|CITATION||1984 AIR 1562, 1985 SCR (1) 303|
|DATE OF JUDGEMENT||08/08/1984|
|COURT||SUPREME COURT OF INDIA (SC)|
|PETITIONER||SMT. SAROJ RANI|
|RESPONDENT||SUDARSHAN KUMAR CHADHA|
JUSTICE MUKHARJI, SABYASACHI JUSTICE FAZALALI, SYED MURTAZA
Smt. Saroj Rani vs Sudarshan Kumar Chadha was sentenced on August 8, 1984. It is considered a milestone because it challenges the legitimacy of Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 when a two-judge panel of the Supreme Court of India upheld the law. Legality of Restitution of Marital Rights contained in the Act. The restitution of conjugal rights refers to the restoration of the marital rights since there are certain rights and obligations that are dependent on both parties because marriage is considered a wedlock or a social contract between two people. Restitution of conjugal rights is the sole option to keep a marriage strong and is typically employed when one spouse fails to meet the essential requirements of matrimony such as cohabitation or if the couple has kids but neglects to care for them and leaves the house without a valid reason both Muslims and Hindus alike are eligible for this remedy under general law
FACTS OF THE CASE
The petitioner and respondent got married in January 1975 with proper rituals and customs at Jalandhar. On 4th January 1976 they both had a daughter named Menka after a year of marriage. On October 1977, the wife filed a suit under section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for restitution of conjugal right and alleged her husband that he mistreated her after the birth of their second daughter on 28thFebruary 1977 named Guddi but unfortunately she died on 6th August 1977 at her father’s residence. It was contended by the petitioner that on 16thMay 1977 when their last cohabitation took place her husband withdrew her from the society. She also claimed that she was ill-treated by her in-laws also. The husband however denied the abuse claim and gave his consent to allow the decree for damages to pass. After one month of the decree being passed, the wife was taken to the house and the husband cohabitated with her and after two days she want turned out of the house.
Furthermore, after one year the husband filed a divorce petition under Section 13 (1 A) of the Hindu Marriage Act, he gave arguments while filing divorce petition that he and his wife had been living separately for last one year and there was no cohabitation taken place between them as per the decree of the restitution of conjugal rights which was earlier passed by the court.
After considering the above facts, the District Court held that divorce petition cannot be filed by the husband as the decree of conjugal rights was passed on the consent of the parties. The husband then was followed by an appeal to the High court which declared that a decree was not passed with the consent of the parties and claimed that fraudulent decree prevented the restitution of marriage of the petitioner. Court held that a consent decree could not be termed to be a collusive, decree so as to disentitle the petitioner to a decree for the restitution of the conjugal rights, and in that view of the language of Section 23 if the court had tried to make conciliation between the parties and the conciliation had been ordered, the husband was not dissented to get a decree.
- Whether the husband was entitled to the decree of divorce or not ?
- What was the constitutional validity of Section 9 of Hindu Marriage Act,1995
CORRELATIONS OF CASES
The State of Tamil Nadu has added a State Amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and this extends to any wedding between two Hindus solemnized with the participation of family, friends, or other persons. The fundamental point of this clause is the fact that the involvement of a priest is not required for a legitimate marriage.
The witness testified that the bridegroom brought the “Thirumangalam” and tied it around the bride’s neck, that the garlands were exchanged, and that the father of the bride mentioned that He gave his daughter to “Kanniyathan” on behalf of and in the witness of “Agnidevi,” and that the acknowledgment of the same thing by the parent of the bridegroom effectively shows that the marriage was performed according to the traditions that applied to the parties.
CONTENTIONS OF PLAINTIFF
- The main argument made by the appellants was that it was erroneous to claim that the parties’ conjugal rights had not been restored after the decree had been issued. This defense rested on the fact that the wife had been taken to the husband’s house by her parents a month after the order, and that the husband had allowed her to stay there for two days before expelling her.
- The petitioner stated that her husband and in-laws subjected her to mistreatment and cruelty, which prompted her to seek a decree of restitution of marriage.
- The petitioner argued that in response to her petition for restitution of conjugal rights, the respondent accepted some facts stated in the petition but denied others. Specifically, the respondent claimed that he never made any demands, mistreated, ostracized, or threw the petitioner out of the house, as alleged by the petitioner.
CONTENTION OF APPELLANT
- According to Section 13 of the aforementioned legislation, the respondent filed for divorce, stating a year of no contact with his wife following the reparation order as justification. This signifies that there has been no success in attempting a reconciliation and that there has been a breakdown in the marriage. Because the parties have not been cohabitation as husband and wife, which is necessary for a happy marriage, it is appropriate to approve the divorce petition.
- The respondent expressed his willingness to patch things up and keep the marriage together by saying that he would take his wife back to his place. This demonstrates that he is willing to work out their differences and give their relationship another opportunity. Therefore, before rendering a final determination about the divorce petition, it would be acceptable to take into account the respondent’s desire to reconcile and evaluate the viability of doing so.
District Court held that:
The District Judge came to the conclusion that there had been no resumption of cohabitation between the parties and that in view of the provisions of Section 23 and in view of the fact that the previous decree was a consent decree and that at the time of the passing of the said decree, as there was no provision like Section 13B i.e. divorce by mutual consent’; held that as the decree for restitution of conjugal rights was passed by the consent of the parties, the husband was not entitled to a decree for divorce.
High Court held that:
A Single Judge of the High Court following the decision of this Court in Dharmendra Kumar v. Usha Kumari  1 SCR 315, held that it could not be said that the husband was taking advantage of his ‘wrongs’, but however expressed the view that the decree for restitution of conjugal rights could not be passed with the consent of the parties, and therefore being a collusive one disentitled the husband to a decree for divorce, and referred the matter to the Chief Justice for constitution of a Division Bench for consideration of the question.
Supreme Court held that:
- The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Section 9 by saying that it serves a social purpose as an aid to the prevention of break-up of the marriage.
- Section 9 of the Act is not violative of Article 14 or Article 21 of the Constitution if the purpose of the decree for restitution of conjugal rights in the said Act is understood in its proper perspective and if the method of execution in cases of disobedience is kept in view.
- Even after the final decree of divorce the husband would continue to pay maintenance to the wife until she remarries and would maintain the one living daughter of the marriage. Separate maintenance should be paid for the wife and the living daughter. Wife would be entitled to such maintenance only until she remarries and the daughter to her maintenance until she is married.
Until altered by appropriate order on application or proper materials, such maintenance should be Rs. 200 per month for the wife, and Rs. 300 per month for the daughter.
This case comment has shown that Restitution of Conjugal Rights, from the eyes of the law, is a medium through which the deserting partner is made to compensate for their unjustifiable withdrawal and is a consortium of maintaining harmony in the marriage. However, what might seem reasonable to one partner could be perceived differently by the law and could lead to drastic consequences. Although, the aim of this section was to save the marriage and maintain harmony, in current times, it has lost its relevance and as social scenarios change over time and cases of violence and abuse keep increasing, this section does not create the adequate effect it initially sought to have and ends up doing more harm than good.
This Article is written by Simran Haider Pathan, student at Balaji Law College of Pune, Maharashtra, Intern at Legal Vidhiya.