Ravi Singhal & Ors Vs. Manali Singhal
& Anr  Insc 519 (1 October 2001)
Mohapatra & K.G. Balakrishnan D E R K.G. Balakrishnan, J.
appeals are filed against judgment and order dated 28.7.2000 passed by the
Division Bench of the Delhi High Court in FAO (OS) No. 9 of 1999 and order
dated 24.11.2000 in R.A. No. 1419 of 2000, preferred against an interim order
dated 28.10.1998 passed earlier by a learned Single Judge. The appellants
herein are defendants in Suit No. 2583 of 1997 on the file of original
jurisdiction of the High Court of Delhi, having been filed by the respondents
herein for the enforcement of an alleged Family Settlement entered into between
the parties on 4.11.1994. The facts in brief are as under.
first appellant, Ravi Singhal, married the first respondent on 10.2.1989. The
second respondent is their daughter born on 18.3.1991.
the marriage, the first respondent was staying with the appellants in her
matrimonial home at Vasant Vihar in New Delhi. It seems that the marriage ran into rough weather by 1994. The first
respondent had to accompany her mother for treatment abroad and she returned
with her mother to India on 31.10.1994 and according to the first respondent,
when she arrived in Delhi she was informed by the first appellant that he did
not want to continue the marital relations. The first appellant, on the other
hand, would say that on arrival from abroad the first respondent went straight
to her parents' house. There was no possibility of any reconciliation between
the parties and the relationship continued to be sour. The first respondent
along with second respondent left the matrimonial home at Vasant Vihar and
started living with her parents. It appears that there were negotiations
between the parties to arrive at some settlement and on 4.11.1994, a written
agreement was entered into between the parties. All the appellants herein
signed the agreement. A true copy of the agreement is produced as Annexure P-7.
The appellants do not dispute the genuineness of the agreement. It has been
contended by the first appellant in the written statement filed by him before
the High Court that the agreement entered into on 4.11.1994 is void and not
liable to be specifically enforced as the appellants had signed the same under
duress and not with free consent. According to the appellants, the mother of
the first respondent was brought to India on 31.10.1994 and as she was
critically ill and she was admitted in All India Institute of Medical Sciences
and the first respondent insisted the appellants to sign the Settlement Deed as
she wanted to show the signed agreement and satisfy her mother that every
dispute was settled.
to the first appellant, the agreement signed by him on 4.11.1994 was not
intended to be acted upon and it was merely a paper transaction.
the alleged agreement, the appellants are bound to discharge certain
obligations. The nomenclature of the agreement is shown as "Memo of
Settlement" and as per clause (1) of the agreement, the appellants are to
provide a residential house in South Delhi to the respondents while clause (2)
says that the appellants have to provide a sum of Rs.40,000/- per month to the
respondents, free of income tax, for the maintenance and upbringing of the
daughter and also for the maintenance of the first respondent. There are other
clauses in the agreement by which the appellants are required to meet expenses
for the education of the second respondent and the first appellant is to
provide expenses for a vacation abroad once a year for a period of thirty days
to the respondents. The first appellant is also to meet the medical expenses of
the respondents and to provide a car to them. As regards custody of the second
respondent, it was agreed that she would stay with the mother.
respondents filed a suit in 1998 alleging that the appellants failed to
discharge their obligations under the Memorandum of Settlement and in the suit
the Memorandum of Settlement was sought to be specifically enforced. The
respondents moved for an interim direction and the learned Single Judge, by an
elaborate order, held that the plaintiff-respondents were entitled to get
interim maintenance @ Rs.40,000/- per month. The appellants herein were also
directed to clear the arrears of maintenance from January 1, 1997 to September
30, 1998 @ Rs.40,000/- per month and the total amount thus payable was
Rs.8,40,000/-. The appellants were also directed to deposit the school fee and
other charges in connection with the education of the second respondent. By
this interim order, the appellants were also directed to provide a house to the
respondents in terms of clause (4) of the Memo of Settlement. Some other
prayers sought for by the respondents were declined to be granted as interim
arrangement for the respondents.
order was unsuccessfully challenged by the appellants before the Division
Bench. The Division Bench elaborately considered the matter and held that no
interference was called for. The interim direction passed by the learned Single
Judge was directed to be complied with by the appellants. As stated above, this
order is challenged before us.
heard the matter at great length. The counsel on either side brought to our
notice series of decisions relevant to the points raised by the parties in the
proceedings, but we do not propose to go into such disputed questions as the
appeals now before us are only against an interim order. Any observation made
by this Court may have great persuasive effect with regard to the matter which
may be agitated finally in the suit.
appellants contended that the suit itself is not maintainable and the remedy,
if at all open to the respondents, is to file an application under the
provisions of the Hindu Adoptions & Maintenance Act, 1956 [for short,
"the Act"]. It was argued that an order for interim maintenance could
only be passed under Section 23 of the Act. It is also argued that the
Memorandum of Settlement is void and is opposed to public policy and that there
cannot be any judicial separation under an agreement, except in accordance with
the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act.
counsel for the respondents, on the other hand, contended that there could be a
Family Settlement and it is not against any public policy. Our attention was
also drawn to Section 25 of the Act where reference is made to agreements
entered into by the parties regarding the amount of maintenance.
counsel on either side also drew our attention to various decisions rendered by
this Court and various other High Courts. We do not propose to refer to those
decisions as most of them have been considered by learned Single Judge as well
as by the Division Bench in the impugned judgment.
counsel for the appellants vehemently contended that the Memorandum of
Settlement was signed by the appellants under special circumstances and the
first appellant is financially not in a position to meet the alleged
obligations under the agreement. The counsel argued that by the impugned
judgment, the plaintiff-respondents have been given virtually the entire relief
sought for in the suit and the appellants are unduly burdened with financial
liabilities which are incapable of being performed by the first appellant. We
notice the force in this contention, but at the same time it is to be borne in
mind that this is only an interim order passed by the court in exercise of the
discretionary power vested in it in such family proceedings. Further, the
interim arrangement made under the order only covers payment of interim
maintenance, arrears and current, deposit of school fees of the child and
providing a separate residence From the impugned judgment, it is clear that
there was a long and elaborate debate by the counsel on either side regarding
the financial capability of the appellants. Having regard to the fact that the
order under challenge is an interim order, without expressing any opinion on
merits we would only say that the discretionary power exercised by the court
cannot be said to be perverse or irrational so as to warrant interference by
this court. But at the same time, the appellants have raised certain serious
contentions which require consideration at the hands of the learned Single
Judge before whom the matter would come up for trial. We only wish that the
suit may have an expeditious trial and the same be finally disposed of. The
parties also, with the help of friends and well-wishers shall explore the
possibility of an amicable settlement and bury the hatchet once and for all. We
make it clear that any observation made by this Court or the High Court shall
not have any persuasive effect when the matter is finally considered by the
appeals are disposed of accordingly with no order as to costs.
Mohapatra ] ....................................J
Delhi [ K.G. Balakrishnan ] October 1, 2001.