Spouse’s demand for privacy is not cruelty and not a ground for divorce

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench comprising of S. Ravindra Bhat and Deepa Sharma, JJ. held that demand for privacy by the spouse is not cruelty and also reiterated that High Court lacks the jurisdiction to dissolve a marriage on the doctrine of “irretrievable breakdown” under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act. The Court held that “Privacy is a fundamental human right. So when a woman enters into matrimony, it is the duty of the family members of her matrimonial home to provide her with some privacy.”

In the present case, an appeal was filled by the appellant husband whose petition for dissolution of marriage under Section 13(1)(ia) was dismissed by the Family Court of Rohini, Delhi. The petition was filed on the ground of cruelty alleging that the respondent wife was pressurising him to set up a separate home as she did not want to live in a joint family which the respondent husband couldn’t afford since he worked as a labourer. Other allegations were that she was not dispensing her duties as a wife, demanded a separate household for herself, abused him verbally and physically and even abandoned him for no reason.

The wife by disapproving all these allegations stated that it was the husband who had been cruel towards her and not her. She alleged that her husband had demanded for a dowry of Rs.1 lakh to buy a motorbike and as her family couldn’t afford it, she was ousted from her matrimonial home and was never allowed to return. She also mentioned that the husband had taken up a separate accommodation from his family members after marriage where he resided with her and their child for two-three days and then abandoned them and never returned.

The Court rejected the petition of the appellant husband and said that Section 23(1)(a) of the Act makes it abundantly clear that a decree can be granted when the Court is satisfied that the petitioner is in no way taking advantage of his wrong. Such is not the case here, as it is the appellant who abandoned the company of his wife. The Court stated that the evidence clearly disproves the appellant’s contention that the respondent left her matrimonial home and never returned. The Court reaffirmed the findings of the Family Court that the respondent had no intention to desert her husband and there was no evidential backing to support that the appellant or his family members had provided requisite privacy to the respondent thus, holding that privacy demand was not unreasonable and as such did not constitute cruelty. Further, the allegation that the behaviour of the respondent caused mental cruelty was also disapproved.

It is pertinent to note that the counsel for appellant asserted that there is no life in the marriage bond and that it should be dissolved for this reason. Counsel relied on K. Srinivas Rao v. D.A. Deepa, (2013) 5 SCC 226  in which it was held that “A marriage which is dead for all purposes cannot be revived by the court’s verdict, if the parties are not willing.”

The Court relied on Vishnu Dutt Sharma v. Manju Sharma, (2009) 6 SCC 379 to hold that irretrievable breakdown of marriage is not a ground for divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act and on  Anil Kumar Jain v. Maya Jain, (2009) 10 SCC 415 to hold that the doctrine of irretrievable break-down of marriage is not available to the High Courts, lacking powers similar to those exercised by the Supreme Court under Article 142 of the Constitution.

The Court based on its reasoning finally held that the Family Court was correct in holding that such demand of separate room was not unreasonable and as such did not constitute cruelty and also dismissed the husband’s petition. [Mini Appa Kanda Swami v. M. Indra, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 5312, decided on September 21, 2016]

 

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