IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Equivalent Citations: 2002 (1) UJ(SC) 348 : 2002 (1) Supreme 473 : 2002 (1) JT 478 : 2002 (1) Scale 534 : 2002 (2) SCC 637 : 2002 AIR(SCW) 674 : 2002 AIR(SC) 971
Judges : Doraiswamy Raju : N.Santosh Hegde
Case No. : 4969 of 1998
Date of Decision : 01-Feb-2002
Advocates Appeared:Devi K.Sarda : Ramasesh P.R.
N.SANTOSH HEGDE, J.
(1) THE appellant in this appeal was the defendant in OS No. 156 of 1982 before the Principal Munsif, Bijapur, which suit was filed by the respondent-plaintiff praying for a declaration that a divorce deed dated 26-6-1982 executed by her was obtained by coercion and threat and for cancellation of the same. The said suit came to be dismissed by the trial court and an appeal against the said judgment being dismissed, the respondent-plaintiff appealed to the High Court. The High Court in a second appeal has reversed the finding of the courts below and has decreed the suit with a further direction that the District Judge concerned should file a complaint against the defendant for an offence committed by him against his wife within three months from the date of the receipt of the said judgment. As noted above, the appellant-defendant is before us in this appeal.
(2) WE will refer to the parties in the status in which they were arrayed in the trial court.
(3) THE case of the plaintiff in the trial court was that her marriage with the defendant was solemnized on the 26-5-1978 and though they lived as husband and wife for some time, she was constantly ill-treated by her husband consequent to which she was hospitalized. Subsequently the defendant had filed a matrimonial suit for divorce in the year 1979 and the said suit came to be compromised. However, the relationship between the two did not improve and the husband was continuing to demand a divorce from her. Ultimately, she was sent back to her parental home because of which she was constrained to file a petition for maintenance. It is further claimed that the defendant forcibly took her and wrongly confined her which led her father to make an application under Section 97 CrPC. It is also stated that subsequently under threat and coercion she was taken to the office of the Sub-Registrar on the 26-6-1982 and signed a document which has turned out to be a deed of divorce. It is also stated that unable to bear the suffering, she even tried to commit suicide, but, however, she was saved by the neighbours. Subsequently when she realised that the document executed by her was a divorce deed she filed a suit for a declaration that the said deed was obtained by fraud and coercion as also for the cancellation of the deed.
(4) THE defendant in his written statement contended that the allegations of the plaintiff were false and mischievous but admitted that he was married to the plaintiff on 26-5-1978. He denied that he ever ill-treated and forced the plaintiff to grant him a divorce but she, as a matter of fact, deserted him and ultimately she decided to grant him a divorce and the divorce deed in question was executed by her in the office of the Sub-Registrar of her own free will.
(5) ON the basis of the averments in the plaint, the trial court framed the following issues:
1. Whether the suit divorce deed dated 26-6-1982 is the outcome of undue influence and coercion by the defendant?
2. If so, is it void and deserves cancellation?
3. Whether court fee paid is proper?
4. Whether this court has jurisdiction to try and entertain the suit?
(6) ON consideration of the evidence on record, the trial court came to the conclusion that the allegation that the divorce deed of 26-6-1982 was obtained by undue influence was not established by the plaintiff. As stated above, this finding of the trial court was affirmed by the first appellate court which, however, came to be reversed by the High Court. Shri P.R. Ramasesh, learned counsel appearing for the defendant strenuously contended that the High Court erred in interfering with the concurrent finding of facts arrived at by the two courts without framing a question of law in this regard, hence, on this ground alone, the judgment of the High Court was liable to be dismissed. He also contended that the approach of the High Court in regard to appreciation of facts involved in the case was rather one-sided and for reasons wholly outside the judicial scrutiny. While Ms Sarda Devi, learned counsel for the plaintiff supported the judgment of the High Court.
(7) IN the view that we are inclined to take in this appeal, we do not think it is necessary for us to go into the contentions advanced by the learned counsel for the parties in this case, because we find that the courts below have erroneously proceeded on the basis that the divorce deed relied upon by the parties i