Utt HC | ‘Cruelty can never be defined with exactitude and mental cruelty cannot be established by direct evidence’ Divorce granted as husband’s narration proved mental cruelty against him

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Alok Singh and Narayan Singh Dhanik, JJ. contemplated an appeal filed against the judgment passed by Additional Judge, Family Court, where the suit filed by the petitioner under Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 was dismissed.

The background of the appeal was that the appellant-husband was married to the respondent-wife since 2009 and they had a child born out of wedlock. The appellant filed a divorce petition under Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, it was pleaded that soon after the marriage, relations between the parties to matrimony soured and he was treated with cruelty by the respondent. It was contended by the appellant that the respondent created nuisance at his place of work and was always quarreling, it was further alleged that she misbehaved with the in-laws and caused mental harassment to them. The appellant informed the Court that the respondent tried to commit suicide and implicated the appellant and his parents for abetting the commission of such suicide. Respondent also threatened to implicate them in the false case of torture for dowry. After such behavior of the respondent, the father of the appellant filed an FIR against the respondent. It was further alleged that the respondent left the matrimonial house and started living separately in her parental house. Ultimately the appellant and the respondent entered into a compromise and the appellant withdrew the divorce suit, but things didn’t turn out well and appellant had to file the divorce suit again on the basis of cruelty.

The respondent – wife admitted that she left the appellant’s house several times and since 2013, she was living with her parents. However, she alleged that she did on account of the misbehavior and torture by the appellant and his parents. It was further contended that the appellant wanted to use her for immoral purposes. But she refused to give him a divorce.

The Court below dismissed the suit of divorce filed by the appellant, after examining the evidences and pleadings of the parties. The suit was dismissed as reasons stated for instituting the suit and the acts alleged by the plaintiff against his wife do not come under the category of cruelty.

Counsel for the appellant contended that the Court below erred in holding that the reasons stated for instituting the suit for divorce do not come under the category of cruelty. It was also contended that it was not even pointed out as to how the evidence adduced by the appellant was in any way deficient to prove cruelty. It was further contended that on the basis of the averments made by the appellant and the evidence adduced in support thereof, the mental cruelty was clearly established and in any case the marriage has been broken down irretrievably. It was also contended that divorce in the present case should not be withheld as the parties are living separately since long which proves that their marriage has become unworkable.

Counsel for the respondent contended that general and vague allegations of misbehavior were made which were not sufficient to prove the allegation of cruelty on the part of the respondent and the Court below had rightly rejected the suit of the appellant – plaintiff.

Hence, the Court stated that reasons given by the Family Court for dismissing the suit for dissolution of marriage were not sustainable and the finding of the Court below that there was no cruelty on the part of the respondent was perverse. The Court scrutinized the evidences and observed that the pattern of misbehavior of the respondent was continuous, the duo was living separately since a very long time and an FIR was also registered against the respondent for threatening to commit suicide. Further, the Court relied upon, A. Jayachandra v. Aneel Kaur, (2005) 2 SCC 22 where the Supreme Court had expressed that “cruelty’ has been used in relation to human conduct or human behavior. It is the conduct in relation to or in respect of matrimonial duties and obligations. Cruelty is a course or conduct of one, which is adversely affecting the other. The cruelty may be mental or physical, intentional or unintentional

Court, held that the appellant had narrated a detailed story of the incidents of alleged cruelty, and hence ‘any reasonable man would find his life unbearable with his/her spouse. Cruelty can be both physical and mental. Since we are dealing with human beings and human emotions, cruelty or even ‘legal cruelty’ cannot be precisely defined.’ Thus, the judgment passed by the Family court was reversed and divorce was granted as the Court had observed that the marriage had broken irretrievably and there was no return.[Indresh Gopal Kohli v. Anita, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 953, decided on 20-09-2019]

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