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Marriage in hell? Try mediator

- Conciliation centres in court successful in reuniting couples

New Delhi, June 12: The wife, 28, was determined to see her husband behind bars. For her, there was no question of reconciliation as she felt their marriage had broken down irretrievably.

The young Calcutta couple had married just two years ago and flown to the US where both drew five-figure salaries. She, an MBA, was a management consultant and he an IT professional.

Things soured last year, with fights almost every day on almost every issue, prompting the wife to return to her parents in Calcutta. She was planning to file criminal cases and a divorce suit against the husband, who too had returned within two months to his parents in Calcutta.

But the wife’s mother approached the Supreme Court mediation centre and the couple, after much persuasion, agreed to attend the sessions at least to make the family elders happy.

No solution appeared in sight after the first half-a-dozen sessions but by the eighth, it had become clear there was no real dispute apart from ego clashes.

The mediator talked to the couple individually and jointly. The differences gradually narrowed down. The parents were advised to send them on a fortnight’s holiday to Kerala and other places.

Now the wife is on her way to motherhood, having conceived three months ago. The husband dotes on her, not allowing her to even carry a bucket of water for the plants, lest it hurt her or the child she is carrying.

The couple’s names are being withheld because of legal reasons but their case is typical of the increasing successes that senior lawyer Ravi Prakash says court-appointed mediation centres have been achieving.

The practice has caught up in the past two years. For instance, about 4,000 cases have so far been referred to the Delhi High Court’s mediation centre, Samadhan, and the success rate is about 40 per cent, said Nivedita, a lawyer associated with mediation.

23-year fight

Sometimes, mediation can help even after decades of bitterness, as a former Punjab farmer and his wife showed.

When the husband obtained an ex-parte divorce in 1990 and the wife appealed against the decree in high court, their daughter was one year old. The duo lodged several criminal cases of torture and abuse against each other. All remained pending, and the matter reached the Supreme Court.

This year, after 12 sittings with the apex court-appointed mediation centre, the couple were back together.

The mediator had convinced them that the various cases, counter-cases and divorce dispute could drag on for over a decade. Their only daughter had turned 24 and was due for marriage, so the solution would be to reunite.

“In this case too, there were no serious differences. The so-called disputes revolved around simple ego hassles and domestic disputes, tantrums and unwarranted arguments,” said Asha Nair, a mediator with the Supreme Court.

She said that in every session, mediators explain the expenditure, trauma and possible futility of long-drawn litigation.

An activist said the apex court mediation centre received an average of three matrimonial dispute cases every day. After going through the files, the judges mostly refer the cases to the centre. Only if the parties stay adamant after mediation does the court deal with the matter on merit.

There can be gains even when the couple refuse to reunite. Samadhan mediators had held 25 sessions over six months with a couple who had targeted each other with dowry, unnatural sex and domestic violence cases. They eventually agreed to withdraw the cases and seek divorce amicably by mutual consent.

In another case, where the estranged couple lived abroad separately, their fathers and lawyers had appeared before the mediators.

The parties had filed some 24 cases against each other in the Noida district court, Allahabad High Court, Tiz Hazari court and the Supreme Court under the Dowry Prohibition Act, Hindu Marriage Act, Domestic Violence Act and other penal sections.

There were civil suits, damages suits, criminal cases, contempt cases, and petitions for quashing of non-bailable warrants and release of passports. Eventually, the couple agreed to divorce by mutual consent.