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Indian Case Summary

Bipin Chander Jaisinghbhai Shah vs Prabhawati on 19 October, 1956 – Case Summary

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In the case of Bipin Chander Jaisinghbhai Shah vs Prabhawati on 19 October, 1956, the Supreme Court of India was tasked with determining the validity of a divorce claim based on the grounds of desertion. The case was presided over by Justice Bhuvneshwar P. Sinha, and the bench included Justices B. Jagannadhadas and T.L. Venkatarama Aiyar.

Facts of the Case

The parties were married in 1942 and had a child. In 1947, the appellant (Bipin Chander Jaisinghbhai Shah) left for England on business. Upon his return, he discovered that his wife (Prabhawati, the respondent) had been having an amorous correspondence with another man, identified as M. Unable to provide an answer, Prabhawati left for her father’s place on May 24, 1947, under the pretext of attending her cousin’s wedding.

On July 15, 1947, Bipin sent a notice to Prabhawati through his solicitor, stating that he did not desire to keep her under his care and protection any longer and requested her to send their minor son to him. On July 4, 1951, Bipin instituted a suit for divorce under section 3(1)(d) of the Bombay Hindu Divorce Act, 1947, on the grounds that Prabhawati had been in desertion since May 24, 1947, without reasonable cause and without his consent.

Issues

The primary issue was whether Prabhawati had been in desertion, thereby entitling Bipin to a decree for divorce. The court had to determine if Prabhawati’s departure from her marital home was actuated by an intention to desert her husband or if it was the result of her sense of guilt. The court also had to consider whether the statutory period of four years of separation, as specified in section 3(1)(d) of the Bombay Hindu Divorce Act, 1947, should immediately precede the institution of the divorce suit.

Court’s Observations

The court observed that desertion is a matter of inference to be drawn from the facts and circumstances of each case. The essential conditions for the offence of desertion, as far as the deserting spouse is concerned, are the fact of separation and the intention to bring cohabitation permanently to an end (animus deserendi). As regards the deserted spouse, the elements are the absence of consent and the absence of conduct giving reasonable cause to the spouse leaving the matrimonial home to form the necessary intention.

The court held that, on the facts, though the initial fault lay with Prabhawati, her leaving her marital home was not actuated by any animus to desert her husband but as the result of her sense of guilt. As she was subsequently willing to come back but could not do so owing to Bipin’s attitude, there was no proof that she deserted him, much less that she had harbored that animus for the statutory period. Therefore, Bipin’s case failed.

The court also raised a query on whether the statutory period of four years specified in section 3(1)(d) should immediately precede the institution of the divorce suit. However, the court did not provide a definitive answer to this query.

In conclusion, the case of Bipin Chander Jaisinghbhai Shah vs Prabhawati serves as a significant precedent in Indian family law, particularly in matters related to desertion and divorce. It underscores the importance of considering the specific facts and circumstances of each case when determining the presence of desertion and the intention behind it.