Till death do us part (but not with husband's parents)

New Delhi, Jan. 25: A young and estranged couple have agreed to drop their domestic violence and divorce cases under a Supreme Court-approved pact that mandates the husband to live apart from his parents even after his retirement.

Court-mediated formulas to save marriages by keeping the husband's family at bay are not unheard of, but this is probably the first to cover the husband's post-retirement life.

The court order did not have too many details of the marital dispute, nor did the parties wish to be named. The rough facts of the case:

The wife, a Delhi resident, had moved into her husband's home in an Uttarakhand village but did not get along with her in-laws. The husband, a soldier in the Indian Army currently posted in Pune, did not take her along with him to his various postings.

Eventually, the wife left for her parents' home and filed cases of dowry harassment and domestic violence in Delhi, while the husband moved a divorce petition in an Uttarakhand court. The wife then petitioned the apex court to transfer the husband's petition to a court in Delhi.

However, during a hearing last October, the bench of Justices R.M. Lodha and A.R. Dave suggested the matter be referred to the court mediation cell under advocate Susmita Lal. The mediator helped work out the agreement under which the couple have promised to withdraw their cases against each other within four weeks.

The husband has agreed to take his wife along wherever he is posted. If family accommodation is unavailable at any particular place of posting, the wife would stay with her parents in Delhi while the husband would visit her during holidays.

During such periods, the husband will deposit Rs 3,000 every month in the wife's bank account and provide her with his army grocery card.

"It is further agreed by the parties that the respondent-husband after his retirement will take/build a separate accommodation at any other place but not at (village) D.... (Uttarakhand)... and live with the petitioner-wife separately," the court order said.

"The parties undertake before this hon'ble court to abide by the terms and conditions set out in the above mentioned agreement, which have been arrived at without any coercion, duress or collusion and undertake not to raise any dispute whatsoever henceforth."

Asha Nair, a noted lawyer and mediator in marital disputes who was not involved in this case, told The Telegraph that nothing in the agreement prevented the couple from living with the husband's parents in the future provided both of them wanted to do so.

"With the passage of time, there could be a change of heart and the couple may not strictly stick to such conditions. It is for them to decide. Since the agreement was reached under the Mediation Act, there would be nothing illegal in such compromise deeds," she said.

"It's just that the Supreme Court has given a stamp of approval so that the parties (that is, just one of them) do not deviate from the agreement."

Nair explained that such understandings are usually arrived at following consultations among family members. "The husband would obviously have talked to his family before taking the decision," she said.

Sandeep Narain, another senior lawyer who too mediates in matrimonial cases, said agreements such as the one struck by the couple in this case were legally valid as long as they did not flout any law in the country.

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