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Indian Case Summary

Savitri Pandey vs Prem Chandra Pandey on 8 January, 2002 – Case Summary

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In the case of Savitri Pandey vs Prem Chandra Pandey, heard by the Supreme Court of India on 8th January 2002, the court was called upon to adjudicate on a complex matrimonial dispute. The case was presided over by Justices R.P. Sethi and Y.K. Sabharwal.

Facts of the Case

The marriage between Savitri Pandey (the appellant) and Prem Chandra Pandey (the respondent) was solemnised on 6th May 1987. According to the appellant, the marriage was never consummated, and the parties started living separately after 21st June 1987. The appellant alleged that her parents had spent more than Rs.80,000 on the marriage ceremonies and had given several articles in the form of ornaments, valuables, cash, and kind as per the respondent’s demand. Further demands were made by the respondent and his family members, including a Colour TV, Refrigerator, other ornaments, and hard cash of Rs.10,000. The appellant’s father gave Rs.10,000 in the first week of June 1987 but could not fulfil the other demands. The appellant alleged that the respondent and his family members started torturing her on false pretexts.

The appellant approached the Matrimonial Court under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, praying for dissolution of her marriage with the respondent by a decree of divorce. She also prayed for direction to the respondent to return her ornaments given to him at the time of marriage. The Family Judge allowed the petition and dissolved the marriage of the parties on the ground of desertion by the husband. The appellant was also granted a decree of Rs.12,000/- towards the price of the scooter, allegedly given at the time of the marriage, and payment of Rs.500/- per month as permanent alimony.

Both the husband and the wife preferred appeals against the order of the Family Court as the wife was not satisfied with the part of the order refusing to grant a decree in her favour in respect of properties claimed by her, and the husband was aggrieved by the order of dissolution of the marriage by a decree of divorce. Both the appeals were disposed of by the impugned order holding that the appellant-wife herself was a defaulting party and neither the allegations of cruelty nor of desertion were proved. The order passed under Section 27 of the Hindu Marriage Act and for permanent alimony was also set aside.

Issues

The issues before the court were:

  1. Whether the defendant has treated the petitioner with cruelty? If so, its effect?
  2. Whether the petitioner is entitled to relief under Sec.27 of the Hindu Marriage Act? If so, its effect?
  3. Whether the defendant is entitled to any relief? If so, its effect?
  4. To what relief, parties are entitled?

Court’s Observations

The court observed that cruelty, a ground for divorce under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Act, consists of acts which are dangerous to life, limb or health. Cruelty may be physical or mental. Mental cruelty is the conduct of other spouse which causes mental suffering or fear to the matrimonial life of the other.

The court also observed that no decree of divorce could be granted on the ground of desertion in the absence of pleading and proof. Desertion, for the purpose of seeking divorce under the Act, means the intentional permanent forsaking and abandonment of one spouse by the other without that other’s consent and without reasonable cause.

The court further observed that in any proceedings under the Act whether defended or not, the court would decline to grant relief to the petitioner if it is found that the petitioner was taking advantage of his or her own wrong or disability

for the purposes of the reliefs contemplated under Section 23(1) of the Act. No party can be permitted to carve out the ground for destroying the family, which is the basic unit of society. The foundation of the family rests on the institution of a legal and valid marriage. The approach of the court should be to preserve the matrimonial home and be reluctant to dissolve the marriage on the asking of one of the parties.

In the present case, the appellant herself pleaded that there had not been cohabitation between the parties after the marriage. She neither assigned any reason nor attributed the non-resumption of cohabitation to the respondent. From the pleadings and evidence led in the case, it is apparent that the appellant did not permit the respondent to have cohabitation for consummating the marriage. In the absence of cohabitation between the parties, a particular state of matrimonial position was never permitted by the appellant to come into existence. In the present case, in the absence of cohabitation and consummation of marriage, the appellant was disentitled to claim divorce on the ground of desertion.

The court also observed that there is no merit in these appeals which are dismissed with costs throughout. The court also suggested that the period of limitation prescribed for filing the appeal under Section 28(4) is apparently inadequate which facilitates the frustration of the marriages by the unscrupulous litigant spouses. The court suggested that a minimum period of 90 days may be prescribed for filing the appeal against any judgment and decree under the Act and any marriage solemnised during the aforesaid period be deemed to be void. The court directed the Registry that the copy of this judgment may be forwarded to the Ministry of Law & Justice for such action as it may deem fit to take in this regard.

In conclusion, the court upheld the sanctity of marriage and emphasized that no party can be permitted to flout the course of justice by their overt and covert acts. The court also highlighted the need for reform in the law of marriage and suggested the introduction of irretrievable breakdown of marriage and mutual consent as grounds of divorce in all cases. The court reiterated that the approach of the court should be to preserve the matrimonial home and be reluctant to dissolve the marriage on the asking of one of the parties. The court dismissed the appeals with costs throughout.