The following cases have been selected from the vast number of interesting cases that we have handled during the years. This is to highlight the diverse range of issues that come to us and the diverse strategies that are adopted to provide relief to women.
June to November 2010
Gayatri, the wife of a police officer came to us a few months ago in a distraught condition. Hers was an arranged marriage and within a month of her marriage, she was being harassed by her husband and in-laws her for dowry. Thereafter, within a few days she also came to know that her husband was married earlier and marriage is valid and subsisting. She was shocked by this as prior to marriage, she was informed that her husband was a divorcee. Gayatri bore all the harassment silently. She was afraid even file a police complaint since the husband himself was a police officer and could use adverse influence. Finally she was thrown out of the matrimonial home. At that time, she approached a woman's organization for their intervention, but all her efforts were futile, as her husband being a police officer refused to respond to the request of the said organisation to arrive at a settlement.
Finally she was referred to us by the organisation. We adopted the strategy of filing under the Domestic Violence Act. This came as a blow to the husband. He was left with no other choice but to attend the court proceedings. The magistrate himself was shocked to see a person in authority, misusing his powers. He immediately sided with Gayatri and blasted at the husband. Just one court date made a difference in her life. Gayatri became more confident about herself and her case and has more strength to litigate now. This case is pending in court but w can see a great deal of confidence in Gayatri and she is able to handle her life without the crippling fear of her husband.
Preeti’s case to us as a half way matter. Preti hails from a very rich family background and her husband is even wealthier and more influential than her. They have a five year old son who is a slow learner and suffers from ADHD syndrome. Preeti had already been divorced and as per the consent terms she was to give access of the child during all the holidays. Since the husband lives abroad and the child was of a very young age, she was permitted to accompany the child during access period and the husband was required to provide shelter to her in his own house or in a nearby hotel so the child can meet the mother for a few hours everyday. But during the first vacation the husband provided accommodation to our client in another city which is around two hours away and she could not meet the child or even talk to the child during the entire vacation. After one month, when she returned with the child, she realised that the chid had developed extreme insecurities and had started bed wetting. He also could not cope with his studies and was sliding back. Due to this reason she did not give the husband access in his city but requested him to meet her in a neutral city and they could take the child for a holiday together. The husband refused to accept this offer and filed a contempt petition against our client. During the next period of access our client broke her leg and again could not take the child abroad. The court would have taken extreme view of this and the only reason for leniency towards her was that she had fractured her leg and the child could not travel abroad without the mother for the period of one month.
So though the court passed an order that the husband could take access onlyin Mumbai, she was warned that that if she did not give the husband access on the next date the court would take serious action against her and may even change the order of custody and grant custody to the husband. In totally panic she approached us on the advice of her school counsellor. The conflict between the parents was having an adverse effect on the child and was affecting his studies. She wanted to stop access at any cost during summer. But it was too late to alter the situation but we managed to stall the contempt proceedings and save the situation by arriving at certain consent terms that the husband would provide accommodation for her in a nearby apartment and the child could meet her everyday for two hours. We also sought permission from the High Court to move the Family Court to vary the consent terms arrived at in the petition for divorce by mutual consent. We had made some advance.
As soon as she returned to Mumbai with the child, we filed for modification of consent terms. The husband also filed for modification and sought sole custody of the minor. While these were pending, she had to take the child again for access but this time, the husband assaulted her in the foreign country and she fled to Mumbai in panic. The husband threatened us that he would file fresh contempt petition and also that she would be arrested on arrival. The only way we could save the situation and pacify the husband was to enter into a process of mediation with his lawyers. We have been successful in reducing the access period to one week during vacations and with these consent terms have been able to dismiss the contempt petition hanging over her head. In the proceedings for medication we have produced the child’s medical reports and highlighted the adverse effects the contentious litigation is having upon the child. The long term need of our client is to leave Mumbai and settle in a quiet and peaceful place but this is yet to be negotiated and for the time being she is bound to give access to the husband only in Mumbai and hence is unable to settle in another city. Our next priority is to vary the consent terms to the extent that she is able to leave the city and give reduced access to the husband in view of the child’s disturbed mental condition.
From our long term experience, we have realised that litigation over custody and access of minor children is the most traumatic and time consuming of all matrimonial litigation. Here emotions run high, and young children get affected. Rather than entering into prolonged and contentious litigation, the only way we can settle matters is to enter into mediation and settlement as forced court orders tend to get flouted and the courts are very prompt in penalising women in contempt of court proceedings.