Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Bench of Jyoti Singh and G.S. Sistani, JJ. allowed an appeal filed by the husband against the decision of the family court whereby it had granted a decree of judicial separation under Section 10 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 instead of a decree of divorce as prayed for by the husband in a divorce petition filed under Section 13(1)(i-a) and (iii).

The husband had alleged various incidents of cruelty against the wife. But the same were held to be omnibus allegations by the trial court. However, the trial court was of the view that a case for granting a decree of judicial separation was established and therefore it passed the impugned order. The High Court upheld most of the findings of the trial court. However, it was held that the allegation in relation to the criminal case filed by the wife against the husband amounted to matrimonial cruelty. The husband was working in the Indian Air Force when the criminal case under various sections IPC including Section 498-A was filed. He had to undergo imprisonment for 111 days. However, the wife did not appear in the trial and the husband was ultimately acquitted. It was noted that the case was filed on the advice and under pressure of her brother. However, due to the imprisonment, the husband was not granted extension in his employment with the Indian Air Force which jeopardized his career and he suffered a great loss of reputation.

Apart from that. the parties were living separately for 15 years. There was no scope of reconciliation. The gap between them could not be bridged. It was observed: “the marriage has irretrievably broken down. While this may not be a ground for divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 but in cases where the marriage is seen to be beyond repair, the courts have taken this as an important circumstance amongst other grounds including cruelty to severe the material tie. Marriage is an institution which is based on love, faith and trust and sentiments and emotions for each other. But if the parties have lost these virtues for each other, an artificial reunion is of no consequence.” It was noted that although the wife suffered remorse and regret her follies, she seemed to be undecided on what she wants in life. Even though she might want to go back, the husband was not willing to stay with her at all. Their marriage had reached a stage beyond salvage. Therefore, due to the cruelty inflicted upon the husband by causing his wrongful imprisonment, coupled with an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, the Court granted a decree of divorce. [M.S. v. S.D., 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8234, decided on 23-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: A Bench comprising of V.M. Vellumani, J. has held in the case of matrimonial dispute regarding the irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground for divorce valid.

In the present case, the appellant has averred various incidents, by which, the respondent has repeatedly caused mental agony and cruelty to the appellant. The learned counsel for the appellant stated that the respondent has admitted in his evidence that he put up 10 locks, not 22 locks to lock the home. Any normal prudent man would not put 10 locks to lock the home. This fact coupled with the fact that the respondent was friendly with the parents of the appellant in their presence and talked about them shows mental illness of the respondent.

Thus, the appeal has been filed by the wife claiming for divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty and the fact that both the appellant and respondents have been living separately for more than ten years. The respondent is alleged to be mentally ill as well.

“Marriages are made in heaven. Both parties have crossed the point of no return.”

-Durga Prasanna Tripathy v. Arundhati Tripathy; (2005) 7 SCC 353

According to Hindu Law, irretrievable breakdown of marriage is not considered as a valid ground for divorce but this court, following the precedents, has held irretrievable breakdown of marriage a valid ground for divorce. To prevent the appellant from more cruelty, the appeal of divorce has been allowed. Furthermore, this Court has also dismissed the claim filed by the respondent for the restitution of conjugal rights. [Salome v. Prince D. Immanuel, 2017 SCC OnLine Mad 1651, decided on 06-04-2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of P. Devadass, J. directed Family Court Chennai to dispose of the interim petition of maintenance by throwing light on the sufferings that women and children have to undergo during such proceedings and due to the unnecessary delay in disposal.

In the present case, petitioner and respondent were married and had later separated due to an unhappy married life. Initially, the husband had sought divorce on grounds of cruelty in the subordinate court, Dindigul which was transferred to family court, Chennai. Further, the wife had filed for pendent lite both for her daughter and herself under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. It has been stated that the maintenance petition was adjourned due to counter being filed by the husband. Thus, the wife-petitioner approached High Court for issuance directions to family court, Chennai in order to dispose of her interim petition.

“In matrimonial disputes, the innocent children are worst sufferers.”

In matrimonial proceedings instituted under the personal laws, the wife and children can seek maintenance against the husband/father, as the case may be. It is to provide them with financial support and it for their survival. Hindu wives can seek pendente lite maintenance in a pending matrimonial proceeding under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriages Act and children can seek such maintenance from their father under Section 26 of the Act.

Object of Section 24 Hindu Marriages Act: Maintenance to a party in matrimonial proceedings in order to provide financial assistance to the spouse to maintain herself or himself during the pendency of proceedings and have sufficient funds to carry on the litigation.

The Court noted another point in the present case that was the delay in disposal of the maintenance petitions under Sections 24 and 26 of the Hindu Marriage Act, for which the Court stated that it is,

“A classic example of ‘Law’s Delay’, ‘Court’s Delay, ‘Judges’ Delay’, ‘System Law’, ‘System Failure’. All the stakeholders in the administration of gender justice shall owe responsibility for this sorry state of affair.”

Further, the High Court stated with a lot of disappointment that, “Women and children are in a disadvantageous position, husbands torture them by dragging on even these simple maintenance petitions for years together.”

The present case is also a classic example for “Perpetration of matrimonial violence and exploitation of women and children by the husbands due to Courts inaction.”

Therefore, noting the above and throwing light on present situation in the Courts in regard to such petitions as mentioned, the learned Judge gave clarity on how the issue of delay of such proceedings can be resolved by placing the stark realities of failure of justice in gender justice and gave directions for the present case by directing the family court, Chennai to dispose of the petition within a period of 15 days from this order.[A. Savitha Ujwala v. M.R. Venkatagiri, 2017 SCC OnLine Mad 1459, decided on 25-04-2017]

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Delhi High Court: There was an appeal against the decision of the Family Court  which had dismissed the request for annulment of the marriage between the respondent and appellant on ground of desertion and cruelty by wife. The High Court reversed the order of Family Court and even noted that certain observations made by it were contrary to law. The wife had stated before the Court that her husband was more interested in other girls than in he and she had herself seen him with a girl to which he instead of explaining, had abused her without telling about the girl. Also, she had at several occasions received her husband’s phone from different girls.

To this allegation, response of the Family Court was that the husband must remove the suspicion from his wife’s mind and said that unchastity by a wife is to be viewed seriously because a higher level of fidelity is expected from a wife and it denied treating the allegation of infidelity made against the husband as mental torture. The Division Bench  expressed their shock at such a gender bias approach of the Family Court and made an important observation that an act of infidelity by either spouse would be treated on equal footing and amount to mental cruelty to other spouse. However, the facts of the case were such that the wife was unable to prove her allegations against her spouse.

In the present case, another important observation made by the Court relying on the facts was that the relations between husband and wife were more or less spoilt and they had reached the prime of their age. Also, they found out that there would be no good cause served by re-uniting them as the children were already major and could take care of themselves. It held that there was an irretrievable breakdown of marriage between both the parties in the case before them and granted the decree of divorce on the same ground while cruelty of one against the other was not sufficiently proved. However, there were serious allegations of both against each other indicating that compelling them to live with each other would in itself be an act of cruelty toward them. [Navratan Baid v. Neetu Baid, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 6884, decided on 6.02.2017]

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Delhi High Court: Delivering its judgment in a petition for the annulment of the marriage on the grounds of mental cruelty, the Division Bench of Pradeep Nandarajog and Prathibha Rani, JJ granted divorce to a couple who had been married for just five months before filing for divorce. The Court observed that though irretrievable breakdown of marriage was not a ground to grant divorce, but the Courts have blended the concept of cruelty with irretrievable breakdown of marriage.

In this case, the Family Court had rejected husband’s plea for divorce therefore he had appealed against the decision in the High Court. The Court noted that in the instant case there had been many instances of mental cruelty faced by the parties from which it was clearly visible that, the couple were going through a difficult phase of their life. Whereas the husband had contended that wife was rigid, rude and shy in nature, the wife complained about illicit sexual relationships, drinking and smoking habits of her husband. Moreover, the wife also alleged that she came to know about her husband’s suffering from an incurable disease only after the marriage which led to concealment of facts from the husband.

The Court observed that where there was evidence that the husband and wife indulge in mutual bickering, leading to remonstration and therefrom to the stage where they target each other mentally, insistence by one to retain the matrimonial bond would be a relevant factor to decide on the issue of cruelty, for the reason the obvious intention of said spouse would be to continue with the marriage not to enjoy the bliss thereof but to torment and traumatise the other. Fast paced lifestyle, complexities of living, a breakdown of support systems and the challenges of economic instability had obviously taken a toll on the couple, the Court observed and granted divorce to the parties. [Anurag Sharma v. Manushi Sharma, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 5871, decided on November 10th, 2016]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: In a matter related to divorce, the Division Bench comprising of P. Nandrajog and Pratibha Rani, JJ. , partially upholding the judgement of the Family Court of Dwarka, held that where a husband or wife, wants to retain the matrimonial bond just to torture and traumatize each other, it amounts to cruelty and on this ground granted divorce.

In the instant case, the parties were extremely strained since the inception of their marriage and used to constantly fight with each other during a short span of four months when they lived together. The Court stated that where a husband or wife indulges in mutual bickering just to torture each other mentally, insistence by one to continue the marriage would be factor relevant to determine the issue of cruelty, as such would be only with the intention to further torment and distress each other. [Manish Kumar v. Sandhya Kumari, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 5642, decided on 21.10.2016]

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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]

 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The bench of Pramod Kumar Srivastava, J. held that granting divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage is exclusive within jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and is beyond jurisdiction of any other Court in India.

Against the judgment of trial court, Civil Appeal  was preferred by wife, which was heard and dismissed by the judgment dated 14.12.2011 of Additional District Judge/Special Judge, Gautam Buddha Nagar. In this judgment, lower appellate court had independently appreciated the evidences and held that parties are living separately from year 2002 and during the very short period of living together, their relationship was not normal.

The High Court after perusing the arguments observed that there is total absence of mutual respect and the behavior of both the parties indicates the embittered relationship. Both are still undergoing under a traumatic experience. Thus, Court dismissing the appeal held that continuance of such a relationship will amount to mental cruelty. But the Counsel for appellant argued that the ground of “irretrievable breakdown of marriage’ is not sustainable. He stated that this ground can be taken by the Supreme Court only for granting the divorce in exercise powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India and this ground cannot be taken by any other Court including High Court because such ground is not mentioned in Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act. The Learned Counsel for Respondent stated that marriage had reached the point of no return which cannot be repaired, but such ground is not mentioned in Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act.

The Court while accepting the above allegations suggested the Law Commission of the State to take appropriate steps to consider for incorporating the ground of “irretrievable breakdown of marriage’ as grounds of divorce in Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act. [Puja Suri v. Bijoy Suri, 2016 SCC OnLine All 300, decided on 26.05.2016]