Hirachand Srinivas Managaonkar vs. Sunanda Case Summary 2001

Hirachand Srinivas Managaonkar vs. Sunanda Case Summary 2001

Hirachand Srinivas Managaonkar vs. Sunanda case dealt with interpretation of conjugal rights enshrined in Hindu Marriage Act.

CITATION: CIVIL APPEAL No. 1473 OF 1999

BENCH: D.P.MOHAPATRA, DORAISWAMY RAJU

BRIEF FACTS OF THE CASE:

  • The appellant is the husband of the respondent. On 6 January 1981, a petition seeking judicial separation under Section 10 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 was being by the respondent on the ground of adultery on the part of the appellant pursuant to which the appellant was directed to pay maintenance.
  • Instead of complying with the said order, the appellant filed a petition for dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce under Section 13-A on the ground that there has been no resumption of cohabitation between the parties to the marriage for a period of more than one year after passing for the decree for judicial separation.
  • It was contended by the respondent that the appellant, having failed to pay the maintenance as directed by the court, filed a petition for divorce in order to take advantage of his own wrong with the purpose of getting the relief.
  •  Taking this into consideration, the High Court rejected the appellant’s petition for divorce and the said appeal was made to the Supreme Court by way of Special Leave.

LEGAL ISSUES:

  1. Whether the husband who has filed a petition seeking dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce under section 13-A of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 can be declined relief on the ground that he has failed to pay maintenance to his wife and daughter despite the order of the Court?
  2. Whether the appellant by refusing to pay maintenance to the respondent has committed a ‘wrong’ within the meaning of Section 23?
  3. Whether the appellant has filed the petition for divorce with the intent of taking advantage of his own wrong?

RATIO:

  • In view of the facts and the circumstances of this case, the prayer of the appellant for a decree of divorce was rejected by the High Court on the ground that the move was not a bona fide one, that he continues to live in adultery even after the decree for judicial separation was passed and that he has failed to provide maintenance to his wife and daughter.
  • According to Section 13(1) of the Act, the dissolution of a marriage between the parties may take place by a decree of divorce on a petition filed by either of the parties on the following grounds:
  • That there has been no resumption of cohabitation as between the parties to the marriage for a period of over one year after the passing of a decree for judicial separation
  • That the party against whom the petition is filed had failed to comply with a decree for restitution of conjugal rights for a period of two years or upwards after the passing of a decree of restitution against that party.
  • The contention that the right conferred by sub-section (1A) of Section 13 is absolute and unqualified and is not subject to provisions of Section 23 is fallacious. Sub-section (1A) of Section 13 was introduced by an amendment that conferred a right on either party to the marriage so that the petition for divorce can be filed not only by the party which had obtained a decree for judicial separation or restitution of conjugal rights but also for the party against whom such decree has been passed. Section 23 casts a duty on the court to decree the relief sought only if the conditions specified in the sub-section are satisfied, and not otherwise. Therefore, the contention raised by the appellant whether the provisions of section 23(1) are not relevant in deciding a petition filed under sub-section (1A) of Section 13 of the Act, was not accepted.
  • In order to determine whether the appellant has committed a wrong within the meaning of section 23 of the Act, the concept given in Mulla’s Hindu Law was to be noted which stated that after a decree for judicial separation has been passed; both the parties are obligated to perform their part for cohabitation.
  • As in the present case, the appellant has failed to perform his duty as a husband by refusing to pay maintenance, amounting to committing ‘wrong’ within the meaning of Section 23 of the Act. Section 13(1A) only enables either party to a marriage to file an application for dissolution of the marriage.
  • The Section does not provide that once an application is made, the court has no alternative but to grant a decree of divorce. Such an interpretation runs counter to the provisions of section 23(1)(a) or (b) of the Act.
  • “In order to be a ‘wrong’ within the meaning of Section 23(1)(a), the conduct alleged has to be something more than a mere disinclination to agree to an offer of reunion, it must be misconduct serious enough to justify denial of the relief to which the husband or the wife is otherwise entitled”.
  • In view of the facts and the circumstances, it can be reasonably said that the appellant in the case not only commit a matrimonial wrong by refusing to provide maintenance and further estrange the relation creating acrimony rendering any reapproachment impossible but also tried to take advantage of his own wrong by seeking the relief for divorce.

JUDGEMENT:

Considering the above-mentioned discussions, Supreme Court held the decision of the High Court in declining the relief of a decree of divorce to the appellant correct. The learned Judge held rightly that Illegality and immorality cannot be countenanced as aids for a person to secure relief in matrimonial matters. The appellant’s prayer was not accepted on the ground that provisions of Section 13(1A) do not abrogate the provisions specified in Section 23 of the Hindu Marriage Act.

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