Withdrawal of consent from a settlement for divorce, without any cogent cause, amounts to cruelty

Delhi High Court: While upholding the impugned judgment of the Family Court granting divorce to the parties, the Division Bench of Pradeep Nandrajog, Yogesh Khanna, JJ. found that the unilateral withdrawal of consent by the appellant from a settlement deed for divorce by mutual consent, without any sufficient cause, amounted to mental cruelty.

The respondent wife had filed a petition for divorce under Section 13(1)(ia) of Hindu Marriage Act alleging that the appellant demanded dowry from her, took away her money and belongings, and casted aspersions on her character. On the other hand, the appellant denied the allegations of cruelty and rather alleged that the respondent was getting rid of him by filing divorce since he is a heart patient. Later, the appellant gave an apology letter to the Assistant Commissioner of Police, admitting his wife’s allegations and seeking reconciliation. However, he contended that the letter was written merely to satisfy false ego of his wife. The appellant had also entered into a settlement with the respondent agreeing to divorce on mutual consent on satisfaction of certain conditions. However, before the Family Court, the appellant withdrew his consent from the settlement deed.

The Court noted that no prudent man would write such an apology, as written by the appellant, for the acts he never committed, and found his contention that such writing was merely to satisfy the ego of his wife, to be frivolous. The Court also noted that though the appellant asserted his right to withdraw his consent at any time prior to the divorce being granted by mutual consent, but when there was no allegation that he signed the Settlement due to force, fraud or under influence and also when the respondent had acted upon the Settlement by forsaking her claim to custody of their son and of her permanent alimony, then the withdrawal of consent would have a different connotation as it adds to the cruelty meted to her. The Court thus concluded that the totality of the evidence established the mental cruelty upon the Respondent by the Appellant, and there was no infirmity in the impugned judgment passed by the Family Court. The appeal was accordingly dismissed. [Rajiv Chhikara v. Sandhya Mathur, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 6224, decided on 08.12.2016]

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