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Balak Ram Vs. Kaushalya - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberFirst Appeal No. 135 of 1977
Reported inILR1980Delhi249
ActsHindu Marriage Act, 1955 - Sections 10
AppellantBalak Ram
Advocates: G.S. Vohra,; M.S.Vohra and; R.L. Kohli, Advs
Cases ReferredDr. Ashok Ranjam Saxena v. Smt. VishwaBharati
Excerpt: the time of their marriage on 8-3-1962 at jullundur. after the marriage, the husband and wife resided together in delhi for about two weeks. in may 1962, the wife was transferred to faridabad when again the couple stayed together in delhi on some occasions. the marriage between the parties which was under strain and antagonism from beginning ultimately led the husband to file a petition under section 10 of the hindu marriage act, 1955 on the ground of desertion by his wife. the petition was resisted by the wife on the ground that the delhi courts have no jurisdiction to try the same as the parties did not last reside together in delhi within the meaning of section 19 of the act. she pleaded that from 1968 onwards, she had been posted in karnal and the husband stayed with her..........however, this much at least iscertain that, immediately after the marriage, the husband and wiferesided together in delhi for a substantial period, probably not lessthan two weeks.(4) thereafter, the wife admittedly went back to hoshiarpur.according to the husband, before leaving she told him that shewould resign from service and return to settle with him permanentlyat delhi. the wife denies ever having indicated that she would giveup her job or her profession. in may 1962, the wife was transferredto faridabad. the husband has alleged in his petition that this transfer to a place near delhi was secured as a result of the joint effortsof the parties. though this was denied by the wife in her written statement, she conceded it in her examination-in-chief.(5) it appears that wife.....

T.P.S. Chawla, J.

(1) This is an appeal by the husband under section 28 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. He filed a petition forjudicial separation under section 10 of that Act on the ground ofdesertion by his wife. In the order under appeal, the Additional District Judge has held that he has no jurisdiction to try that petitionas the parties did not last reside together' in Delhi, which was thebasis on which the jurisdiction of the court was sought to be foundedunder section 19 of the Act. Consequently, the judge has ordered THE petition to be returned for presentation to the proper court. Thequestion canvassed in appeal is whether the judge was right in holding that the husband and wife had not last resided together' in Delhi.

(2) In one respect the history of this marriage is rather extraordinary.Although this husband and wife have been married for over 16 years,they have lived together very little. Yet, somehow, the marriage hasdrifted on for all these years. They were married on 8/03/1962at Jullundur. It was an arranged marriage brought about through thegood offices of a Mr. Kashmiri Lal. The husband, Dewan Balak Ram,was at that time 47 years of age. He was an officer in the IndianNavy and was posted as the Staff Officer (Navy), Cabinet Secretariat,Military Wing, New Delhi. The wife, Dr. Kaushalya, was 38 years ofage, and was a member of the Provincial Medical Service in Punjab.At the time of the marriage she was posted as a Medical Officer inthe Civil Hospital at Hoshiarpur.

(3) It is common ground that after the marriage was celebrated,the husband and wife came to Delhi and lived together. But thereis controversy about the duration of the wife's stay in Delhi on thatoccasion. According to the written statement of the wife, she tooklong leave and lived with the husband in Delhi for 'about two months'.This is denied by the husband in his replication. He says that shestayed with him in Delhi 'only for a few days and definitely for lessthan 15 days'. The evidence does not resolve the issue and enable anyprecise conclusion to be reached. However, this much at least iscertain that, immediately after the marriage, the husband and wiferesided together in Delhi for a substantial period, probably not lessthan two weeks.

(4) Thereafter, the wife admittedly went back to Hoshiarpur.According to the husband, before leaving she told him that shewould resign from service and return to settle with him permanentlyat Delhi. The wife denies ever having indicated that she would giveup her job or her profession. In May 1962, the wife was transferredto Faridabad. The husband has alleged in his petition that this transfer to a place near Delhi was secured as a result of the joint effortsof the parties. Though this was denied by the wife in her written statement, she conceded it in her examination-in-chief.

(5) It appears that wife remained posted in Faridabad till aboutSeptember 1962. Both parties affirm that during the time that the wifewas posted at Faridabad, they often met and lived together. But thehusband says that they lived together only at Delhi, though he usedto go to Faridabad to fetch the wife or escort her back. He firmlymaintains that there was 'cohabitation' only at Delhi, and never atFaridabad. He mentions that the wife took a week's leave from 1 6/08/1962 to 22nd August 1962 and statayed with him at Delhi.He says that the last time that he 'cohabited' with the wife was 'inAugust 1962 at Delhi'. On the other hand, the wife asserts that thehusband lived with her at Faridabad, and they came to Delhi only'occasionally'. I think the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle,and that they lived together at either place depending on what wasconvenient. The evidence of Kewal Mohan, a witness called by thewife, is to this effect. Since it is nobody's case that the parties lastresided together' in Faridabad, this condusion is material only in sofar as it finds that they 'resided together' at Delhi.

(6) Almost from the start the marriage seems to have gone awry.Already by May 1962, the relations between the parties were under;strain and antagonism was beginning to develop. I am not presentlyconcerned with the reasons why that happened, and am merely recounting the fact, I think, there is no doubt, although the husbanddoes not admit it, that the wife was pregnant in August 1962. Shewas admitted to the Military Hospital in Delhi on 27/08/1962for threatened abortion'. This is established by an entry in the hospitalregister, a copy of which has been proved on record. On 1/09/1962 she aborted and had to undergo an operation. After being discharged from hospital on 4/09/1962, she went straight to herparent's house at Jullundur because, she says. the husband had beenutterly indifferent towards her whilst she was unwell, and had madeit plain that she would not be welcome if she tried to return to him.

(7) The parties then seem to have gone totally out of contact, and,for many years, there does not appear to have been any communicationbetween them. In November 1963, the husband retired from serviceand went to Calcutta to try his hand at business. The wife says thatshe visited Calcutta in March 1965 with the object of effecting areconciliation, but the husband turned her out and slammed the door.The husband impliedly denies that there was any such incident whenhe repudiates the suggestion that she persuaded him to give up thebusiness so as to be able to live with her. He says, that he himselfsoon realised that business was not his 'cup of tea' and decided insteadto join the legal profession. Thus, he returned to Delhi and becamean Advocate-on-record of the Supreme Court.

(8) In July 1967, the wife filed a petition in the court of the District Judge at Jullundur seeking a decree for judicial separation. Shealleged that the husband had deserted her and was guilty of cruelty.The husband resisted the petition and filed his written statement inJanuary 1968. On 27/05/1968, counsel for the wife told the courtthat he had no instructions, and, consequently, the petition was dismissed. No application for having the petition restored was ever movedby the wife. She says that the petition was deliberately allowed to bedismissed as the husband had given her an assurance that he wouldlive with her and set up a matrimonial home. This is denied by thehusband, and according to him the wife had the petition dismissed asshe knew that her case could not succeed. But, I need not dwell onthis matter as it is not material for the present purpose.

(9) From 1968 onwards the wife has been posted in Karnal. Shepleaded in her written statement that the husband used to go andstay with her there 'at long intervals'. It is her case that they lastresided together at Kamal in October 1973. In her examination-in-chief she improved upon her plea and said the husband stayed with herat Karnal 'quite often and sometimes for days'. She added that she,too, had been coming to Delhi and staying with the husband, and,in particular, she mentioned one such occasion in 'January 1972'.In cross-examination she denied the suggestion that they had never'cohabited as husband and wife' after 1962, and reiterated that theyhad stayed together in Karnal, and also in Delhi on an occasion which,she now said, was 'in September 1972'. She conceded that there wasno documentary evidence to show that there had been cohabitationafter 1962.

(10) The husband, in his replication, completely denied that he had'resided and/or cohabited' with the wife at Karnal at any time, or 'atany place after 1962'. He said he had gone to Karnal only six timesbetween December 1971 and October 1973 and specified the exactdates. His purpose in going there was to 'settle matters' and persuadethe wife to resign from service and live with him at Delhi. On allthese occasions, he said, he met the wife for 2 or 3 hours in variousrestaurants in Karnal, and always during the day. He repeated thesestatements in his examination-in-chief. He denied, in cross-examination,that he had been residing with the wife in Karnal 'for days together'between the years 1971 and 1973. It was suggested to him that aDr. P. N. Kapila, a colleague of the wife, had persuaded him to livewith the wife at Karnal. The suggestion was repudiated. Dr. Kapila,who was called as a witness by the wife, has not said anything to thateffect. Rather, he made the statement having opposite trend, thatwhen he met the husband once or twice in Karnal and asked himhow long he would be staying, the husband gave no 'specific reply'.

(11) Now, on this evidence, the Additional District Judge has heldthat the parties last resided together' at Karnal in 1972-73. I thinkhe had the right approach when he said, that, since both the partieswere employed and had no 'permanent place of residence' becausethey were 'obliged to live in different parts of the country', the 'Visit'of one spouse to the other, even though of 'short duration', wouldconstitute 'residing together' for the purpose of giving jurisdiction tothe court. But to deduce from the admission by the husband 'thathe (had) been going to Karnal in the year 1972-73' that the 'partieslived together' at that place is drawing too much of an inference.Conversation in a restaurant can by no stretch of language amount to'residing together'. The Additional District Judge does not sift theevidence and say that he disbelieves the husband or believes the wife.He merely relies on the 'admission' of the husband, forgetting the restof what the husband said about the nature, duration and purpose ofthose 'visits'.

(12) For my part, I think, the evidence is much too slender forholding that the parties last resided together' in Karnal. Neither partywas effectively or exhaustively cross examined so as to make it possibleto know on which side the truth lay. The state of the evidence presentsno more than allegations and denials on both sides. Since it was thewife's allegation that the parties last resided together in Karnal. the burden of proving that to be fact was on her; just as the burden ofproving that they last resided together in Delhi was on the husband.Indeed, the issue framed by the court was: 'Whether this court hasno jurisdiction to try the petition', which clearly placed the onus onthe wife. Hence, as the unsatisfactory evidence on each side is evenlybalanced by the other, and no definite conclusion is possible, the wifemust fail on her part of the issue. I would also add that the wife'sadmission that the husband came to Karnal 'at long intervals' doestend to show that there was no reconciliation ; which, in turn, makes theresumption of cohabitation unlikely. For these reasons, I do not thinkit is possible to uphold the finding of the Additional District Judge thatthe parties last resided together' in Karnal.

(13) That leaves the question whether the parties last residedtogether at Delhi. The Additional District Judge holds that they didnot, for two reasons. One was that, he found, they had last residedtogether in Karnal. I have already tried to explain that the evidence isnot cogent enough to sustain that conclusion, and need not elaboratefurther. The other reason given by the judge was that 'The plea ofthe (husband) that they last resided together in May 1962 at Delhiis controverter by his own statement when he stated that he cohabitedwith the (wife) in August 1962 at Delhi'. This observation, it appears,is the result of a misapprehension as to what the husband had saidin his petition and evidence.

(14) The relevant paragraph in the petition begins with the statement 'That in or about May 1962' the husband 'contributed hisefforts in getting' the wife posted at Faridabad. Then, after referringto other matters, it is narrated that he used to go to Faridabad andbring the wife to Delhi 'where the parties would spend a few days'.The paragraph ends with the sentence : 'These few days at New Delhiin 1962 were the last the parties resided and cohabited together'.

(15) It is perfectly obvious that the husband never pleaded, that'these few days' were in May 1962. He had only said that efforts tohave the wife transferred to Faridabad were made in that month. Thepossibility of bringing her from Faridabad to Delhi could only havearisen after she was transferred, that is, sometime after May 1962.Admittedly, she remained posted in Faridabad till about September1962. So, there was no contradiction with what he had pleaded, whenhe said in examination-in-chief : 'The last time, I cohabited with herwas in August 1962 at Delhi'. As I have already mentioned, eventhe wife admits they used to come to Delhi 'occasionally' during thetime that she was posted at Faridabad. Thus, the other reason givenby the Additional District Judge is, also, not correct.

(16) The only solid fact in the whole case is that the parties didlive together at Delhi immediately after the marriage. Both of themagree on this. The admitted duration of their joint residence on thatoccasion was, roughly, about two weeks, though the wife says it was'about two months'. After the wife was transferred to Faridabad inMay 1962, they again, admittedly, stayed together in Delhi on someoccasions; though the dates and duration are not clear. Kewal Mohan,a witness called by the wife, says that 'she used to come to Delhifrom Faridabad whenever she was off and then used to go back toFaridabad on the following day'. And, the husband's statement thatthe wife took leave from 16th to 22/08/1962 and stayed with him at Delhi has not been controverter. I can see no reason to disbelieve it.

(17) But, it has been argued, that simply because the husband andwife lived' or 'stayed' together at Delhi for brief spells in 1962, doesnot mean that they 'resided' together in the sense in which that wordis used in section 19 of the Hindu Marriage Act. So, it becomes necessary to explore the meaning of that word. It has been used in manystatutes in different contexts. For the question under consideration, Ithink, the best guide is Mst. Jagir Kaur and another v. Jaswant Singh, : [1964]2SCR73 , not only because it is the most authoritative,but, also, because it interprets the words last resided' occurring in section 488 of the Criminal Procedure Code 1898, which section isconcerned with providing maintenance for a woman or child, a subject not too far removed from divorce.

(18) A number of propositions can be extracted from the judgment of the Supreme Court. The dictionary meaning of the word'resides', it was noted, was capable of including 'both a permanentdwelling as well as a temporary living in a place'. However, it wouldnot include a 'casual stay' or a 'flying visit'. In the ultimate analysis',it was said, the meaning would 'depend upon the context and the purpose of a particular statute'. The context and purpose of section 488,it was held, did not necessitate the 'importation of the concept ofdomicile in its technical sense'. On the contrary, 'The purpose of thestatute would be better served if the word 'resides' was understood toinclude temporary residence'.

(19) After some further discussion, the result is summed up in apassage, vital from the present point of view, as follows :

'THEdecisions on the subject are legion and it would be futileto survey the entire field. Generally stated no decisiongoes so far as to hold that 'resides' in the sub-sectionmeans only domicile in the technical sense of that word.There is also a broad unanimity that it means somethingmore than a flying visit to or casual stay in a particularplace. They agree that there shall be animus manendi oran intention to stay for a period, the length of the perioddepending upon the circumstances of each case. Havingregard to the object sought to be achieved, the meaningimplicit in the words used, and the construction placedby decided cases thereon, we would defined the word 'resides' thus : a person resides in a place if he through choicemakes it his abode permanently or even temporarily ;whether a person has chosen to make a particular placehis abode depends upon the facts of each case.'

The words I have uderlined are important. They establish thateven an intention to stay temporarily is enough, and there are norigid ideas about duration. In the case before the Supreme Court itwas proved that the husband had once resided for five months with thewife at the place where she had commenced proceedings for maintenance.It was held that they had last resided' at that place, and, thereforee, the courthad jurisdiction.

(20) A particular service done by this case is that it erases from the mind any obsessions derived from the legal concept of domicile, especially as regards the element of permanance. It is now beyondquestion that the word 'resides' will encompass even a temporaryabode. However, the abode must be one of 'choice' in the sensethat it is voluntary. Although the duration of the stay, and its continuousness, are relevant matters for consideration, the decided cases indicate that the measure in which these are required varies with the facts of a particular case.

(21) In general, where the parties have had a permanent matrimonial home, the courts are less inclined to accord 'residence' at aplace where they have lived temporarily. This attitude is illustratedby Janak Dulari v. Narain Dass, , and Mrs.Sushma Dewan v. Major Ajit Kumar Dewan, , in both of which a permanent matrimonial homewas attributed to the place where the husband was posted, and briefvisits by him to another place where the wife was or went with himwere held not to constitute 'residence'.

(22) But, if there was no permanent matrimonial home, the approachto a temporary place of stay is much more liberal. Thus, for example,in John Baptist D'Souza v. Lizzie Jane Lobo Air 1940 Mad 584, the Judge said:The only principle that I can discover from the decisions isthat a person cannot be said to reside at a place wherehe spent only a day or two when he has got a fixed placeof residence elsewhere; but where a person has no fixedplace of residence, the place where he actually lives mustbe taken to be the place where he resides.The latter part of this sentence would seem to imply that, if a personhas 'no fixed place of residence' then he can be said to 'reside' evenat a place 'where he spent only a day or two'. This was a case underthe Indian Divorce Act, 1869, which defines a 'District Court' in amanner as to confer jurisdiction at the place where 'the husband andwife reside or last resided together'.

(23) The same point is expressed in different words in Sampoornamv. N. Sundaresan, : AIR1953Mad78 , which was a case under section 488 of the Criminal Procedure Code. A sentence in thehead-note of that case reads as follows:

INthose cases where the parties had no home of any sortand have been moving about from place to place, eachplace where they do live would be their home for thetime being.'

Likewise, in M. Clarance S/o Murugesh v. Raicheal d/o MariPrakasham and another, Air 1964 Mysore 67 (6), whilst deliveringthe leading judgment of the Full Bench, Sreenivasa Rau, C.J., said:

'............THEcourts have interpreted the term 'residence'liberally and applied it to cases where the husband andwife have stayed together even for a very brief periodif they have not resided together in a more permanentway elsewhere.'

The case before the court was nothing less than a freak, and posedthe problem in the most extreme form conceivable. On the verynight of the marriage, the wife told the husband that she was inlove with someone else. The marriage was not consummated, andthey parted the next morning never to live together again. Nevertheless, the Full Bench held that the husband and wife had last residedtogether' at the place where they spent that one and only night inmisery. It is patent from the judgments that the decision in this casewas conditioned by the anomaly in the Indian Divorce Act that itdoes not confer jurisdiction on the court at the place where the partiesare married. Understandably, the court was oppressed with the thoughtthat unless it held that the husband and wife had last resided' atthe only place where they had ever been together, there would be nocourt in which they could seek relief. Proceeding on the analogyof the legal approach to questions of domicile and nationality, theChief Justice said that 'the courts find a residence and do not allowthemselves to proceed on the footing that there is no residence at all'.

(24) Undeniably, this case was very peculiar. Even the Chief Justicerecognized that they were 'straining the meaning, of 'residing together'.Yet, the principles on which the decision was rested are unexceptionable and corroborated by the other cases to which I have referred.

(25) In the present case, it is manifest from the evidence of boththe husband and wife that they did not at any time establish a permanentmatrimonial home. However, according to common sense and ordinary.English usage, it would be absurd to say, on the facts proved, that they had never resided together. The only place at which it is possibleto hold with certainty that they 'resided together' is Delhi since theirresiding together at Karnal is highly doubtful, it has to be held thatDelhi was the place at which they last resided'.

(26) In my opinion, the case before me is on all fours with Smt. S.Saroja v. P. G. Emmanual Air 1965 Mys 12 . There, also,both the husband and the wife were employed and posted at differentplaces- They had no permanent home. During her vacations the wifewho was a teacher, went to the place where the husband was posted asInspector of Police and resided with him. It was held that this wastheir matrimonial home 'for the time being' as they intended to residetogether, and, 'the fact that the visit was of a short duration or didnot have any appreciable degree of permanence cannot alter thesituation'. Accordingly, it was ruled, that the court at the place wherethey had last resided together 'though for short intervals during thevacations' had jurisdiction to try the husband's petition under theIndian Divorce Act. On the same grounds I have reached a similarconclusion.

(27) Counsel for the wife maintained that the critical requirementfor holding that a husband and wife had 'resided together' at a particular place, was their common intention to establish a 'permanentmatrimonial home' at that' place. In the present case, he argued, thewife did not intend to stay in Delhi 'permanently' and could notpossibly have done so as she was permanently employed in Punjab,and had never entertained the idea of resigning. thereforee, he contended, as the necessary intention on her part was lacking, it could notlegally be held that the parties had 'resided together' at Delhi.

(28) I do not accept this proposition to be sound. The cases towhich I have already referred make it clear that an intention to reside'permanently' is not necessary. Nor is the proposition warranted byDr. Smt. Supriya v. Dr. Vasudev Dang, : AIR1973All94 the case on which counsel for the wife relied. What that case emphasises is that the parties must have lived together at the place inquestion 'as husband and wife', and not as strangers. The marriage,in that case, had been broken a long time. In that State of affairs,the wife went to Dehra Dun, where the husband resided, and stayedfor two days. She went with the avowed 'intention of totally separating'from him, and getting back some articles which belonged to her. Thecourt rightly held that they had not 'resided together' at Dehra Dun,for the matrimonial relationship had, in reality, long come to an end.

(29) Similarly, in Dr. Ashok Ranjam Saxena v. Smt. VishwaBharati, : AIR1978All18 , the husband went three time asan 'unwanted guest' to Bareilly in order to seek a reconciliation withthe wife, but failed. It was held, for the same reasons as in theprevious case, that the parties had not 'resided together' within thejurisdiction of the court at Bareilly.

(30) Now, in the present case, the wife came to Delhi of her ownvolition in 1962. She came to live with the husband and the marriagewas consummated. Her intention was to live with the husband as hiswife, and that is how they lived. At that stage, they had not begunto pull in opposite directions or become estranged. That was a laterdevelopment. They did live together in Delhi 'as husband and wife',and intended to do so 'for the time being'. That is enough to hold that they 'resided together' in Delhi.

(31) In his petition the husband has pleaded that it was 'specifically agreed' before the marriage that the wife would 'resign herjob as a Doctor' and live 'as a normal house wife' at Delhi. On theother hand, the wife says the husband had assured her that afterretirement he would live with her wherever she was posted. Thereis also controversy about the purpose turn which a sum of Rs. 10,000was sent by the wife to the husband in or about, May 1962. According to the husband it was meant to be used for buying a plot inDelhi on which a Nursing Home would be constructed to enablethe wife to practice. But, in a notice dated 19/03/1965 sentby the wife's lawyer demanding the return of that money, it is said,that the hubsand was 'in need of money for the purchase of somebuilding site'. And, in cross-examination it was suggested to the wifethat she had sent it on behalf of her brother 'who wanted to purchasea plot in Panchsheel Colony'.

(32) Although I listened to elaborate arguments on these matters.,I now find them to be irrelevant. They might have been relevant hadI reached the conclusion that, in law, for the purpose of establishingjurisdiction, it was necessary to prove a common intention that thehusband and wife would reside 'permanently' in Delhi. As I havereached a different conclusion, and, also, because they bear considerably on the merits which have yet to be determined, I refrain fromgoing into these matters.

(33) In the course of the hearing of the appeal, an application wasmoved by the husband for leave to produce, as additional evidence, aletter, dated 20/09/1962 purporting to have been writtenby the wife. The purpose stated in the application is to show 'whenand under what circumstances' the wife 'changed her mind to resign'and 'not settle down in Delhi'. Since I have held these matters to beirrelevant, the application is dismissed.

(34) For the reasons I have given, I hold that the parties lastresided together at Delhi, and the Additional District Judge had Jurisdiction to try the husband's petition. The appeal is allowed, and the order dated 23/05/1977 made by the Additional District Judgedirecting the petition to be returned is set aside. The AdditionalDistrict Judge will now proceed to decide the case on merits. Havingregard to all the circumstances of the case, I make no order as tocosts.

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