The Family Court of Delhi has granted a divorce to renowned Indian cricketer Shikhar Dhawan and his wife Ayesha Mukherjee. The judgment, citing cruelty as the primary reason, brings an end to an 11-year-long marriage and follows an agreement between the parties that they had not been living as husband and wife since August 8, 2020. This decision, delivered by Family Court Judge Harish Kumar, sheds light on the complexities of matrimonial disputes and international legal considerations.
The court’s verdict was based on the undeniable fact that both parties had mutually consented to the divorce. Judge Kumar highlighted, “There is no dispute that both parties had agreed to take divorce by mutual consent and that their marriage is otherwise dead long ago and have not been living as husband and wife since August 8, 2020.” Moreover, he noted that the estranged wife’s decision not to contest the matter indicated her willingness for the court to grant the divorce, even at the risk of being held guilty of a matrimonial offense.
One of the critical factors that played a role in this case was the previous favorable orders obtained by Shikhar Dhawan’s estranged wife from the Federal Circuit and Family Court in Australia. These orders seemed to embolden her stance in not abiding by earlier court rulings. Consequently, the Delhi Family Court ruled in favor of Dhawan, declaring him entitled to a decree of divorce on the grounds of cruelty, as per Section 13(1)(a) of the Hindu Marriage Act.
The judgement effectively dissolves the marriage that was solemnized on December 30, 2012, in a Gurdwara on Nelson Mandela Marg, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi. This marks the end of a significant chapter in both parties’ lives and brings a sense of finality to their long-standing legal battle.
In addition to the divorce, Shikhar Dhawan sought permanent custody of his minor son, citing concerns for the child’s welfare due to the respondent’s actions. However, the custody issue proved to be complex due to previous court orders in Australia related to the child’s custody.
The court addressed this matter by acknowledging the child’s Australian citizenship and residence in Australia. It emphasized that the implementation of any order or judgment in a foreign territory depends on the willingness of the state machinery of that country to enforce it, either voluntarily or under international obligations. In light of these circumstances, the court directed the estranged wife to bring the child to India for visitation purposes during school vacations, including overnight stays with Shikhar Dhawan and his family members, subject to the child’s academic schedule. The court also allowed for unsupervised meetings between the child and Dhawan in Australia, provided that there is advance intimation.
One of the contentious aspects of this case was Shikhar Dhawan’s claim that he was coerced into transferring ownership of properties in Australia to his wife. In his plea, he alleged, “The petitioner bought three immovable properties in Australia from his own funds but was compelled by the respondent to make her the 99% owner in one property and joint owner in two properties.” He further asserted that his wife had taken a significant portion of the net sale proceeds from one property and the entire net sale proceeds of another, demanding the title of the third property to be transferred to her.
This divorce ruling signifies the conclusion of an 11-year marriage, bringing some resolution to a complex and emotionally charged legal battle. It underscores the importance of understanding the intricacies of international law when dealing with cross-border matrimonial disputes and custody matters, and serves as a reminder that the complexities of such cases often transcend national boundaries.