May 08, 2018
In the case, the Petitioner husband had instituted petition for dissolution of marriage on the ground of cruelty under Section 13(1) (ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 against the Respondent wife. The Trial Court in the case on the basis of its finding rejected the prayer for grant of decree of divorce but passed a decree for judicial separation under Section 13A of the Hindu Marriage Act.
The petitioner husband in the case prayed for dissolution of marriage which inter alia included the allegation that the respondent was extremely suspicious towards him and often accused him of flirting around and also accused the petitioner of having an affair with the widow of his brother.
The Petitioner further alleged that the continuous course of abuse and humiliating treatment was calculated to torture and rendered the life of the petitioner miserable and the torture, both mental and physical of the petitioner at the hands of the respondent ultimately led to the end of their matrimonial relationship.
The Respondent on the other hand vehemently argued that the Petitioner was having an extra-marital affair with his sister-in-law and also that the Petitioner after committing acts of cruelty and indulging in immoral acts deserted the Respondent.
The Trial Court in the case on the basis of evidence available on record was of the view that the Petitioner was not having any kind of illicit relationship with his sister in law and that the petitioner had succeeded in establishing his case that the respondent subjected him to cruelty by levelling false allegation that he has illicit relations with his widowed sister-in-law.
Delhi High Court
The Delhi High Court in the case dissolved the marriage between the parties and concurred with the observations of the Trial Court. The Court stated as under:
- That on careful consideration of the matters it was found that the allegations of illicit relationship levelled by the respondent wife against her husband were not true. The respondent wife failed to prove any illicit relationship between the petitioner/husband and his widowed sister-in-law.
- That the respondent had levelled false allegations of an illicit relationship between the petitioner and his sister-in-law in the written statement which clearly amounted to cruelty.
- That the respondent has treated the petitioner with cruelty and the petitioner has neither condoned the acts of cruelty nor cohabited with the respondent. The petitioner has not taken advantage of any wrong as alleged by the respondent.
- The Delhi High Court while pronouncing its verdict also made reference to Supreme Court’s holding in the case of Swati v. Arvind Mudgal, wherein it was held that false, scandalous and malicious allegations made in the written statement amount to cruelty.
The case can be accessed here.
In March this year, the Delhi High Court had made a similar observation and held that wife’s allegations of having illicit relations with Bhabhi certainly fell within the category of grave and weighty cruelty. Read Delhi HC: Leveling False Allegations of Illicit Relationship is Cruelty.
Other Judicial decisions which throw light on cruelty particularly mental cruelty as a ground for divorce are as under:
Vijaykumar Ramchandra Bhate vs. Neela Vijaykumar Bhate– The Supreme Court in the case while elucidating on the aspect of mental cruelty observed that that the requirement for mental cruelty will not depend upon the numerical count of such incidents or only on the continuous course of such conduct, but really go by the intensity, gravity and stigmatic impact of it when meted out even once and the deleterious effect of it on the mental attitude, necessary for maintaining a conducive matrimonial home. If the taunts, complaints and reproaches are of ordinary nature only, the Courts perhaps need consider the further question as to whether their continuance or persistence over a period time render, what normally would, otherwise, not be a so serious an act to be so injurious and painful as to make the spouse charged with them genuinely and reasonable conclude that the maintenance of matrimonial home is not possible any longer.
Difference between mental cruelty and physical cruelty– In the case of Shobha Rani v. Madhukar Reddi, the Supreme Court has held that “cruelty may be mental or physical, intentional or unintentional. It is not difficult to determine the physical cruelty. However, the determination of mental cruelty poses a difficulty. The cruelty alleged may largely depend upon the type of life the parties are accustomed to or their economic and social conditions. It may also depend upon their culture and human values to which they attach importance. We, the judges and lawyers, therefore, should not import our own notions of life. We may not go in parallel with them. There may be a generation gap between us and the parties.
What is mental cruelty?– V. Bhagat v. D. Bhagat– the Apex Court has held that mental cruelty is result of “conducts which inflicts upon the other party such mental pain and suffering as would make it not possible for that party to live with the other.” In Savitri Pandey v. Prem Chandra Pandey, the Apex Court observed that normal wear and tear of the family life does not constitute cruelty. The Court further held that “it cannot be decided on the basis of the sensitivity of the petitioner and has to be adjudged on the basis of the course of conduct which would, in general, be dangerous for a spouse to live with the other.”
Baseless and reckless allegation of extra marital affair is mental cruelty– In Narendra v. K. Meena, the Supreme Court with reference to the facts of the case observed that except for the baseless and reckless allegations, there was not even the slightest evidence that would suggest that there was something like an affair of the appellant with the maid named by the respondent. Hence, levelling of absolutely false allegations and that too, with regard to an extramarital life to be quite serious and that can surely be a cause for mental cruelty.
Threats to commit suicide is mental cruelty– In Narendra v. K. Meena case, the Apex Court additionally observed that threats of committing suicide constituting an act of cruelty. In this context, reference can also be made to the case of Mahajan v. Dimple, wherein it has been held that giving repeated threats to commit suicide amounts to cruelty.
 218 (2015) DLT 729