OCTOGENARIAN J. M. Kohli correctly anticipates the most obvious question related to his unique case – why divorce at 80?
“We never thought of ourselves as each other’s spouse We have been fighting from the beginning – she for money, I for separation,” he said. From his marriage on June 20, 1953, till the Delhi High Court’s final nod to his divorce from Kanta on January 13 this year, Kohli remembers having fought seven different court cases, three of which are still on in various courts, in the feud.
Kohli first filed for divorce in 1982, and a trial court granted it, but Kanta filed a petition against the ruling in the high court, claiming she had not been heard. Kohli regrets that the best years of his life – the nearly 30 years since he filed for divorce – were spent in rushing from one court to another, hearing to hearing.
And a lot has happened in between – an alleged attempt on his life, a brain haemorrhage, being abandoned by his family, untimely transfers to remote areas, unsubstantiated charges of corruption, obstacles to promotion and pension, lost parenthood and a missing marital life. What does a couple willing to part ways and start life afresh do when asked by the court to wait till it delivers its judgment?
“A trial court takes four to five years to decide such matters, the high court, on the other hand, takes 10- 15 years, by when all plans to begin marital life anew fails. It is during this stressful time when a person feels the need for love and companionship of this necessity then,” Kohli’s counsel Geeta Luthra said.
Kanta’s counsel Rajat Navet also agreed that the case shouldn’t have dragged on for so long. ” We were just fighting the case to absolve my client of charges of cruelty to her husband. There was no other motive,” he said. Kanta chose not to comment. Kohli said the years he spent in abandonment – when his first wife allegedly threw him out of the house he had built – were the most stressful.
His frail frame quivering with anger, Kohli alleges that his wife took his money and the jewellery he had inherited and later accused him of demanding a dowry which she couldn’t prove, besides the charge of his alleged corruption.
“Kanta’s brother was a senior bureaucrat and made my life miserable. He kept me moving to remote areas like the Andaman and Nicobar Islands,” Kohli said. But Kohli’s connection with courts, it seems, is here to stay. ” I have to go to a court in Saket on the 20th, the next day I’ll be at the Delhi High Court for another case and on February 18, I have to be at the Tis Hazari courts,” he said.