Omar Abdullah unable to prove wife treated him with cruelty, denied divorce by Delhi HC

HC dismisses appeal filed by former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir challenging a family court's 2016 decision refusing to grant him divorce, says there is no merit in his plea

Omar Abdullah was contesting a family court decision from 2016 (photo: IANS)
Omar Abdullah was contesting a family court decision from 2016 (photo: IANS)


The Delhi High Court has rejected a raft of allegations National Conference leader Omar Abdullah levelled against his estranged wife, including those of cruelty and desertion, and refused to grant him a decree of divorce under the Special Marriage Act.

The high court dismissed an appeal filed by Abdullah, a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, challenging a family court's 2016 decision refusing to grant him divorce and said there was no merit in his plea.

Abdullah and his wife Payal have two sons from the marriage. "The appellant's (Abdullah) allegation that respondent (Payal) did not support the appellant in his political career has also not been found to be substantiated," a bench of justices Sanjeev Sachdeva and Vikas Mahajan said while upholding the family court's judgment.

While the high court pronounced the verdict on Tuesday, the 68-page judgment was made available on the court's website on Wednesday. On Abdullah's allegation that his wife was using the children as pawns for her own ulterior motives, the high court noted that the family court has held that the allegation of tutoring the children has not been established.

"Appellant had access to his children and had been meeting them and spending time with them. Even this allegation has not been established by the appellant," the bench said.

The high court said it has examined the evidence led by the parties and it was of the view that the family court rightly concluded that Abdullah "has not been able to prove that respondent has treated the appellant with cruelty so as to constitute a ground for divorce under the Special Marriage Act".

"In view of the above, we find no infirmity in the view taken by the family court that the allegations of cruelty were vague and unacceptable and that the appellant failed to prove any act which could be termed as an act of cruelty, whether physical or mental, towards him. Consequently, we find no merit in the appeal. The appeal is accordingly dismissed," the bench said.

One of the grounds raised by Abdullah in the divorce petition was that his spouse refused to shift to Kashmir in 2002, when he moved there to prepare himself for the ensuing elections, owing to which he had to fly to Delhi on weekends to meet his children.

In response to the allegation, Payal had deposed that it was the decision of her husband and not hers owing to security reasons and, more importantly, because the Jammu and Kashmir government operated from Srinagar and Jammu for six months alternately, which would repeatedly displace the children.

The high court said the family court has rightly held that the estranged couple was in Delhi until 2002 on account of the exigencies of Abdullah's own work and not on the insistence or preference of his wife.

"Further, that it was natural for the children to have been admitted in a school in Delhi, as the appellant and the respondent were residing in Delhi. The claim of the appellant that it was respondent's adamancy in getting children admitted in Delhi school was thus held to be not tenable.

"The respondent in her testimony had deposed that appellant had been attacked twice while he was in Jammu and Kashmir along with the respondent and the children," it noted.

The high court further noted that keeping the children's education in mind they both took a conscious decision of placing them in a school in Delhi.

"The family court has held that appellant may have had to frequently travel to Srinagar on account of his political compulsions, but such travel could not be termed to be on account of the matrimonial discord between the parties.

"Parties continued to have interactions as a family and frequently travelled together for vacations and the appellant as per his own testimony regularly visited the respondent and the children in Delhi. This arrangement of respondent and children residing in Delhi while appellant commuting to Srinagar on account of his work, cannot be termed as an act of mental cruelty towards the appellant," the bench said.

On 30 August 2016, the family court had dismissed Abdullah's plea, holding that he could not prove his claims of "cruelty" or "desertion" which were the grounds alleged by him for seeking a decree of divorce.

In his plea seeking divorce, Abdullah had claimed before the family court that his marriage had broken down irretrievably and he has not enjoyed a conjugal relationship since 2007, and that the couple, married on 1 September 1994, has been living separately since 2009. The couple's two sons are staying with their mother.

In August this year, a single judge bench of the Delhi High Court had directed Abdullah to pay Rs 1.5 lakh as monthly interim maintenance to his estranged wife. It had also ordered him to pay Rs 60,000 each on a monthly basis for the education of his two sons, who are studying law.

The high court's order had come on petitions by Payal Abdullah and the couple's sons against the 2018 lower court orders granting her and them interim maintenance of Rs 75,000 and Rs 25,000 each until they attained the age of majority, respectively.

The judge had observed that Abdullah has the financial capacity to provide a "decent standard of living to his wife and children" and that he should not abdicate his duties as a father.

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