Case BriefsHigh Courts

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]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia and R.C. Khube, JJ. entertained an appeal filed against the impugned judgment and order passed by Family Court, which rejected the petition under Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 filed by the appellant.

Facts which gave rise to appeal were that marriage was solemnized in 2010 as per the Hindu rites and rituals. The appellant and respondent were living together after the marriage in appellant’s parental house along with appellant’s mother and child. The appellant contended that soon after, the respondent started to intimidate him for selling the house and shift to Delhi and live separately. It is also alleged by the appellant that the respondent stared to threaten him to commit suicide if her demands were not fulfilled. The appellant-accused respondent of attempting to commit suicide and assaulting his mother because of her unfulfilled demands. The appellant tried to convince the respondent but she refused to fulfill her marital duties, and in 2012, in the absence of the appellant, she left her matrimonial home. After which the appellant filed an application under Section 9, during the hearing the respondent appeared before the Court and made a statement regarding going back to her husband. It was also contended by the appellant, that parties stayed together for some time at Haridwar as per the compromised reached between the parties but even then, the respondent refused to consummate marital relations. And since two years both were living separately.

The learned counsel for the appellant Tapan Singh, submitted that despite of the order of Court the respondent was not fulfilling the marital duties. She treated appellant’s mother with utmost disrespect which amounted to cruelty. He also submitted that the behaviour of the alleged respondent towards appellant is humiliating and disrespectful before other relatives, which also caused mental stress to the respondent. Under the drastic circumstance appellant filed for divorce under Section 13(1)(ia) and (ib) of HMA, 1955, as the respondent deserted him for a period of 2 years.

The learned counsel for the respondent Syed Jafri, submitted that an FIR was lodged against the appellant under Sections 406 and 498-A IPC. Further, a mutual divorce application was rejected by the Family Court since both the parties were unable to arrive at consent. The learned Family Court dismissed the divorce petition filed by the appellant as well the petition filed by the respondent under Section 26 of the Hindu Marriage Act.

The Court rejected the contentions of the appellant for relief under Section 13 (1)(ib) as the period of desertion was not proved beyond the statutory limit for divorce. But the ground of cruelty was considered by the Court and it relied upon the judgment of Delhi High Court in, Rajinder Bhardwaj v. Anita Sharma, AIR 1993 Delhi 135, where it was held that if the wife physically assaults the mother-in-law and abuses her, it will amount to cruelty. It also addressed the issue related to behavior of the respondent towards appellant which was alleged disrespectful, and held, “Disrespectful and disparaging remarks by the respondent wife against the appellant-husband would amount to cruelty under Section 13(1) (i-a) of the Act as laid down in Santana Banerjee v. Sachindra Nath Banerjee, 1989 SCC OnLine Cal 257’’.

The Court considered the facts and circumstances of the case and stated that living separately of the parties for a long time, public insult, an embarrassment to the appellant, agony, and humiliation suffered by the appellant, charging the appellant with false allegations amount to cruelty by the respondent towards her husband. The respondent wife is living separately for the last five years and presently staying at Delhi with a son born from the wedlock of the parties. Held, “relationship between the parties had deteriorated to the extent that there was no possibility of any reconciliation. Their relationship had reached to the point from where there appears no possibility of harmonious conjugal relationships or their being living together as husband and wife and discharging the matrimonial duties. This itself amounts to a cruelty, if allowed to continue.” The appeal was allowed and the marriage was dissolved.[Sheenu Mahendru v. Sangeeta, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 376, decided on 23-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: An appeal filed challenging the decision of the District Judge whereby he dismissed appellant’s petition filed under Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, was dismissed by a Single Judge Bench comprising of Sharad Kumar Gupta, J.

Brief facts of the case were that the appellant-husband filed a divorce petition against the respondent-wife on the grounds of cruelty and desertion. The said petition was dismissed by the learned District Judge holding that the grounds on which divorce was sought by the petitioner (appellant) were not proved. The appellant filed the instant appeal challenging the said decision contending that the trial court did not examine the evidence in proper perspective and reached a wrong conclusion.

For deciding the appeal, the Court referred to various decisions of the Supreme Court as well as other High Courts and observed the essence of ‘desertion’- For the offence of desertion, two essential conditions must be there; (1) the factum of separation and (2) the intention to bring cohabitation permanently to an end (animus deserendi). Two elements are essential as far as deserted spouse is concerned; (1) the absence of consent and (2) absence of conduct giving reasonable cause to the spouse leaving the matrimonial house to form the necessary intention. Mere severance of relation or separation without desertion is not sufficient. Desertion is not walking out of the house but is withdrawing from home. Desertion consists in withdrawing not from a place but from a state of things.

In regard to ‘cruelty’, the Court observed that a consistent course of conduct inflicting immeasurable mental agony and torture constitute cruelty within the meaning of Section 13(1)(ia) of HMA. Mental cruelty may consist of verbal abuses and insults by using filthy and abusive language leading to constant disturbance of mental peace of the other party.

The Court held that the appellant failed to prove any of the elements to establish desertion or cruelty on the part of the respondent. No cogent evidence was provided by the appellant that could establish the grounds for divorce as prayed for by the appellant in the divorce petition. Thus, the Court on dismissing the appeal held that the impugned judgment of the trial court which was challenged in this appeal does not suffer from any infirmity. [Sanjeev Kumar Kaushik v Mongra Bai, 2018 SCC OnLine Chh 480, dated 24-04-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Dealing with the case where the husband had sought divorce from his wife on the ground that she was forcing him to leave his parents as he was proving them financial support, the Court said that in a Hindu society, it is a pious obligation of the son to maintain the parents. If a wife makes an attempt to deviate from the normal practice and normal custom of the society, she must have some justifiable reason and hence, the Karnataka High Court erred in holding that mere monetary consideration was a justifiable reason to separate the husband from his parents.

The Bench of A.R. Dave and L. Nageswara Rao, JJ added that no son would like to be separated from his old parents and other family members, who are also dependent upon his income, the Court also said that the persistent effort of the wife to constrain the husband to be separated from the family would be torturous for the husband and will constitute as an act of ‘cruelty’.

The husband had also contended that the wife had levelled serious allegations against him regarding his character and about his extra-marital relationship with the maid named ‘Kamla’. However, it was found that no maid named Kamla worked in their house. Hence, the Court said that except for the baseless and reckless allegations, there is not even the slightest evidence that would suggest that there was something like an affair of the husband with the maid named by the wife. On this the Court said that to suffer an allegation pertaining to one’s character of having an extra-marital affair is quite torturous for any person – be it a husband or a wife and amounts to mental cruelty. [Narendra v. K. Meena, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1114, decided on 06.10.2016]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: Expressing concern over the insensitive approach of the Family Court, Bellary in the present case wherein it had granted a decree of divorce in favour of the respondent/ husband without properly analyzing the medical evidences ascertaining the medical condition of the appellant/wife, the Division Bench of H.G. Ramesh and Rathnakala, JJ., observed that the Family Court acted with extreme insensitivity by branding the appellant wife to be a complete paranoid schizophrenic when the medical evidences were clearly indicating that she was capable to lead a normal life with regular medication and family support. The Court observing the negative impact of the ‘condemnation’ by the Family Court upon the sentiments of the wife, cautioned the Family Courts in future to be alert and alive in each case that comes before it. The Court went on to say that the Family Courts must understand the distinction that each case carries due to its facts and circumstances, therefore a Judge cannot afford to “sit with a preoccupied mind and extract reasoning’s from the void, when the record before him is bereft of legal evidence”.

In the present case, the respondent husband had been granted a divorce decree under Section 13(1) (iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, as according to his pleadings, his wife (appellant) was suffering from ‘Auditory Hallucinations’. The Family Court had allowed the petition both on the grounds of mental cruelty and incurable unsoundness of mind. Challenging the decree, V. Vidya Iyer, representing the wife, contended that though the appellant was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, the doctors of NIMHANS had made it clear that regular check ups and medication can control her suffering and she can ably discharge her marital responsibilities, however the condition is incurable.

The Court upon perusing the evidences and the opinions of various psychiatrists observed that no case was made out under Section 13(1) (iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, because the appellant falls under the category of those schizophrenic patients who can be kept under control with regular medication. The Court further noticed that the appellant had successfully completed her education without any hassles related to her mental health. The Court even gave the example of renowned mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. who was also a paranoid schizophrenic, but went on to win the Nobel Prize. The Court highlighted that how his wife stood by him during his trying times. The Court further expressed its anguish over the fact that the Family Court, in the absence of any pleading or proof by the husband, itself comprehended the case to be of violation of Section 5 of Hindu Marriage Act and declared the wife to be unfit for marriage and procreation, thereby transgressing its propriety and jurisdiction. The Court with the above observations, set aside the divorce decree. [Shilpa v. Praveen S.R., 2016 SCC OnLine Kar 2642 decided on 20.07.2016]