1. This matrimonial reference comes before us for confirmation of the decree granted by the learned District Judge of Cawnpore, who granted a decree for the dissolution of the marriage between the petitioner Henry William Gill and his wife Catherine Isabella Gill.
2. According to the evidence of the petitioner the parties were married in the year 1883. In 1891 his wife left him to visit a sister at Jhansi who was ill. In consequence of a letter which he received he went to Jhansi and there found that his wife was living in adultery with his brother-in-law, the latter's wife having died. He taxed his wife which infidelity. She admitted it and told him that she would not come back to him. He took away his two children, the issue of the marriage. It is admitted that he took no steps further than to consult a Pleader until the present petition was filed; that is to say, a period of no less than 19 years has elapsed since the alleged misconduct of the wife occurred to the personal knowledge of the petitioner himself. The only explanation which is attempted to be given of this gross delay is that the petitioner did not know the whereabouts of his wife and the co-respondent. It is possible that during a considerable portion of the time which has elapsed the petitioner was unaware of where his wife or the correspondent were living, but we are quite satisfied on the evidence that if the petitioner had instituted for the dissolution of his marriage within a reasonable period after his knowledge of her alleged misconduct, there would not have been the least difficulty in giving notice to the parties either by personal service or by substituted service. Proceedings for divorce ought to be instituted at the earliest possible moment and delay of a very much shorter period than that which has occurred in this case would have to be fully explained before the petitioner would be entitled to a decree. This question of delay is a matter which, we think, is often lost sight of by some of the District Judges. In the case of Boulting v. Boulting 33 L.J. Mat. 33 : 10 Jur. (N.S.) 182 : 9 L.T. 779 : 12 W.R. 389 : 3 Sw. and Tr. 329 Sir J.P. Wilde says: 'The first thing which the Court looks to when a charge of adultery is preferred is the date of the charge relatively to the date of the criminal act and knowledge of it by the party, because if the interval be very long between the date and knowledge of the fact and the exhibition of them to the Court, it will be indisposed to relieve a party who appears to have slumbered in sufficient comfort over them, and it will be inclined to infer either an insincerity in the complaint, or an acquiescence in the injury, whether real or supposed, or a condonation of it. It, therefore, demands a full and satisfactory explanation in order to take it out of the reach of such interpretation.'
3. In the case of Nicholson v. Nicholson 3 P. and D. 53 : 29 L.T. 108 the Court required a full explanation of a delay of even two years. In our opinion, the petitioner in the present case has altogether failed to explain the delay which has taken place.
4. We accordingly refuse to confirm the decree of the learned District Judge. We set aside that decree and dismiss the petition. We make no order as to costs.