After years of slinging mud at each other in public, former lovers Leander Paes and Rhea Pillai were finally persuaded to try and reach an amicable solution behind closed doors. It was thanks to high court judge, who tactfully reminded the estranged couple about the effect a long-drawn, public battle would have on their 10-year-old daughter.

Rhea Pillai and Leander Paes (below) outside the Bombay High Court yesterday. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Rhea Pillai and Leander Paes (left) outside the Bombay High Court yesterday. Pic/Bipin Kokate

The judge was hearing an appeal from Rhea over the domestic violence case she had filed against Leander. Rhea had filed the domestic violence case in 2013, after Leander filed for custody of their daughter, Aiyana. Rhea had demanded Rs 4 lakh per month as maintenance from Paes. The matter has been in litigation since then (see Recap).

Senior counsel MV Marwari and Kaushal Thakkar, who appeared for Rhea, told Justice Revati Mohiti-Dere, “We demand maintenance and jurisdiction. Don’t dismiss us from the house.”

“There is no violence of any type -- mental, physical or emotional -- as claimed by Rhea,” countered Leander’s senior counsel, Abad Ponda.

Leander made a statement to the judge through his lawyer: “We were in a live-in-relationship. I have never asked Rhea to leave home — I left home for her. We have tried to settle the matter amicably, but her demands have been increasing, so we could not reach any conclusion. I am in the twilight of my career; the Olympics are nearing. I would like to resolve the matter.”

Judge intervenes
“See, there is a girl child involved — a ten-year-old. What will happen to her if you keep fighting legal battles? Blaming each other will not solve anybody’s interest. You know how long litigations take to reach the logical conclusion in the court of law. Have you tried an expert mediator?” asked Justice Mohiti-Dere.

Rhea’s counsel said they had not tried mediation so far, and the judge then asked both sides if they were ready to try it now. Both parties agreed. The judge also asked them to suggest names of independent expert mediators, but when no names came up, the judge asked if they would be okay with her as the mediator. As Leander had to fly out for the Olympics, both sides agreed.

Rhea was not present in the courtroom, but was asked to appear in the judge’s chambers at the Bombay High Court at 4.30 that evening, along with Leander. No lawyers were present as the judge mediated between the two of them behind closed doors. The tennis champ and socialite were asked to return for a second session on June 20.