Woman drags dead ex-hubby to court, challenges divorce

Mumbai, June 30: A Bandra woman is fighting a divorce and property case against her husband, who died a year ago.

Ruling that the matter cannot be dismissed simply because one party to the case is no longer alive, the division bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and R Y Ganoo said, “The fact that the husband has died, does not disentitle the wife to pray for setting aside the decree of divorce wrongly passed by the Family Court.

The matter will be considered on merits.” The bench granted the 42-year-old woman a stay on the divorce decree.

The dispute is four-year-old, and concerns Franklin House at St John Baptist Road in Bandra. The childless couple, whose name is being withheld, were married for the past 15 years.

In 2007, the husband filed for divorce in the Family Court, and pleaded that he be declared the sole owner of the Bandra house. The court granted him divorce, but rejected his plea of “absolute ownership”, saying the wife was the joint owner of the house.

Both parties moved the High Court — husband challenging the Family Court order of declaring his wife the joint owner of the house; the latter filing a petition against the divorce decree, and insisting that she was the exclusive owner of the property.

In July 2010, the husband died, and his relatives, claiming inheritance, told the court that the deceased had executed a will in favour of one of them (his brother) regarding the property. They told the court that the property was purchased in the names of the couple. Hence, it was clear that she was not the sole owner, and her husband had a stake.

To which, the woman’s counsel, Ratna Bhargavan contended that the house was purchased in the couple’s names from the money given by the wife’s brother at the time of the wedding.

Franklin House at St John Baptist Road, Bandra (W)
The house was co-owned only for convenience, and it was to be treated as the wife’s ‘exclusive’ property, something that was made clear to her husband, Bhargavan added.

Represented by advocates Anil Anturkar and Nitin Gangal, relatives of the deceased contended the woman should not be allowed to challenge the divorce decree now that the husband was dead.

The judges rejected it, saying: “We are inclined to take this view, as the consequences of a divorce could result in the respondent being denied rights to the property left behind by her husband after his demise.”

The bench rejected the plea to appoint a court receiver on the property, but asked the woman for an assurance that she will not lease or sell the property.