition in India).

Court to which petition shall be presented. —Every petition under this Act shall be presented to the district court within the local limits of whose ordinary original civil jurisdiction—

(i) the marriage was solemnised, or

(ii) the respondent, at the time of the presentation of the petition, resides, or

(iii) the parties to the marriage last resided together, or

41 [(iiia) in case the wife is the petitioner, where she is residing on the date of presentation of the petition, or]

(iv) the petitioner is residing at the time of the presentation of the petition, in a case where the respondent is, at that time, residing outside the territories to which this Act extends, or has not been heard of as being alive for a period of seven years or more by those persons who would naturally have heard of him if he were alive.]

Jurisdiction of the Court If a marriage is solemnised at a place within the municipal limit and the party reside there only, the family Court would have exclusive jurisdiction to deal with case. The case cannot be transferred to district court on a ground that the husband resides outside the limits of municipal corporation; Arjun Singhal v. Pushpa Karwel, AIR 2003 MP 189.