Nagpur: Setting a new precedent, a family court here granted divorce to a couple after recording the wife’s consent via a WhatsApp video call. She had expressed her inability to attend the hearing as she was studying in Michigan, United States of America, on a student visa, and wasn’t permitted to seek long leave.
Even the husband, a resident of Khamla, works at the same place, but was in the city when the divorce was officially granted on mutual consent. The case was listed before judge Swati Chauhan, who, after seeking consent from both sides, allowed separation on the condition that the husband would pay permanent alimony of Rs10 lakh to the wife.
It was on her directives that the family court counsellor conducted the wife’s counselling via WhatsApp video call The couple had an arranged marriage on August 11, 2013, at Secunderabad, as the wife is from Telangana. Both engineers secured jobs in a US-based automobile giant. Differences cropped up after the wife stayed with the in-laws in the city for some time after her visa expired. She then went back to Michigan for her studies.
In the meanwhile, the husband filed a divorce case with Nagpur Family Court through advocate Sameer Sonawane on January 31 last year. The wife, who was in the US, engaged advocate Smita Sarode Singalkar to plead her case. The lawyer sent her vakalatnama to her via registered post after the wife contacted her on WhatsApp call.
After the court referred their case to the counsellor as per practice, no hearing took place for some time, as both parties were outside the country. The lawyers from both sides then took the lead and arranged a meeting at Singalkar’s home to settle the dispute outside the court. Incidentally, the meeting was attended by the husband and wife was contacted on WhatsApp video call. The wife had also sent her brother to represent her.
It took a couple of meetings to arrive at a consensus, as both sides weren’t able to settle on the alimony to be given by the husband to the wife towards permanent settlement.
After both agreed to the amount, the lawyers contacted the counsellor, who in turn arranged another meeting with both parties. While husband attended the meeting, wife had granted power of attorney to her brother, to plead her case. The counsellor interviewed the wife on the terms of settlement via WhatsApp video calls and also consulted the husband. Subsequently, an affidavit was drafted with the terms of reference as consented to by both sides in the counsellor’s presence.
The affidavit was sent to the wife through registered post for her signature. The counsellor again got her confirmation via video call on whether she had herself signed it. The lawyers had informed the court that both parties were already living separately in the US for over a year. After the counsellor submitted a report to judge Chauhan, she took consent from the husband and wife’s brother, and turned the divorce case into mutual consent petition before dissolving their marriage.