In a recent case, while settling alimony payable by the appellant husband to the respondent wife, the Court declined their 20-year old daughter’s plea to make her father pay for her education, because the mediation to bring about some rapport between father and daughter for this purpose, failed.
WHILE granting the prayer for divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage between a husband and wife, who have long been living separately, and resisting attempts at mediation, the Supreme Court noted, earlier this month, that their daughter did not want the appellant, her father to be involved in her future. A division bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.M. Sundresh, therefore, observed that while the daughter is free to choose her own path, she cannot claim any amount of money from her father.
The bench held:
“In so far as the daughter’s expenses for education and marriage are concerned, it appears from her approach that she does not want to maintain any relationship with the appellant and is about 20 years of age. She is entitled to choose her own path but then cannot demand from the appellant the amount towards the education. We, thus, hold that the daughter is not entitled to any amount but while determining the amount to be paid as permanent alimony to the respondent, we are still taking care to see that if the respondent so desires to support the daughter, funds are available.”
Facts of the case
The court was hearing an appeal plea moved by the husband after the Punjab and Haryana High Court turned down his plea seeking a divorce.
After a petition seeking restitution of conjugal rights was dismissed, the husband filed a petition seeking dissolution of marriage on grounds of desertion before a district judge. The plea was allowed; thereafter, challenged before the Punjab and Haryana High Court by the wife.
The High Court set aside the subordinate court’s order, laying the foundation for the husband to approach the Supreme Court in appeal.
During the pending of the plea, several attempts at reconciliation were made through the Supreme Court Mediation Centre — between the respondent and her daughter, and the appellant.
Since the daughter, aged 20, had been living with her mother since birth, she did not want anything to do with her father.
Senior Advocate Nidhesh Gupta, appearing for the appellant, argued that the relationship between the father and daughter had “become acrimonious and unpleasant in terms of the telephonic conversations.”
What the Court held
In one of the previous hearings, the respondent’s counsel expressed her willingness for a mutual consent divorce with the Court invoking its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India. But she clarified that she would not admit to the appellant’s allegations against her in the divorce petition.
The Court, however, put two caveats to it:
The maintenance for the last ten months, fixed by the trial court, of Rs. 8,000/- per month has not been paid by the appellant.
The sole child – their daughter has got admission to a college and the appellant must bear expenses for her education.
The appellant had assured that the arrears would be cleared and agreed to submit his salary bills along with an affidavit setting out his assets and financial position to work out the financial terms of the separation.
After the court flagged the aspect of his daughter’s education and marriage, attempts were made to have a better rapport between the daughter and the appellant. However, none of the efforts bore fruit.
Subsequently, the appellant argued that in any case, a decree of divorce is liable to be granted under Article 142 of the Constitution on account of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. His contention was that the parties have been living apart for a long period of time and all endeavors to save the marriage had failed. In such a case, the Supreme Court has the power to dissolve a marriage on the ground of “irretrievable breakdown of marriage”, he vehemently argued.
Exercising its jurisdiction, the court declared the two-decade-old marriage between the appellant and respondent over.
The two-judge bench held that “nothing really subsists in this marriage except mutual acrimony. … It is not even possible for the parties to sit across the table or to even talk over telephone to come to a reasonable understanding. There remains no doubt about irretrievable breakdown of marriage in the facts of the present case”.
The only question that persisted was regarding the terms and conditions of the divorce, after discerning the financial statuses of the parties.
Since the daughter wanted nothing to do with the appellant, she is not entitled to any amount from her father and that won’t be considered while determining the amount to be paid as permanent alimony to the respondent, her mother, the court pointed out.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court fixed the permanent alimony of the respondent, at present being paid at Rs. 8,000 per month as interim maintenance, at Rs. 10 lakh in full and final settlement of all claims, and allowed the grant for divorce subject to the appellant depositing an additional Rs. 10 lakh as costs.