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Indian Case Summary

Swaraj Garg vs K.M. Garg on 7 March, 1978 – Case Summary

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In the case of Swaraj Garg vs K.M. Garg on 7 March, 1978, the Delhi High Court was presented with a complex and pertinent question: when both the husband and wife are gainfully employed at two different locations prior to their marriage, where should the matrimonial home be established post-marriage? This question, increasingly relevant in a society where more women are retaining their jobs post-marriage, was the central issue in this case.

Facts of the Case

The wife, Swaraj, was a teacher at Sunam, District Sangrur, from 1956 and was the Headmistress of Government High School when she was examined as a witness in 1969. The parties were married on 12th July, 1964 at Sunam. The husband, who had been abroad for some years, did not secure a satisfactory job in India. He was employed in M/s. Hastinapur Metals from Sept., 1966 to Sept., 1967 at Rs. 50/_ p.m. without any allowances and from 14th Sept., 1967 by’ Master Sa the and Kothari at Rs- 600/- P.M. without any other allowances. The husband and wife did not discuss or agree on where their matrimonial home should be after the marriage. Therefore, even after the marriage, the wife continued to live at Sunam, and the husband at Delhi.

Issues Raised

The husband filed a petition for the restitution of conjugal rights against the wife on the grounds that she had withdrawn herself from the society of the husband without reasonable excuse within the meaning of S. 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The husband listed several reasons for her estrangement, including her longing to return to her parents, her insistence that his aged father should not live with him, her parents’ desire to live on her income, her abusive and quarrelsome nature, and her belief that she was not capable of leading a married life.

The wife defended the petition and denied the husband’s allegations. She further claimed that the husband treated her poorly, was primarily interested in extracting money from her and her parents, and had deprived her of jewelry, clothes, and other valuable presents given to her by her parents. She also alleged that the husband had left her without good treatment at home or any proper medical treatment when she was ill and when she was in the family way and delivered a daughter. The reason why she could not join the husband was the cruelty meted out to her by the husband.

Court’s Observations and Conclusions

The trial court dismissed the husband’s petition, but the decision was reversed on appeal by a single Judge of the Delhi High Court. Both the trial court and the appellate court agreed that the oral evidence provided by the parties was unhelpful and that the dispute had to be decided based on the correspondence between the parties.

The appellate court noted the prevalent custom of dowry and observed that these settlements of money should be looked down upon in a civilized society. However, it could not be said that the only object was to make money and there was no intention on the part of the husband to run the matrimonial home. The court further observed that the husband was trying to “tame the shrew” by giving various warnings.

The court concluded that in the absence of a pre-marital agreement between the parties, it could not be said that the wife, who had a permanent job with good prospects, was expected to resign and come to live with the husband when the husband did not earn enough to maintain the family at Delhi where life was costlier. The court also concluded that the conduct of the husband was such as to frighten the wife from joining him and thus giving her reasonable

excuse for not joining him.

The court also discussed the choice of the matrimonial home. It stated that the basic principles on which the location of the matrimonial home is to be determined by the husband and wife are based on common convenience and benefit of the parties. The court referred to English law, stating that there is no absolute rule whereby either party is entitled to dictate to the other where the matrimonial home shall be. The matter is to be settled by agreement between the parties, by a process of give and take, and by reasonable accommodation.

The court also noted that the wife does not succeed in establishing that a husband has not provided her with a reasonable home by showing that, having left him unreasonably, she has, by her independent action, found accommodation somewhere else which he is unwilling to accept.

The court disagreed with the view of the Punjab & Haryana High Court Full Bench in Kailash Wati’s case, which held that the wife was bound to live with her husband and to submit herself to his authority. The Delhi High Court held that this statement of law should not be taken superficially to mean that whatever the circumstances, it is always the wife who must resign her job and come to live with her husband. The court stated that there is absolutely no principle or authority in law which compels the wife to do so.

The court also discussed the conduct of the husband. It noted that the husband had demanded more dowry from the wife’s father after having received a substantial amount as dowry. The court stated that the presence of such unhealthy expectations and customs among certain sections of the society is no justification for the courts upholding them. On the contrary, the court is bound by law to refuse to recognize them and to decide that demands for dowry and money are unjustified.

In conclusion, the court held that there is no warrant in Hindu law to regard the Hindu wife as having no say in choosing the place of matrimonial home. The court stated that any law which would give the exclusive right to the husband to decide upon the place of the matrimonial home without considering the merits of the claim of the wife would be contrary to Art. 14 of the Constitution and unconstitutional for that reason.