Family court casual in granting divorce: Bombay high court

Family court casual in granting divorce: Bombay high court

Observing that a family court judge was "casual and negligent" in granting divorce to a man in the absence of his wife, the Bombay high court said it revealed a sorry state of affairs.

A division bench of Justice P B Majmudar and Justice Anoop Mohta was hearing an application filed by Smitha Menon (34), challenging the divorce obtained by her husband Anand (42) from the family court in Bandra on June 11, 2006.

Anand stayed with her and their daughter (9) in Nalasopara for 18 more months and left home in February 2008, a week before the bailiff came to serve papers of the suit he had filed for possession of the flat.

Smitha then learnt about the divorce and moved court, saying she was never issued a summons for the case. However, the family court rejected the plea.

HC judges called for the records the family court proceedings and also summoned Anand from his second honeymoon. They said the family court passed the divorce decree without verifying if summons had been served on the wife. They added that the family court judge should have been "doubly sure" that the court summons was properly served on the party in case of non-appearance. They said the bailiff should have identified Smitha through neighbours, panchas or even Anand.

The judges said family court judge R S Bhat, who has retired, should have issued fresh summons to wife. "What business the judge had to take up the matter? This is no (divorce) decree in the eyes of the law. It is a well-settled proposition of law that fraud vitiates everything. This case reflects ignorance of the law on the part of the judge," said Justice Majmudar.

The judges observed that while Smitha filed the petition in the HC on March 9, Anand remarried on April 9. Also, he showed her as a nominee in his form with a private insurer in December 2006. "This shows you kept her in the dark even after six months of divorce,'' said Justice Majmudar. The judges have admitted Smitha's petition to decide the issue "so that judges don't make mistakes in future". They also directed that a copy of Friday's order be circulated to all family court judges in the state to take appropriate care before hearing ex-parte cases.