Poonam Jaidev Shroff vs State Of Maharashtra on 3 December, 2021


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Supreme Court of India

Poonam Jaidev Shroff vs State Of Maharashtra on 3 December, 2021

Author: B.R. Gavai

Bench: [ Gavai]

                                                   NON­REPORTABLE

             IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
              CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


             I.A. NOS. 59776 AND 60354 OF 2021
                              IN
               CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2634 OF 2017

JAIDEV RAJNIKANT SHROFF                                 ...APPELLANT(S)

                               VERSUS

POONAM JAIDEV SHROFF                               ...RESPONDENT(S)


                               ORDER

B.R. Gavai, J.

1. These two interlocutory applications filed by the

respondent­wife are part of series of a long drawn

acrimonious litigation between the husband and wife.

2. For the disposal of the present interlocutory

applications, we need not refer to the facts in detail. Suffice

it to say that the appellant­husband and the respondent­wife

were married to each other on 27 th November 2004. However,

the relationship between them soured. Various cases

1
including the FIRs were filed by both the husband and wife

against each other.

3. The appellant­husband filed a divorce petition being

Petition No. A­2742 of 2015 before the Family Court at

Bandra, Mumbai (hereinafter referred to as the “Family

Court”) seeking divorce on the ground of cruelty. The same

was filed in the month of October 2015. During the

pendency of the said divorce petition, the appellant­husband

lodged a complaint against the respondent­wife with the

Khar Police Station, making certain serious allegations

against the respondent­wife. On the basis of the said

complaint, an FIR being FIR No. 169 of 2016 came to be

registered by the said police station. It is the contention of

the appellant­husband that after the said FIR was lodged,

the respondent­wife voluntarily left 82, Pali Hill, Bandra

(West), Mumbai – 400 050 (hereinafter referred to as the

“said house”), wherein the appellant­husband and the

respondent­wife were residing together. According to the

appellant­husband, the respondent­wife along with their

daughter Rudritara went to 38, Pali Hill, Bandra, i.e., her

2
mother’s residence. The appellant­husband thereafter filed

an application seeking an order of injunction restraining the

respondent­wife from entering the said house. The Family

Court vide order dated 22nd April 2016, allowed the said

application, thereby granting an injunction restraining the

respondent­wife from entering the said house. Being

aggrieved by the order passed by the Family Court dated 22 nd

April 2016, the respondent­wife filed a writ petition being

Writ Petition No. 6029 of 2016 before the Bombay High

Court. Vide order dated 24th October 2016, the High Court

allowed the said writ petition filed by the respondent­wife.

Being aggrieved thereby, the appellant­husband has

approached this Court. That is how the main appeal has

travelled up to this Court.

4. Initially, when the matter came up before this Court on

15th November 2016, this Court issued notice only to explore

the possibility of an amicable resolution of the dispute.

However, this Court in its order dated 27th January 2017,

recorded that the settlement between the parties, at that

stage, was not possible. This Court, therefore, enlarged the

3
scope of the notice issued by this Court vide the said order

and expressed that they were inclined to examine the

impugned order of the High Court of Bombay on merits. Vide

the said order, this Court also passed an order directing the

parties to maintain status quo.

5. When this matter was listed before this Court on 14 th

September 2017, this Court recorded that without prejudice

to the rights and contentions of the parties in the present

proceedings, the parties are agreeable to explore the

possibility of an amicable resolution of their dispute. As

such, by consent, Mrs. Sadhna Ramachandran, Advocate

was appointed as a Mediator. It further appears that in order

to explore the possibility of amicable settlement, this Court

vide order dated 22nd January 2018, directed the parties to

remain present in person on 30th January 2018 at 02.00 pm.

The order of this Court dated 30th January 2018 would reveal

that this Court had discussed the matter in Chambers with

the parties to find out some amicable resolution and a week’s

time was granted to the parties to think over to come to an

amicable resolution. However, vide order dated 13 th

4
February 2018, this Court recorded that there is no

possibility of an amicable settlement between the parties.

6. This Court, again on 21st August 2018, recorded that

the matter needed to be resolved through mediation. This

Court, therefore, appointed Shri Sriram Panchu, Senior

Advocate, as a Mediator to mediate the dispute between the

parties. Vide the said order, this Court also stayed all the

criminal proceedings pending between the parties.

7. Shri Sriram Panchu, the learned Mediator submitted

his report on 19th February 2019, stating therein that the

differences between the parties were too wide and it was not

possible to resolve the matter at that stage. Hence, he filed

the closure report. Further report of the Mediator dated 12 th

April 2019, would reveal that by e­mail dated 25 th March

2019, counsel for the respondent­wife has informed him that

while adjourning the matter by four weeks, this Court had

issued an oral direction to the parties to appear once more

before the Mediator. The report further revealed that,

however, both the parties by self/through counsel have

expressed the view that there is no point in continuing with

5
the mediation. In the circumstances, vide the said report

dated 12th April 2019, the learned Mediator has observed

that the mediation cannot be carried on and was therefore

closed.

8. On 30th January 2020, this Court passed the following

order:­

“Heard.

Mr. P. Chidambaram and Mr. Shyam Divan,
learned Senior Counsel appearing for the
respondent ­ Poonam Jaidev Shroff, state that the
respondent ­ Poonam Jaidev Shroff will locate
rented premises of her choice which shall be
equivalent to the residence at 82, Pali Hill,
Bandra (West), Mumbai – 400 050, for her
residence.

Dr. A.M. Singhvi, learned Senior Counsel
appearing for the appellant–Jaidev Rajnikant
Shroff, states that the appellant ­ 3 Jaidev
Rajnikant Shroff will pay the rent for the said
premises.

It is understood that this arrangement will
at the moment continue till the disposal of the
pending divorce petition.

Mr. P. Chidambaram and Mr. Shyam Divan,
learned Senior Counsel appearing for the
respondent, prays for time to make a statement

6
regarding the disposal of the divorce petition
pending in the Family Court at Bandra, Mumbai.

List these matters on 26.02.2020 (a non­
miscellaneous day).”

9. Again, when the matter was listed before this Court on

6th March 2020, this Court passed the following order:­

“We have heard the question of respondent ­
wife’s accommodation at length.

We are of the view that in the circumstances
of the case, the interests of justice would be best
served if the Registrar of the Family Court at
Bandra, Mumbai, is directed to engage an
architect from the panel of architects maintained
by the Bombay High Court for finding out
appropriate accommodation for the residence of
the respondent – wife.

It is made clear that the residence shall be
approximately similar to the size of 82, Pali Hill,
Bandra (West), Mumbai – 400 050 and located as
far as possible in Bandra and Juhu area.

After such accommodation is located, the
Registrar shall submit a report forthwith to this
Court pointing out the location of such
accommodation along with rent so as to enable
this Court to pass further orders. We further
direct that if the accommodation is approved, the
petitioner – husband shall regularly pay such
rent to the landlord of the tenanted premises.

7
List these matters after two months.”

10. Pursuant to the aforesaid orders passed by this Court,

Smt. Kishori Joshi, Architect, Valuers and Engineers was

engaged by the Registrar of the Family Court. On 3rd

February 2021, Smt. Joshi submitted a list of the properties,

which in the architect’s opinion were similar to the said

house. The communication dated 3 rd February 2021 would

reveal that in the architect’s opinion, the properties listed

were outcome of their best efforts to provide a suitable

accommodation to the respondent­wife as per her liking and

will. As many as 17 properties have been listed in the list

sent along with the communication dated 3rd February 2021.

However, vide communication dated 10 th February 2021, it

was informed on behalf of the respondent­wife that none of

the properties shown in the list were similar to the said

house.

11. In this background, the respondent­wife has

approached this Court with the two interlocutory

8
applications. The prayers in I.A. No. 60354 of 2021, read

thus:­

(a) “allow the present application and vacate
the interim order dated 27th January 2017
passed by this Hon’ble Court in the
aforesaid appeal and permit the Respondent
and the minor child to reside in the
matrimonial home;

(b) allow the present Application and dismiss
the SLP(Civil) No. 32264 of 2016 converted
into Civil Appeal No. 2634 of 2017;”

12. The prayers in I.A. No. 59776 of 2021, read thus:­

a) “clarify the order dated 06.03.2020 & allow the
Respondent and the minor daughter to
forthwith move into 82 Pali Hill (matrimonial
Home) and the Respondent be paid an amount
of Rs. 75.26 Lakhs per annum for the staff of
the matrimonial home and maintenance as per
actuals along with arrears for living outside the
matrimonial home @ Rs. 35.37 Lakhs per
month from 07.04.2016 till the date of passing
of the Order;

b) In the alternative, clarify the order dated
06.03.2020 & an amount of Rs 35.37 Lakhs
per month be paid to the Respondent which is
the monthly rent amount of the matrimonial
home along with cost of running & maintaining
the premises as per actuals and the arrears

9
from 07.04.2016 till the date of passing of the
Order.”

13. We have heard Shri Shyam Divan, learned Senior

Counsel appearing on behalf of the applicant­respondent wife

and Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, learned Senior Counsel

appearing on behalf of the non­applicant­appellant husband.

14. Shri Divan submitted that though the respondent­wife

has succeeded before the High Court, on account of the

status quo order passed by this Court, the respondent­wife is

deprived of staying in the said house, which is the shared

household as contemplated under Section 2(s) of the

Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

(hereinafter referred to as the “DV Act”). He submitted that

the appellant­husband is earning hundreds of crores per

year, whereas the respondent­wife and the daughter

Rudritara have to survive on a meagre amount of Rs. 12

lakhs per month.

15. Shri Divan further submitted that this Court had

directed an architect to be appointed by the Family Court to

10
find out a house similar to the one, wherein she was residing

with her husband. He submitted that the properties

suggested by the architect, by no stretch of imagination,

could be said to be houses, which are similar to the said

house. He submitted that on one hand, the respondent­wife

is compelled to stay with her aged mother, whereas on the

other hand, the appellant­husband is residing in the shared

household with a lady with whom he is engaged in an

adulterous relationship. He submitted that the appellant­

husband has been emboldened on account of the status quo

order passed by this Court and has entered into an

adulterous relationship with a lady and also fathered a child

in the said relationship. It is submitted that the appellant­

husband is making all efforts to move into the matrimonial

house with his mistress and as such, has abused the process

of the court and manipulated legal process in filing fabricated

petition.

16. Shri Divan therefore submitted that taking into

consideration the conduct of the appellant­husband, the

order of status quo granted by this Court needed to be

11
vacated. He submitted that in the alternative, since the

respondent­wife was compelled to reside with her husband,

the order dated 6th March 2020 needed to be clarified that

the respondent­wife and the minor daughter be permitted to

move to the said house and the appellant­husband be

directed to pay an amount of Rs.75.26 lakhs per annum for

the staff at the matrimonial home and maintenance as per

actuals along with arrears. He submitted that in the

alternative, it is necessary to clarify the order dated 6 th March

2020 and direct an amount of Rs.35.37 lakhs to be paid to

the respondent­wife by the appellant­husband, which was a

monthly rent of the matrimonial home along with the cost of

running and maintaining the premises as per actuals and

the arrears from 7th April 2016.

17. Dr. Singhvi, learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf

of the appellant­husband, on the contrary, submitted that

the present applications are an attempt to seek a review of

the order passed by this Court, which has been passed after

hearing the parties. He submitted that the appellant­

husband is willing to pay the rent for the premises, if the

12
suitable premises is chosen by the respondent­wife and she

shifted her residence to the said premises. However, the

present applications are an attempt to get much more

amount than to which the respondent wife has been found to

be entitled by an elaborate order passed by the Family Court

dated 30th July 2018. He submitted that the respondent­wife

herself is a rich lady having huge properties, having income

more than sufficient to sustain herself. He submitted that,

however, the respondent­wife is trying to take an undue

advantage of the fact that the appellant­husband is a rich

person. He submitted that the entire conduct of the

respondent­wife would show that she has been unreasonable

and adamant. He submitted that the order dated 30th

January 2020 passed by this Court, would itself clarify that

the respondent­wife had made a statement that she will

locate a rented premises of her choice, which shall be

equivalent to the said house. The appellant­husband had

also expressed his willingness to pay the rent for the said

premises. By another order dated 21st August 2018, this

Court had directed an architect to be appointed from the

13
panel of Architects, maintained by the Bombay High Court.

Accordingly, an architect was appointed by the Registrar of

the Family Court, who has identified as many as 17

properties. He submitted that it is impossible to find out a

property, which can be found to be identical with the said

house. He, however, submitted that the properties, which

have been identified by the architect, are similar in terms of

the facilities and luxuries, as are available in the said house.

18. Dr. Singhvi further submitted that though the

appellant­husband has offered an amount of Rs.100 crore as

a one­time settlement, the respondent­wife has refused the

said offer and has demanded an amount of Rs.600 crore.

19. Though the appellant and respondent have made

serious allegations against each other, we do not find it

necessary to go into those allegations. A perusal of the record

would reveal that the relations between the parties are

strained to such an extent that even the efforts made by this

Court to arrive at a settlement by personally discussing the

matter in Chambers with them, have failed. On two

occasions, this Court has appointed Mediators, who were

14
Advocates. However, the mediation proceedings could not

succeed. In such a situation, to compel the parties to live

together in one house, would not be in the interest of either

of the parties. With the history of such acrimony and filing

of criminal cases against each other, such an order, rather

than benefiting the parties, would be detrimental to their

interests.

20. The order passed by this Court dated 30 th January

2020, would reveal that this Court has attempted to balance

the equities. On the first occasion, the respondent­wife had

herself made a statement that she would identify a similar

property and the appellant­husband had made a statement

that he was willing to pay the rent of such a property

identified by the respondent­wife. On the second occasion,

this Court vide order dated 21st August 2018, directed an

architect to be appointed from the panel of Architects. In

accordance with the directions passed by this Court, an

architect was appointed and she has made an elaborate

exercise of identifying various properties. It will be relevant

to refer to the contents of the letter dated 3 rd February 2021,

15
addressed by the Architect to the Registrar of the Family

Court:­

“We are producing herewith Property Listings
similar to 82, Pali Hill, Bandra (West), Mumbai in
our best effort to provide suitable accommodation
to Mrs. Poonam Shroff as per her liking and will.

The shortlisted properties in Upscale locales
assuredly possess the potential to exhibit the
desired degree of luxe & comfort as expected by
Mrs. Poonam Shroff evident from the mail dated
07.10.2020 from Madhu Chaudhary
([email protected]) from Naik Naik &
Company representing Mrs. Poonam Shroff.”

21. It could thus be seen that in the Architect’s opinion, the

properties in the list are similar to the said house and that

they have made their best efforts to provide a suitable

accommodation to the respondent­wife as per her liking and

will. It has further been stated in the said communication

that the shortlisted properties in the upscale locales

assuredly possess the potential to exhibit the desired degree

of luxe and comfort as expected by the respondent­wife. The

list annexed to the communication of the Architect contains

as many as 17 properties in the upscale area of Bandra,

Juhu, Santacruz and Khar. Even if we leave aside properties

16
No. 4 and 12, which according to the respondent­wife are not

suitable for residential accommodation, there are still 15

properties available for rent. We do not like to go into the

details of all the properties. However, we will reproduce the

details of few properties with the remarks given by the

respondent­wife, to examine the correctness of the stand

taken by the respondent­wife:­

17
Sr. Name of Location Area Accommodation Rent Remarks Remarks on behalf of
Premise Type per Poonam Shroff
Month
in
Rupees

1. Independent Carter 12,000 Independent 25 Sea Smaller as compared to
Building Road, Sqft Building lakhs View 82, Pali Hill and hence
Bandra Ground + cannot be an alternate
(West) 6 (terrace) equivalent accommodation
in terms of the order dated
6th March, 2020 of the
Hon’ble Apex Court in
Civil Appeal No. 2634 of
2017

2. Bungalow Juhu Tara 6000 Sqft Bungalow 30 Sea Further details required
Road, Near + 7000 Lakhs Facing
Soho House Sqft
(Garden) +
4000 Sqft
(Terrace)

3. Vasant Kunj Santacruz 7500 Sqft Duplex­13th & 25 Fully Smaller as compared to
14th Floor Lakhs done up 82, Pali Hill and hence
with Sea cannot be alternate
View equivalent accommodation

18

9. Silver Sands Carter Road 4500 Sqft Penthouse­ 12 Includes Smaller as compared to
+ 1000 4BHK Lakhs terrace, 82, Pali Hill and hence
Sqft Sea cannot be an alternate
(terrace) Facing equivalent accommodation
in terms of the order dated
6th March, 2020 of the
Hon’ble Apex Court in
Civil Appeal No. 2634 of
2017

11. Raj Mahal Juhu 10000 Bungalow­4 25 Sea Smaller as compared to
Sqft BHK Lakhs Facing, 82, Pali Hill and hence
has cannot be an alternate
Garden equivalent accommodation
& in terms of the order dated
Terrace 6th March, 2020 of the
Hon’ble Apex Court in
Civil Appeal No. 2634 of
2017

19

22. The aforesaid chart would reveal that though the

property at Serial No. 1 is an independent bungalow at

Carter Road, Bandra, with a sea view, the remarks given by

the respondent­wife is that the same is smaller as compared

to the said house, and therefore, cannot be an alternate

equivalent accommodation in terms of the order of this Court

dated 6th March 2020. Insofar as the property at Serial No. 2

is concerned, the same is also a sea facing bungalow at Juhu

Tara Road. However, the remarks given by the respondent­

wife is that further details are required. The rent for these

two houses is Rs.25 lakhs and Rs.30 lakhs respectively. The

property at Serial No. 3 is a duplex on 13 th and 14th floor. It

is fully done up with a sea view. However, the remarks given

by the respondent­wife is that it is smaller as compared to

the said house and therefore, cannot be an alternate

equivalent accommodation. The property at Serial No. 9 is a

Pentahouse­4BHK with 1000 sq. ft. of terrace and also sea

facing. However, the remarks given by the respondent­wife is

that it is not similar to the one offered at Serial No. 1. The

property at Serial No. 11 is a 10,000 sq. ft. bungalow. It is

20
sea facing and has a garden and a terrace. The rent is Rs.25

lakhs. However, a similar remark is given by the respondent­

wife even in respect of this property also.

23. In our view, to stretch the word ‘similar’ as used in the

order dated 6th March 2020, to be totally identical to the said

house, would be unrealistic. It will be difficult to find out a

house identical to the said house having the same area, the

same facilities and the same luxuries. The word ‘similar’ has

to be construed as providing the same degree of luxury and

comfort as is available in the said house. We have no

hesitation in observing that the conduct of the respondent­

wife in firstly not choosing any house as per her choice and

secondly, in rejecting all the properties, which have been

identified by the Architect, only on the ground that they are

not similar and therefore, not in accordance with the order

dated 6th March 2020, to say the least is unreasonable.

24. As already discussed hereinabove, if we allow the prayer

and allow the respondent­wife to move into the said house, it

will rather than subserving the interest of the parties, would

be detrimental to their interests. The record and the

21
pendency of the criminal proceedings would show that the

relations between the parties are so strained that if they are

permitted to live in the said house, it would lead to nothing

else but further criminal proceedings.

25. Insofar as the alternate prayer with regard to payment

of Rs.35.37 lakhs per month is concerned, it will be

necessary to refer to the order of the Family Court dated 30 th

July 2018. The Family Court, by an elaborate order, after

recording the details about the income of the parties, had

directed an interim maintenance to be paid to the

respondent­wife at the rate of Rs. 7 lakhs per month and to

the minor at the rate of Rs. 5 lakhs per month. If the prayer

for payment of an amount is allowed, it will be giving an

additional amount to the respondent­wife. It will amount to

awarding an amount which is much more than the one to

which the respondent­wife was found entitled by the Family

Court. It may not be out of place to mention that the said

order has been passed on 30th July 2018 i.e. during the

pendency of the present appeal. We, therefore, find that the

alternate relief as prayed also cannot be granted.

22

26. Insofar as the vacation of status quo is concerned, the

order was passed after hearing the parties. Apart from the

fact that it may amount to review of the order, we do not find

that in the facts of the present case, the said order needs to

be vacated.

27. A perusal of the order passed by this Court dated 30 th

January 2020, would reveal that this Court intended to pass

the order directing the appellant­husband to pay the rent till

the disposal of the pending divorce petition. The divorce

petition has been pending before the Family Court for a

period of last 6 years. Taking into consideration the facts

and circumstances of the case, we are of the view that it will

be in the interest of both the parties that the divorce petition

pending before the Family Court is decided expeditiously so

that there can be at least some quietus to the acrimonious

litigation pending between the parties.

28. In the result, we do not find merit in both the

interlocutory applications and the same are rejected.

However, we clarify that in the event, the respondent­wife

decides to shift to any of the properties mentioned in the list

23
annexed with the report of the Architect dated 3rd February

2021 or she locates any of the rented premises as per her

choice, the appellant­husband shall pay the rent of the said

premises from the date on which such premises are taken on

rent. However, taking into consideration that the highest

rent of the properties identified by the Architect is Rs. 30

lakhs per month, the appellant­husband would be liable to

pay rent to the maximum of Rs. 30 lakhs per month.

29. In the facts and circumstances, the Family Court is

directed to expedite the proceedings of the Petition No. A­

2742 of 2015 and decide it as expeditiously as possible. No

order as to costs.

……….……………………..J.

[L. NAGESWARA RAO]

…………………….J.

[B.R. GAVAI]

NEW DELHI;

DECEMBER 03, 2021.

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