Delhi Court grants divorce to Shikhar Dhawan on grounds of mental cruelty by wife; Grants visitation rights for minor son

The wife’s intentional decision to leave the mater uncontested shows her desire that court should pass decree of divorce even at the cost of holding her guilty of matrimonial offence as she knows that no harm could be caused to her even if she is held to have treated the husband with cruelty because she has already obtained sufficient favourable orders from the Federal Circuit and Family Court in Australia.

Patiala House Courts

Patiala House Courts: In a petition filed under Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 by Shikhar Dhawan, a widely acclaimed International Cricket player from India seeking a divorce from his wife on grounds of mental cruelty, Harish Kumar, J., granted divorce from his wife accepting the cricketer’s plea on various allegations, further granting visitation rights to meet his son but without delving into any opinion regarding the permanent custody of the son.


The petitioner (husband) is an international sportsperson and has been playing for the Indian Cricket Team for the last 10 years and for the Indian Premier League for the last 15 years. He met respondent in the year 2011 when she was still married. The respondent (wife) was then an amateur boxer and a personal trainer. The wife portrayed herself as a person who was in a dead marriage, living in misery, and having to look after two minor daughters. The wife said that she had been sexually abused as a child. The husband started feeling empathy at the plight of the wife, and, over time, got emotionally attached to her. The parties decided to marry after the wife took divorce from her first husband and shortly after the wife was granted divorce, the petitioner and the respondent got married on 30-10-2012.

The marriage between the parties was solemnized according to Sikh rites on 30-10-2012 at Gurudwara, Nelson Mandela Marg, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, and one son was born out of wedlock on 26-12-2013 at Melbourne, Australia namely Zoraver Dhawan, a minor, an Australian citizen and a Hindu. The wife, an Australian citizen, Aesha Dhawan was previously married and have two daughters from her previous marriage, however, the marriage has been terminated and divorce granted on the ground that her marriage had broken down irretrievably.


Though the wife had assured him that due to his career requiring him to live in India, the matrimonial home would be in India, however, later confessed that due to her supposed commitment to her previous husband not to reside outside Australia with her minor daughters, she would be residing there, sans any proof of any such commitment despite the husband’s repeated requests depriving the minor son of the love and affection of not only the husband but also of his paternal grandparents, aunts and cousins. Shortly after the marriage, the wife threatened to fabricate defamatory and false material against the husband and circulate the same to destroy the reputation and cricketing career of the husband if he did not comply with her demands for money.

The husband bought three immovable properties in Australia from his own funds but was compelled by the wife to make her the 99% owner in one property and joint owner in two properties. The wife had taken a chunk of net sale proceeds of one property, the entire net sale proceeds of the second property and was demanding that the title of the third property be transferred to her. Despite the wife being skilled and qualified, the husband was compelled to pay substantial monies to the wife per month towards maintenance etc. averaging AU $ 17,000 per month as also to provide for the two daughters of the wife from her previous marriage without disclosing where the funds are flowing. The husband was compelled to pay not only all the living costs of the wife and the three children, one daughter being major, for their holidays with business class travel and stay in five-star hotels as well.

To pressurize the husband to give her more money and to transfer in her favour the title of the property where she was residing, the wife sent defamatory and false messages to the husband’s banker, Mr. Rajeev Duggal and sent screenshots of these texts to the Indian national team coach, Mr. B Arun, who was on tour to Australia with the husband, and Dhiraj Malhotra, CEO of Delhi Capitals, causing the husband extreme humiliation and embarrassment. Threatened into submission, the husband sought to settle the matter vide divorce by mutual consent eventually on her terms. There had been proceedings in Australia between the parties, which had been malafidely used by the wife not only to unjustly enrich herself and mischievously secure the release in her favour of the payment of AU $2,636,500 from the husband and the transfer of title to her of the property where she has been residing, without divorce having been granted.

The husband purchased a property in Clyde North, Australia between AU $ 850,000- $900,000 from his earnings and savings and a loan from ANZ Bank. She compelled him to put this property in their joint names under the threat of fabricating and circulating defamatory and false material against the husband and later on the property being sold for a sum of AU $ 935,000, the wife retained AU $ 82,000 from the sale proceeds. In 2017, the husband purchased vacant land located at Berwick, Australia for AU $2,470,000 from his earnings and savings and took a loan from ANZ Bank for which the parties were joint borrowers. Although the husband solely contributed all funds towards the property, the mortgage and expenses, he was compelled to purchase this property in the wife’s name as 99% owner under her threat of fabricating and circulating defamatory and false material against the husband as aforesaid.

Given that the international reputation and stature as also the cricketing career of the husband was at stake due to such defamatory and false whatsapp messages published and circulated by the wife, the husband sought to settle the matter with the wife by taking divorce.

Analysis, Finding and Conclusion

On the wife repeatedly questioning the jurisdiction, the Court noted that it has jurisdiction to try the present petition in accordance with Section 19 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. On the issue of “Forum conveniens”, the Court said that it is not required to be gone into as such question essentially requires to be adjudicated upon by Higher Court and as in the present case since marriage of the parties were performed within the territorial jurisdiction of this court, this court undisputedly has jurisdiction to try and adjudicate the present petition.

The Court further noted that even though the wife denied the allegation of the husband submitting that she genuinely wanted to live in India with the husband, due to her commitment towards her daughters from her previous marriage requiring her to stay in Australia, she could not come to live in India and that husband was well aware of her commitment, yet she did not choose to contest the claim of the husband and cross-examine him to belie/disprove what husband pleaded and deposed. Thus, unchallenged testimony proved that the wife defied her commitments making the husband suffer a long-distance marriage and suffer immense agony and anguish of living separately from his own son for years.

The Court stated that “She did not deny that she compelled him to send money for her daughter or that he was eventually forced to increase the payments, nor did she plead that husband was under obligation to bear the maintenance expense of her daughters as well. The husband’s testimony to this effect remains unquestioned and therefore his allegation has got to be believed as true.”

The Court concluded that as the wife left the contest midway and thus neither conducted cross-examination of the husband qua his testimony nor did lead any evidence to prove her stand regarding any allegation, thus, husband has successfully proved all the allegation against the wife. Thus, the Court passed the decree of divorce on the ground enumerated in Section 13(1)(ia) of the HMA thereby dissolving marriage between parties herein, performed on 30-12-2012 according to Sikh rites on 30-10-2012.

[Shikhar Dhawan v Aesha Dhawan, 2023 SCC OnLine Dis Crt (Del) 24, decided on 04-10-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Dr. Aman Hingorani on behalf of Shikhar Dhawan

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