S.S. Sandhawalia, C.J.
1. This is a reference under the Indian Divorce Act, 1869, for the confirmation of a decree granted by the learned District Judge, Chandigrah, declaring the marriage of the petitioner with the respondent as null and void.
2. Smt. Sarojni Mabel Paul had presented the petition under Ss. 18 and 19 of the Indian Divorce Act, 1869, for a decree of nullity of marriage. Therein it was averred that she was married to the respondent. Earnest Satya Paul on May 2, 1980 at Chandigarh according to Christian rites. This marriage is said to have been arranged by their parents in pursuance of an advertisement put out by the respondent in a newspaper. Both the respondent and his parents had assured the petitioner that his earlier marriage with one Mrs. Charity Harison had been dissolved.
3. After the marriage aforesaid, the parties first lived together at Dasuya and thereafter returned to Chandigrah where the petitioner was employed. The respondent is alleged to have suddenly left the matrimonial home without any information of his whereabouts. When the parents of the respondent were contacted, they gave no suitable reply. The petitioner became suspicious and enquiries revealed that the earlier marriage of the respondent with Mrs. Charity Harison had not at all been annulled. The petitioner averred that she waited for the return of the respondent and even made repeated enquiries from his parents, who, however, declined to disclose his whereabouts. The firm case set up was that the former wife of the respondent was alive and the marriage betwixt them had not been legally dissolved and she had been inveigled into marrying the respondent by fraud and suppression. Consequently she sought a decree of nullity against the respondent.
4. Despite repeated attempts to serve the respondent, he failed to put in appearance and ex parte proceedings were, therefore, ordered against him. The learned District Judge framed the following issues:----
(1) Whether there was a subsisting valid marriage between the respondent and Mrs. Charity Harison at the time of his marriage with the petitioner?
(2) If issue No. (1) is proved, whether the former wife of the respondent's marriage to the petitioner If so, to what effect?
5. In support of her case, the petitioner stepped in the witness box as P.W. 4 and examined Shri Sarup Singh, Deputy Superintendent in the College of Nursing, P. G. I. Chandigarh (P.W. I.); Shri L. M. Pinto (P.W. 2); and, Shri Bhim Sen, Record keeper in the Deputy Commissioner's Office, Chandigarh (P.W. 3). Exhibit P-D a purported deed of divorce Earnest Satya Paul and his wife Mrs. Charity Harison, was also proved on the record. A certified copy of the petition under Section 488, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, filed by the minor daughters of the respondent, Earnest Satya Paul, through their mother and guardian, Mrs. Charity Harison, was also proved on the record along with the written statement, Exhibit P-B, filed thereto, wherein, he had admitted his marriage to Mrs. Charity Harison.
6. The learned District Judge after an elaborate discussion of the oral and the documentary evidence adduced, accepted the unrebutted testimony and decided both the issues in favour of the petitioner and consequently held that the marriage of the respondent with Mrs. Charity Harison still subsisted and had never been validly dissolved. Accordingly he granted an ex parte decree declaring the marriage of the petitioner with the respondent as null and void. The case has consequently been submitted to this Court for confirmation of the said decree.
7. As in the trial Court so in the present proceedings, the respondent though duly served has not chosen to put in appearance and proceedings against him were, therefore, ordered to be taken ex. parte. It was the admitted position that the statutory period of six months has elapsed.
8. Having heard the learned counsel for the petitioner and after examining the record, we find not the least ground to take a view other than that lucidly arrived at by the learned District Judge. The evidence of as many as four witnesses, including the petitioner herself, as also the documentary testimony adduced, stands wholly unrebutted. the only irresistible conclusion is that the petitioner is plainly entitled to a decree of nullity of marriage.
9. In the result, we allow the reference and confirm the decree nisi. The parties shall, however, bear their own costs.
S.S. Kang, J.
10. I agree.
G.C. Mital, J.
11. I also agree.
12. Reference allowed.