The Supreme Court has asked a man to pay Rs.5 lakh to his estranged wife for treatment of her life-threatening breast cancer, saying that it was his “pre-existing duty” to provide facilities for her treatment.
“It is a primary duty of the husband only to provide facilities for the treatment of the petitioner (wife). This is a pre-existing duty of the husband, provided the husband has sufficient means and he is diligently doing his part in taking care of her,” said a bench of Justice M.Y. Eqbal and Justice C. Nagappan in their order on Wednesday.
Directing Mohandas Samir Vennangot to pay for treatment of Anuradha Samir Vennangot in discharge of his “pre-existing duty”, Justice Eqbal said: “Hindu marriage is a sacred and holy union of husband and wife by virtue of which the wife is completely transplanted in the household of her husband and takes a new birth.”
“To a Hindu wife her husband is her God and her life becomes one of the selfless service and profound dedication to her husband. She not only shares the life and love, but the joys and sorrows, the troubles and tribulation of her husband and becomes an integral part of her husband’s life and activities,” said the bench while transferring to Hyderabad the divorce petition filed by the husband in Mumbai and asking the family court there to take up the case along with a fresh application that may be filed by the couple for divorce by mutual consent.
Anuradha had moved the apex court seeking the transfer of divorce case to Hyderabad as she resides there along with her parents.
The court said that the family court at Hyderabad would take up the matter after she is fully cured or within six months whichever is earlier. However, it said that Rs. 5 lakh she would get would be out of a Rs.12,50,000 settlement.
At the time of their marriage in April 2010, Anuradha was a divorcee. After sometime, some misunderstanding developed between them and Mohandas moved for divorce.
In an attempt to find some amicable settlement, the court sent them to the apex court mediation centre where both agreed to dissolve their marriage through mutual consent on payment of Rs. 12,50,000 as one-time alimony.
In the course of further hearing it was revealed to the bench that Anuradha was suffering from breast cancer and needed immediate surgery and chemotherapy ranging from 6 to 8 cycles. As each course of treatment would cost Rs.50,000, she urgently needed money for treatment.
This raised a question whether she was agreeing for divorce with mutual consent on the payment of one-time alimony out of free will or the compulsion to raise money for her treatment.
Referring to the facts of the case, the court said: “It is evident that the petitioner (wife) needs sufficient amount of money for the treatment of breast cancer. Hence, it cannot be ruled out that in order to save her life by getting money, she agreed for a settlement of dissolution of marriage.”
“On these facts, a question that came in our mind is as to whether the court would be justified in granting a decree for divorce on the basis of settlement when the wife is suffering with breast cancer and is in need of money for her treatment and can that be the consideration for dissolution of marriage.”
Pointing out that a contract would be treated to be free only if devoid of any “undue influence”, it said that in view of the “peculiar facts of the present case”, for the settlement, which is nothing but a contract to dissolve the marriage, the court has to satisfy itself that the contract is legal and valid in the eye of law.
It said the fact that the petitioner is ready for divorce after knowing about her medical condition raises a suspicion as to whether her consent is free as required by law for granting decree of divorce by mutual consent.