Wednesday, March 4, 2015

supreme court judgement on divorce case india.

                           IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                            CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                              CIVIL APPEAL NO...1467... OF 2011

                           (Arising out of S.L.P.(C) NO. 19632 of 2007)

          Parimal                                                                             ... Appellant


          Veena @ Bharti                                                                 ...Respondent

                                               J U D G M E N T

          Dr. B.S. CHAUHAN, J.

          1.       Leave granted.

          2.       This appeal has been preferred against the judgment and order

          dated 17.7.2007, passed by the High Court of Delhi at New Delhi, in

          FAO   No.63   of   2002,   by   which   the   High   Court   has   allowed   the

          application under Order IX Rule 13 of the Code of Civil Procedure,

          1908 (hereinafter called CPC), reversing the judgment and order dated

          11.12.2001, passed by the Additional District  Judge, Delhi.

          3.       FACTS:

          (A)      Appellant got married to the respondent/wife on 9.12.1986 and

          out of the said wed lock, a girl was born.   The relationship between


the parties did not remain cordial. There was acrimony in the marriage

on   account   of   various   reasons.   Thus,   the   appellant/husband   filed   a

case for divorce on 27.4.1989, under section 13(1)(i-a) and (i-b) of the

Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, against the respondent/wife. 

(B)    Respondent/wife   refused   to   receive   the   notice   of   the   petition

sent to her by the Court on 4.5.1989 vide registered AD cover for the

date   of   hearing   on   6.7.1989.   Respondent/wife   on   28.6.1989   was

present at her house when the process server showed the summons to

her.  She read the same and refused to accept it.  Refusal was reported

by the process server, which was proved as Ex.OPW1/B. 

(C)    Again   on   7.8.1989,   she   refused   to   accept   the   notice   for

8.9.1989,   sent   by   the   Court   through   process   server.     The   Court

ordered   issuance   of   fresh   notices.   One   was   issued   vide   ordinary

process   and   the   other   vide   Registered   AD   cover   for   8.9.1989.

Registered AD was returned to the Court with report of refusal, as she

declined   to   receive   the   AD   notice.     Under   the   Court's   orders,

summons   were   affixed   at   the   house   of   the   respondent/wife,   but   she

chose not to appear. 

(D)    She was served through public notice on 6.11.1989 published in

the newspaper `National Herald' which was sent to her address, 3/47,


First Floor, Geeta Colony, Delhi. This was placed on record and was

not rebutted by the respondent/wife in any manner. 

(E)    After   service   vide   publication   dated   8.11.1989   as   well   as   by

affixation,   respondent/wife   was   proceeded   ex-   parte   in   the   divorce

proceedings.   Ex-parte judgment was passed by Addl. District Judge,

Delhi   on   28.11.1989   in   favour   of   the   appellant/husband   and   the

marriage between the parties was dissolved. 

(F)    Two   years   after   the   passing   of   the   decree   of   divorce,   on

16.10.1991, the appellant got married and has two sons aged 17 and

18 years respectively from the said marriage.

(G)    The respondent, after the expiry of 4 years of the passing of the

ex-parte   decree   of   divorce   dated   28.11.1989,   moved   an   application

dated 17.12.1993 for setting aside the same basically on the grounds

that ex-parte decree had been obtained by fraud and collusion with the

postman etc., to get the report of refusal and on the ground that she

had not been served notice even by substituted service and also on the

ground   that   even   subsequent   to   obtaining   decree   of   divorce   the

appellant did not disclose the fact of grant of divorce to her during the

proceedings   of   maintenance   under   Section   125   of   the   Code   of

Criminal   Procedure,   1973   (hereinafter   called   Cr.P.C.).     The   said


application under Order IX, Rule 13 CPC was also accompanied by an

application   under   Section   5   of   the   Indian   Limitation   Act,   1963,   for

condonation of delay. 

(H)     The trial Court examined the issues involved in the application

at length and came to the conclusion that respondent/wife miserably

failed  to establish  the grounds taken by her in the application  to set

aside   the   ex-parte   decree   and   dismissed   the   same   vide   order   dated


(I)     Being aggrieved, respondent/wife preferred First Appeal No.63

of   2002   before   the   Delhi   High   Court   which   has   been   allowed   vide

judgment and order impugned herein.  Hence, this appeal.


4.      Shri M.C. Dhingra, Ld. counsel appearing for the appellant has

submitted   that   the   service   stood   completed   in   terms   of   statutory

provisions   of   the   CPC   by   the   refusal   of   the   respondent   to   take   the

summons. Subsequently, the registered post was also not received by

her as she refused it. It was only in such circumstances that the trial

Court entertained the application of the appellant under Order V, Rule

20   CPC   for   substituted   service.     The   summons   were   served   by

publication in the daily newspaper `National Herald' published from


Delhi which has a very wide circulation and further service of the said

newspaper on the respondent/wife by registered post.  The High Court

committed  a grave error by taking into consideration  the conduct of

the appellant  subsequent to the date of decree of divorce which was

totally irrelevant and unwarranted for deciding the application under

Order IX, Rule 13 CPC.  More so, the High Court failed to take note

of   the   hard   reality   that   after   two   years   of   the   ex-parte   decree   the

appellant got married and now has   two major sons from the second

wife.  Therefore, the appeal deserves to be allowed and the judgment

impugned is liable to be set aside.

5.      On the contrary, Ms. Geeta Dhingra, Ld. counsel appearing for

the   respondent/wife   has   vehemently   opposed   the   appeal,   contending

that   once   the   respondent/wife   made   the   allegations   of   fraud   and

collusion   of   the   appellant   with   postman   etc.   as   he   succeeded   in

procuring   the   false   report,   the   burden   of   proof   would   be   upon   the

appellant   and   not   upon   the   respondent/wife   to   establish   that   the

allegations   of   fraud   or   collusion   were   false.     The   conduct   of   the

appellant   even   subsequent   to   the   date   of   decree   of   divorce,   i.e.   not

disclosing   this   fact   to   the   respondent/wife   during   the     proceedings

under Section 125 Cr.P.C., disentitles him from any relief before this


       court   of   equity.   No   interference   is   required   in   the   matter   and   the

       appeal is liable to be dismissed.

       6.      We   have   considered   the   rival   submissions   made   by   learned

       counsel for the parties and perused the record.    

        7.     Order IX, R.13 CPC:  

                     The aforesaid provisions read as under:

               "Setting aside decree ex-parte against defendant

               In any case in which a decree is passed ex-parte against 

               a defendant, he may apply to the Court by which the de-

               cree was passed for an order to set it aside; and if he sat-

               isfies  the Court that the  summons was not duly served, 

               or  that he was prevented by any sufficient cause from 

               appearing  when the suit was called on for hearing,  the 

               Court   shall  make  an  order  setting  aside  the  decree  as 

               against   him   upon   such   terms   as   to   costs,   payment   into 

               Court   or   otherwise   as   it   thinks   fit,   and   shall   appoint   a 

               day             for         proceeding                  with           the         suit;

                         xx                     xx                         xx

               Provided further that  no Court shall set aside  a decree 

               passed ex-parte merely on the ground that there has been 

               an irregularity in the service of summons, if it is satisfied 

               that the defendant had notice of the date of hearing and 

               had sufficient  time to appear and answer  the plaintiff's 


                         xx                     xx                       xx"

                                                                               (Emphasis added)


       8.      It   is   evident   from  the   above   that   an   ex-parte   decree   against   a


defendant   has   to   be   set   aside   if   the   party   satisfies   the   Court   that

summons   had   not   been   duly   served  or   he  was   prevented  by

sufficient   cause  from   appearing   when   the   suit   was   called   on   for

hearing. However, the court shall not set aside the said decree on mere

irregularity   in   the   service   of   summons   or   in   a   case   where   the

defendant had notice of the date and sufficient time to appear in the


           The   legislature   in   its   wisdom,   made   the   second   proviso,

mandatory in nature. Thus, it is  not permissible for the court to allow

the   application   in   utter   disregard   of   the   terms   and   conditions

incorporated in the second proviso herein. 

9.         "Sufficient   Cause"   is   an   expression   which   has   been   used   in

large  number of Statutes.    The meaning  of the word "sufficient"    is

"adequate"  or "enough", in as much as may be necessary to answer

the purpose intended.  Therefore, word "sufficient" embraces no more

than that which provides a platitude which when the act done suffices

to   accomplish   the   purpose   intended   in   the   facts   and   circumstances

existing   in   a   case   and   duly   examined   from   the   view   point   of   a

reasonable   standard   of   a   cautious   man.     In   this   context,   "sufficient

cause" means that party had not acted in a negligent manner or there


was   a   want   of   bona   fide   on   its   part   in   view   of   the   facts   and

circumstances  of a case  or the party cannot be alleged to have been

"not   acting   diligently"   or   "remaining   inactive".     However,   the   facts

and   circumstances   of   each   case   must   afford   sufficient   ground   to

enable the Court concerned to exercise discretion for the reason that

whenever   the   court   exercises   discretion,   it   has   to   be   exercised

judiciously.   (Vide:  Ramlal   &   Ors.   v.   Rewa   Coalfields   Ltd.,  AIR

1962   SC   361;  Sarpanch,   Lonand   Grampanchayat   v.   Ramgiri

Gosavi & Anr.,  AIR 1968 SC 222;  Surinder  Singh Sibia v. Vijay

Kumar  Sood,  AIR  1992  SC   1540;  and  Oriental  Aroma Chemical

Industries   Limited   v.   Gujarat   Industrial   Development

Corporation & Another, (2010) 5 SCC 459)

10.     In  Arjun Singh v. Mohindra Kumar & Ors., AIR 1964 SC

993, this Court observed that every good cause  is a sufficient  cause

and   must   offer   an   explanation   for   non-appearance.   The   only

difference between a "good cause" and "sufficient cause" is that the

requirement  of a good cause  is  complied  with on a lesser  degree of

proof than that of  a "sufficient cause". (See also: Brij Indar Singh v.

Lala   Kanshi   Ram   &   Ors.,  AIR   1917   P.C.   156;    Manindra   Land

and Building Corporation Ltd. v. Bhutnath Banerjee & Ors., AIR


1964 SC 1336; and Mata Din v. A. Narayanan, AIR 1970 SC 1953).

11.    While   deciding   whether   there   is   a   sufficient   case   or   not,   the

court must bear in mind the object of doing substantial justice to all

the   parties   concerned  and   that   the   technicalities   of   the   law   should

not prevent  the court  from doing substantial  justice and  doing away

the   illegality   perpetuated   on   the   basis   of   the   judgment   impugned

before   it.     (Vide:  State   of   Bihar   &   Ors.   v.   Kameshwar   Prasad

Singh   &   Anr.,  AIR   2000   SC   2306;  Madanlal   v.   Shyamlal,   AIR

2002   SC   100;  Davinder   Pal   Sehgal   &   Anr.   v.   M/s.   Partap   Steel

Rolling Mills (P) Ltd. & Ors.,  AIR 2002 SC 451;  Ram Nath Sao

alias Ram Nath Sao & Ors. v. Gobardhan Sao & Ors., AIR 2002 SC

1201; Kaushalya Devi v. Prem Chand & Anr. (2005) 10 SCC 127;

Srei International Finance Ltd., v. Fair growth Financial Services

Ltd.   &   Anr.,  (2005)   13   SCC   95;   and  Reena   Sadh   v.   Anjana

Enterprises, AIR 2008 SC 2054). 

12.    In order to determine the application under Order IX, Rule 13

CPC, the test has to be applied is whether the defendant honestly and

sincerely intended to remain present when the suit was called on for

hearing and did his best to do so. Sufficient cause is thus the cause for


which the defendant could not be blamed for his absence. Therefore,

the   applicant   must   approach   the   court   with   a   reasonable   defence.

Sufficient cause is a question of fact and the court has to exercise its

discretion in the varied and special circumstances in the case at hand.

There cannot be a strait-jacket formula of universal application.



13.    This   Court   after   considering   large   number   of   its   earlier

judgments in Greater Mohali Area Development Authority & Ors.

v. Manju Jain & Ors., AIR 2010 SC 3817, held that in view of the

provisions   of  Section   114   Illustration   (f)   of   the   Evidence   Act,   1872

and   Section   27   of   the   General   Clauses   Act,   1897   there   is   a

presumption   that   the   addressee   has   received   the   letter   sent   by

registered   post.     However,   the   presumption   is   rebuttable   on   a

consideration   of   evidence   of   impeccable   character.     A   similar   view

has been reiterated by this Court in Dr. Sunil Kumar Sambhudayal

Gupta & Ors. v. State of Maharashtra, JT 2010 (12) SC 287.

14.    In Gujarat Electricity Board & Anr. v. Atmaram Sungomal

Poshani, AIR 1989 SC 1433, this Court held as under:

       "There   is   presumption   of   service   of   a   letter   sent 


        under   registered   cover,   if   the   same   is   returned 

        back with a postal endorsement that the addressee 

        refused   to   accept   the   same.   No   doubt   the 

        presumption   is   rebuttable   and   it   is   open   to   the 

        party   concerned   to   place   evidence   before   the 

        Court   to   rebut   the   presumption   by   showing   that 

        the address mentioned on the cover was incorrect 

        or   that   the   postal   authorities   never   tendered   the 

        registered   letter   to   him   or   that   there   was   no 

        occasion for him to refuse the same.  The burden 

        to   rebut   the   presumption   lies   on   the   party, 

        challenging the factum of service."

                                                             (Emphasis added)


15.     The provisions of Section 101 of the Evidence Act provide that

the burden of proof of the facts rests on the party  who substantially

asserts it and not on the party who denies it.  In fact, burden of proof

means that a party has to prove an allegation before he is entitled to a

judgment in his favour.  Section 103 provides that burden of proof as

to   any   particular   fact   lies   on   that   person   who   wishes   the   court   to

believe in its existence, unless it is provided by any special law that

the proof of that fact shall lie on any particular person.  The provision

of   Section   103   amplifies   the   general   rule   of   Section   101   that   the

burden of proof lies on the person who asserts the affirmative of the

facts in issue.  



16.     The case at hand is required to be considered in the light of the

aforesaid settled legal propositions.  The trial Court after appreciating

the   entire   evidence   on   record   and   pleadings   taken   by   the   parties

recorded the following findings:

        "The applicant/wife as per record was served with 

        the   notice   of   the   petition,   firstly,   on   4.5.89   when 

        she had refused to accept the notice of the petition 

        vide   registered   AD   cover   for   the   date   of   hearing 

        i.e. 6.7.89 and thereafter on 7.8.89 when again she 

        refused   to   accept   the   notice   for   8.9.89   and 

        thereafter   when   the   notice   was   published   in   the 

        newspaper   `National   Herald'   on   6.11.89.     The 

        UPC   Receipt   dated   6.11.89   vide   which   the 

        newspaper   `National   Herald'   dated   6.11.89   was 

        sent   to   the   respondent/applicant   at   her   address 

        3/47,   First   Floor,   Geeta   Colony,   Delhi   is   on 

        record and has not been rebutted in any manner.  

        In these circumstances, the application u/o 9 Rule 

        13 CPC filed by the respondent/applicant/wife  on 

        7.1.1994   is   hopelessly   barred   by   time   and   no 

        sufficient   ground   has   been   shown   by   the 

        applicant/wife   for   condoning   the   said   inordinate 


17.     So far as the High Court is concerned, it did not deal with this

issue   of   service   of   summons   or   as   to   whether   there   was   "sufficient

cause" for the wife not to appear before the court at all, nor did it set

aside  the  aforesaid  findings  recorded   by   the  trial  Court.        The   trial

Court has dealt with only the aforesaid  two issues and nothing else.


          The High Court has not dealt with these issues in correct perspective.

          The High Court has recorded the following findings:

                    "The order sheets of the original file also deserve 

                    a   look.     The   case   was   filed   on   1.5.1989.     It   was 

                    ordered that respondent be served vide process fee 

                    and Regd. AD for 6.7.1989.  The report of process 

                    server reveals that process server did not identify 

                    the   appellant   and   she   was   identified   by   the 

                    respondent   himself.     In   next   date's   report 

                    appellant   was   identified   by   a   witness.     The   Retd. 

                    AD   mentions   only   one   word   "refused".       It   does 

                    not   state   that   it   was   tendered   to   whom   and   who 

                    had   refused   to   accept   the   notice.     The   case   was 

                    adjourned   to   8.9.1989.     It   was   recorded   that 

                    respondent   had   refused   to   take   the   notice.     Only 

                    one   word,   "Refused"   appears   on   this   registered 

                    envelope   as   well.     On   8.9.1989   itself   it   was 

                    reported   that   respondent   had   refused   notice   and 

                    permission   was   sought   to   move   an   application 

                    under   Order   5   Rule   20   of   CPC.     On   8.9.1989, 

                    application   under   Section   5   Rule   20   CPC   was 

                    moved   and   it   was   ordered   that   the   appellant   be 

                    served   through   "National   Herald".                        The 

                    presumption of law if any stands rebutted by the 

                    statement made by the appellant because she has 

                    stated   that   she   was   staying   in   the  said   house   of 

                    her   brother   for   a   period   of   eight   months.    The 

                    version   given   by   her   stands   supported   by   the 

                    statement made by her brother."

                                                                         (Emphasis added)


          18.       The High Court held that presumption stood rebutted by a bald

          statement made by the respondent/wife that she was living at different

          address with her brother and this was duly supported by her brother


who appeared as a witness in the court. The High Court erred in not

appreciating the facts in the correct perspective as substituted service

is meant to be resorted to serve the notice at the address known to the

parties where the party had been residing last. (Vide Rabindra Singh

v. Financial Commissioner, Cooperation, Punjab & Ors., (2008) 7

SCC 663).

19.    More   so,   it   is   nobody's   case   that   respondent/wife     made   any

attempt to establish that there had been a fraud or collusion between

the   appellant   and   the   postman.   Not   a   single   document   had   been

summoned   from   the   post   office.   No   attempt   has   been   made   by   the

respondent/wife to examine the postman. It is nobody's case that the

"National Herald" daily newspaper published from Delhi did not have

a wide circulation in Delhi or in the area where the respondent/wife

was residing with her brother.  In such a fact-situation, the impugned

order of the High Court becomes liable to be set aside.

20.    The   appellate   Court   has   to   decide   the   appeal   preferred   under

Section   104   CPC   following   the   procedure   prescribed   under   Order

XLIII, Rule 2 CPC, which provides that for that purpose, procedure

prescribed under  Order XLI shall apply, so far as may be, to appeals


from orders.   In view of the fact that no amendment  by Delhi High

Court   in   exercise   of   its   power   under   Section   122   CPC   has   been

brought to our notice, the procedure prescribed under Order XLI, Rule

31 CPC had to be applied in this case. .

21.    Order XLI, Rule 31 CPC provides for a procedure for deciding

       the appeal.  The law requires substantial compliance of the said

       provisions.     The   first   appellate   Court   being   the   final   court   of

       facts     has   to   formulate   the   points   for   its   consideration   and

       independently weigh the evidence on the issues which arise for

       adjudication   and   record   reasons   for   its   decision   on   the   said

       points. The first appeal is a valuable right and the parties have a

       right to be heard both on question of law and on facts. (vide:

       Moran Mar Basselios Catholicos & Anr. v. Most Rev. Mar

       Poulose   Athanasius   &   Ors.,   AIR   1954   SC   526;    Thakur

       Sukhpal Singh v. Thakur Kalyan Singh & Anr., AIR 1963

       SC   146;    Santosh   Hazari   v.   Purshottam   Tiwari,  AIR   2001

       SC   965;    Madhukar   v.   Sangram,   AIR   2001   SC   2171;  G.

       Amalorpavam  & Ors. v. R.C. Diocese  of Madurai & Ors.,

       (2006) 3 SCC 224; Shiv Kumar Sharma v. Santosh Kumari,

       (2007)   8   SCC   600;   and  Gannmani   Anasuya   &   Ors.   v.


           Parvatini   Amarendra   Chowdhary   &   Ors.,   AIR   2007   SC


22.        The first appellate  Court should not disturb and interfere with

the valuable rights of the parties which stood crystallised by the trial

Court's judgment without opening the whole case for re-hearing both

on question of facts and law. More so, the appellate Court should not

modify the decree of the trial Court by a cryptic order without taking

note of all relevant aspects, otherwise the order of the appellate Court

would   fall   short   of   considerations   expected   from   the   first   appellate

Court in view of the provisions of Order XLI, Rule 31 CPC and such

judgment   and   order   would   be   liable   to   be   set   aside.   (Vide  B.V.

Nagesh & Anr. v. H.V. Sreenivassa Murthy, JT (2010) 10 SC 551).

23.In   view   of   the   aforesaid   statutory   requirements,   the   High   Court

       was   duty   bound  to   set   aside   at   least   the   material   findings  on   the

       issues, in spite of the fact that approach of the court while dealing

       with such an application under Order IX, Rule 13 CPC would be

       liberal  and elastic  rather than narrow  and pedantic.   However, in

       case the matter does not fall within the four corners of Order IX,

       Rule   13   CPC,   the   court   has   no   jurisdiction   to   set   aside   ex-parte


       decree. The manner in which the language of the second proviso to

       Order IX, Rule 13 CPC has been couched by the legislature makes

       it obligatory on the appellate Court not to interfere with an ex-parte

       decree unless it meets the statutory requirement.

24.       The High Court has not set aside the material findings recorded

by   the   trial   Court   in   respect   of   service   of   summons   by   process

server/registered  post and substituted service. The High Court failed

to discharge the obligation placed on the first appellate Court as none

of the relevant aspects have been dealt with in proper perspective. It

was not permissible for the High Court to take into consideration the

conduct of the appellant subsequent to passing of the ex-parte decree.

          More so, the High Court did not consider the grounds on which

the trial Court had dismissed the application under Order IX, Rule 13

CPC filed by the respondent/wife. The appeal has been decided in a

casual manner.

25.       In   view   of   the   above,   appeal   succeeds   and   is   allowed.   The

judgment   and   order   dated   17.7.2007   passed   by   the   High   Court   of

Delhi in FAO No. 63 of 2002 is set aside and the judgment and order

of the trial Court dated 11.12.2001 is restored. 


       Before   parting   with   the   case,   it   may   be   pertinent   to   mention

here that the court tried to find out the means of re-conciliation of the

dispute and in view of the fact that the appellant got married in 1991

and has two major sons, it would not be possible for him to keep the

respondent   as   a   wife.   A   lump  sum  amount  of  Rs.  5   lakhs   had  been

offered by Shri M.C. Dhingra, Ld. counsel for the appellant to settle

the issue. However, the demand by the respondent/wife had been of

Rs.   50   lakhs.   Considering   the   income   of   the   appellant   as   he   had

furnished  the pay scales etc., the court feels that awarding a sum of

Rs. 10 lakhs to the wife would meet the ends of justice as a lump sum

amount of maintenance for the future.  The said amount be paid by the

appellant to the respondent in two equal instalments within a period of

six   months   from   today.   The   first   instalment   be   paid   within   three



                                               (P. SATHASIVAM)



                                               (Dr. B.S. CHAUHAN)