The Supreme Court on Friday rejected the pleas of socialite Poonam Jaidev Shroff, engaged in a bitter matrimonial dispute with her industrialist husband Jaidev Shroff, that she be either permitted to live with her estranged husband in their posh matrimonial home in Mumbai or be paid Rs 35.37 Lakhs per month for staying out on rent.
The top court, which earlier asked Poonam to select a house of her choice on rent in Mumbai, had later directed the Registrar of the Family Court at Bandra in Mumbai to engage an architect from the panel of architects maintained by the Bombay High Court for finding out an appropriate accommodation for her after her industrialist husband agreed to pay a rent of Rs 30 lakh per month over and above Rs 12 lakh interim maintenance.
In order, a bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai took strong note of the rejection of properties searched by the court-appointed architect for her and their daughter and termed the approach as “unreasonable”.
“In our view, to stretch the word ‘similar’ as used in the order dated March 6, 2020, to be totally identical to the said house would be unrealistic. It will be difficult to find 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…, to say the least, is unreasonable,” Justice Gavai said in the order.
It rejected the plea of Poonam Jaidev Shroff that she and her minor daughter be allowed to forthwith move into 82, Pali Hill residence of her estranged husband.
“As already discussed…, if we allow the prayer and allow the respondent-wife to move into the said house, rather than subserving the interest of the parties, would be detrimental to their interests. The record and the 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,” the order said.
Dealing with the alternate prayer with regard to payment of Rs 35.37 lakhs per month as rent, it referred to an order in 2018 of the family court.
The family court, by an elaborate order, after recording the details about the income of the parties, had directed interim maintenance to be paid to the wife at the rate of Rs 7 lakhs per month and to the minor at the rate of Rs. 5 lakhs per month, it said.
“If the prayer for payment of an amount is allowed, it will be giving an additional amount to the respondent-wife. It will amount to awarding an amount which is much more than the one to which the respondent wife was found entitled by the Family Court…We, therefore, find that the alternate relief as prayed also cannot be granted,” it said.
The top court, however, directed the Family Court to expedite the proceedings of the divorce petition which is pending since 2015, and decide it as expeditiously as possible.
“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 respondent-wife decides to shift to any of the properties mentioned in the list annexed with the report of the Architect dated 3rd February 2021 or she locates any of the rented premises as per her choice, the appellant-husband 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 appellant-husband would be liable to pay rent to the maximum of Rs. 30 lakhs per month,” the order said.
Earlier on March 6 last year, the top court had directed the Bombay High Court registry to find a suitable house in Mumbai for socialite Poonam Jaidev Shroff.
Prior to this, the court had asked the woman to search for a house of her “choice” in Mumbai’s Bandra-Pali Hill area.
She had said that instead of being asked to look for a house, she would be given monthly rent of Rs 30 lakh by her estranged husband.
Senior advocate AM Singhvi, representing the husband, had said that his client was willing to pay the rent and would not like to pay cash in lieu of the rent.
Mr Singhvi had said that Mr Shroff, the husband, had lodged an FIR against his wife for allegedly trying to administer drugs through orange juice with the help of a ‘Bengali Baba’ and even the charge sheet has been filed in that case.
The other side vehemently denied the allegations.
Mr Singhvi had said he had offered Rs 90 crore towards the full and final settlement of the divorce dispute, but it was not agreed upon.