Leander Paes claimed in one of his petitions, that he first met Rhea, an instructor in the Art of Living Foundation, in November 2003 on a flight to Goa, “where the respondent (Rhea) invited the petitioner (Paes) to make a guest appearance at an Art of Living show in Mumbai.” Paes says he accepted the invitation and “made a guest appearance at the show following which gradually, with the constant interaction between them, and only after being informed that the respondent was separated from her then-husband Sanjay Dutt, their relationship became more intimate.”
In one of his petitions, the 14-time Grand Slam winner and Olympic medalist, Leander Paes states that he and partner Rhea Pillai (48) “are not married since she did not believe in the institution of marriage.” The tennis star further claimed that Rhea insisted that she wanted to have a child with him, and “was so stubborn in this demand that she even had the audacity of once telling the petitioner’s father at a luncheon that she wanted a child from his son outside wedlock.” (sic)
Alleging that his personal relationship with Pillai began to deteriorate soon after the birth of the child, Paes said she “completely withdrew herself from their relationship and sexual intimacy with him citing post-natal depression.” It was only later that he realised that Rhea was “deliberately trying to distance herself from him because she was engaging herself in other relationships and pursuing her fantasties."
Days after tennis ace Leander Paes filed a petition in the family court seeking custody of his and his long-term partner Rhea Pillai’s daughter, Aiyana, Pillai filed a complaint with the Bandra police alleging that Paes had locked her out of her own house. Pillai and Aiyana had left their house at The Jacker’s building, Carter Road, for a party in Juhu and when Pillai came back, five men blocked her way, screamed at her and did not allow her to enter her house. She alleged that Paes had done this to lock her out of the house. Pillai later told mid-day that she was glad her daughter wasn’t with her and that she had left her at Rani Mukherjee’s house.
Rhea Pillai then file a domestic violence case against Leander Paes and his family. The model turned Art of Living teacher told mid-day, “I am being abused, accused and threatened as a result of which I feel unsafe and insecure in my house. I am most definitely filing a domestic violence case.” However, she refuses to discuss details about when Leander had abused her physically. “I will share that with my lawyer,” she says. Rhea had demanded Rs 4 lakh per month as maintenance from Paes.
Leander Paes then received some much needed support from his former doubles partner, Mahesh Bhupathi, with whom he had a bitter falling out, has come out and spoken in favour of Paes, claiming he could “never get abusive or violent.”
Leander Paes then went on to denied allegations made by his partner Rhea Pillai, and said, "I categorically deny all the allegations and lies made against me by Rhea Pillai. My lawyers and I have documentary proof to support every single claim in the guardianship petition I have filed. I hope justice will prevail in the interest of my daughter and would leave the process of investigation to the Courts of India. "
In September 2014, Leander said that his game was being affected due to the personal turmoil he was facing. He said, “Also, if I can get the personal front looked after and ensure that Aiyana’s life is safe and secured, then I can actually have peace of mind to chase Grand Slam titles. But, right now it’s been a very hard year for me.”
In October 2014, Leander Paes claimed that Rhea Pillai’s cricketer friend threatened him and that he feared for his daughter’s safety. Paes filed an FIR against cricketer Atul Sharma accusing him of giving Paes and his daughter Death threats in a family court in suburban Bandra. Atul Sharma later got anticipatory bail in the matter.
In March 2015, Leander’s petition contending that since he and his partner Rhea Pillai were not married, she could not be a party to the custody petition on their daughter Aiyana. Paes’ other contention was that since there was no marriage, the Bandra court did not have jurisdiction to hear their case against him alleging domestic abuse and that the court did not have jurisdiction. The judge dismissed Paes’ plea saying that since he and Rhea are the child’s parents, there is no need for them to be legally married, for Rhea to be a party to the petition.
In June 2016, Leander Paes and Rhea Pillai were finally persuaded to try and reach an amicable solution behind closed doors – through mediation. 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. To which Leander said, “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.”
After the mediation, Leander Paes, through his lawyer gave Rhea Pillai a proposal for settlement which they rejected, saying it was ‘unacceptable’. Meanwhile, Pillai’s counsel also handed a proposal to the tennis star’s counsel, which the lawyer said he would show Paes and revert by August 22, 2016. Pillai had moved HC as she was aggrieved over the Sessions Court’s decision in the case she had filed against him under sections of the Domestic Violence Act.
In November 2016, Rhea Pillai approached the HC against an order of the session court in a domestic violence case filed by her against tennis player Leander Paes and his father. The HC admitted her revision petition against Paes who had contended that since they were not legally married, she could not demand the custody of their daughter. Pillai’s counsels Dipesh Mehta and Rumi Mirza, told justice AM Badar that Paes had several times accepted in documents that Rhea was his wife.
In May 2017, The two judges hearing the matter recused themselves as both Paes and Pillai failed to arrive at an amicable settlement, the bench observed, "Problem is that we can't force a settlement." The bench decided to recuse from hearing the matter as Justice Mishra observed, "Since we have heard the matter in the chamber. We know so many things, it may influence." During the hearing, counsel for Pillai told the court that Paes had backing out of his earlier promise pay maintenance and has not done anything for providing her with a residence.
In the latest development, Rhea Pillai filed a rejoinder at the Bandra Magistrate Court, which is hearing the domestic violence case the ex-model had filed in February 2014. After three years of delay, in July, the Supreme Court directed the Mumbai court to decide the matter in six months. Following this, Paes finally filed his first reply to the domestic violence case on Aug 11. It was in response to this that Rhea's rejoinder was filed by her lawyer. Rhea contended that Paes neglected their daughter and had not paid towards her care and education. Pillai had demanded Rs 52.37 lakh, and monthly payments of Rs 2.62 lakh, which she alleged that Paes started paying only a few months before the custody hearing.
As of today, Rhea Pillai’s lawyer claims he left out a 'zero' in her court petition for compensation for domestic violence, bringing her demand down from Rs 1 crore to Rs 10 lakh. Pillai's lawyers brought up the matter of the missing zero yesterday, when her domestic violence case against Paes was up for hearing at the Bandra Magistrate Court. Pillai was seeking Rs 1 crore in damages for the alleged domestic violence, but because of their mistake, the amount stated in the interim application is merely Rs 10 lakh.
Leander Paes with his daughter Aiyana in happier times
Rhea Pillai recorded her statement before the Bandra Magistrate Court in a domestic violence (DV) petition filed against her estranged partner, tennis player Leander Paes. In an earlier statement, she told the court that she had married Paes not once, but twice, in 2005 and then again in 2008. For which she was being cross-examined