Delhi high court rejects NRI’s plea in matrimonial dispute

In a matrimonial dispute, the Delhi high court has held that divorce granted by a foreign court on the ground of “irretrievable” break down of marriage is not recognised under the Hindu Marriage Act and the dissolution of marriage is not valid.
“Both the parties are Indians and marriage between them was solemnised at New Delhi according to Hindu rites and both are governed by the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA). Their marriage has been dissolved by a court in UK on the ground of having been broken down irretrievably which is not a ground for divorce under the HMA …” Justice Veena Birbal said.

The court cited a Supreme Court judgement, in which the apex court had held that a decree of divorce granted by a foreign court is not valid in India if the ground is not recognized by Indian law.

The court rejected the claim of an Indian-origin UK resident, that Ilford county court, UK, had in 2011 already granted divorce and the trial court here should drop the divorce proceedings against him on his wife’s plea for dissolution of marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act.

Upholding the trial court order dismissing the man’s plea, the court concurred with the trial court. “… In view of the above discussion, no illegality is seen in the impugned order which calls for interference of this court. Petition is dismissed.”

The court also rejected the man’s argument that the UK court had made the decree “absolute” on the ground of “irretrievable breakdown” of marriage and his wife was also informed about the proceedings there.

Accepting the wife’s argument that divorce granted by the court in UK is an ex-parte divorce decree, Justice Birbal said, “Respondent (wife) never submitted herself to the jurisdiction of the said (UK) court. On June 15, 2011, she had lodged a representation before the Ilford county court informing that she was in India and filed a divorce petition here.

“She also informed that she was in acute financial difficulty to come to London to contest the divorce case. She wrote in detail about her financial condition and also informed that she had already filed a divorce petition in India. She requested the UK court not to make the divorce decree ‘absolute’ … In these circumstances, it cannot be said that she had submitted to the jurisdiction of the foreign court,” the court also said.

According to the man’s plea, the marriage had taken place in Delhi in March 2005 and both of them flew to the UK soon after marriage as they both were working there.

The woman, who returned to India in 2009 and now based in Delhi, said in her plea that their relationship turned sour few months after their marriage due to her husband’s alleged misbehaviour towards her.

Besides other complaints against her husband and in-laws under various laws including Domestic Violence Act, the woman had filed a divorce petition here in February 2011.

In his reply to her plea for divorce, the man had moved an application for dropping of the proceeding as he had already obtained the divorce from a UK court in May 2011. The trial court in September, 2011 had rejected his plea.