Man gets divorce order, his wife a decree to live together

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has found itself in the middle of a legal riddle – husband has a divorce decree from a Kerala family court and the wife has a decree for living together from a Mumbai court. 

The wife argued in person and aggressively told a bench of justices Ranjana P Desai and NV Ramana that her decree for restitution of conjugal rights was passed by a Bandra court on December 2, 2009 whereas the husband got a divorce decree from a Kerala court on January 16, 2013. 

“The court passed the decree for divorce ex-parte without hearing me and did not have the jurisdiction to entertain the husband’s petition for dissolution of marriage,” she said. 

The husband’s counsel told the bench that the man had filed for divorce much before the wife approached the Bandra family court for a decree for restitution of conjugal rights. “So, the divorce decree is valid and implementable,” he said. 

Faced with these conflicting orders, the bench had appointed senior advocate V Giri as amicus and sought a way out. Giri on Monday told the bench that both decrees were not challenged by the parties in appellate courts. 

The woman had first approached the SC in 2012 seeking alimony from her estranged husband. The amicus said the husband had been paying alimony of Rs 40,000 per month to the wife and child as per the apex court’s March 18, 2013 order but the wife was complaining that she was yet to get alimony arrears. 

Giri said the proper course for the apex court would be to permit the wife to challenge the decree of divorce in the Kerala High Court, which could also be asked to settle the issue of permanent alimony. 

But the woman refused to challenge the divorce decree. “I am not willing to go to Kerala. All those orders were passed against me without the courts having any jurisdiction,” she said. 

The bench admitted that it was struggling with the matter for the last two years. It asked Giri to submit a note on ways and means to solve the riddle and protect the interests of the parties, especially the woman who has a child from the marriage.

The Supreme Court appointed senior advocate V Giri as amicus and sought a way out in this unusual divorce case. 

The court had earlier asked the husband and wife to settle the issue through mediation prior to ordering the man to pay Rs 1 lakh as interim payment in two tranches. On October 15, 2012, the court had recorded, “Even today, we persuaded both parties, particularly the petitioner (wife) appearing in person to agree for settlement. Since we could not persuade the petitioner and she insisted on a hearing on her petition on merits, let the matter be listed before another bench.” 

On July 8 last year, the court had rejected an application by the wife seeking to restrain her husband from contracting second marriage as he was armed with a divorce decree. 

The court had said, “We have carefully scrutinized the record and are satisfied that there is no valid ground or justification to entertain the applicant’s prayer for grant of permanent injunction to restrain the respondent (husband) from contracting second marriage or to declare the decree of divorce passed by family court at Irinjalakuda, Kerala as null.” 

The apex court posted the matters for hearing on Wednesday, when amicus curiae V Giri will submit his suggestions to the bench.

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