Tripura HC | What amounts to irretrievable breakdown of marriage? HC discusses in a case where the couple lived apart for 13 continuous years

Tripura High Court: A Division Bench of S. Talapatra and S.G. Chattopadhyay, JJ., upheld the decision of the trial court and stated that the present matter is a case of an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage in light of cruelty and desertion.

Cruelty & Desertion | Dissolution of Marriage

Allegations of cruelty and desertion were placed against the wife by the husband in light of which the husband approached the Family Court under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce.

Family Court dissolved the marriage.

Aggrieved wife preferred the present appeal under Section 28 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 read with Section 19 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 challenging the legality of the impugned Judgment of the Family Court.

Court considers in the present case whether the grounds of cruelty and desertion against the respondent-wife, the appellant herein, existed on the date of filing of the divorce petition or not.

From the pleadings of the parties and their evidence, it would appear that the respondent-wife left her matrimonial home along with her daughter and she did not live with her husband at any point of time till the petition was filed by her husband on seeking a divorce and even thereafter.

The witnesses of the petitioner including two of his neighbours had categorically asserted that they did not notice any untoward incidents preceding to the departure of the respondent-wife from her matrimonial home.

Further, the bench stated that on perusal of the parties and their evidence discussed, no material was found to show that the respondent-wife was ever forced by her husband to leave his company or that she was thrown away from her matrimonial home.

Wife prosecuted her husband and his relatives under Section 498A IPC which was proved to be unfounded in the Sessions Court as well as in the High Court.

Institution of a complaint under Section 498-A IPC against the husband does not ipso facto constitute mental cruelty unless the court having assessed the totality of the facts and circumstances and also having taken note of the nature of the allegations come to the conclusion that amongst other things the wife also brought unfounded and scandalous allegations with a clear intention to humiliate the husband and his relatives and such conduct of the spouse caused disappointment and frustration in the other spouse.

Whether such conduct of the respondent-wife amounted to the desertion of her husband and caused mental cruelty to him and entitled him to a decree of divorce.

There cannot be a straight-jacket formula for determining cruelty in matrimonial relationships. Whether the alleged conduct of the spouse constitutes cruelty has to be judged in the particular context of the case keeping in view all the attending facts and circumstances of the case.

In the present matter, the petitioner proved that his wife abandoned him along with her daughter when he lost his vision and was in dire need of their company and the support of his wife.

Such conduct of the wife must have hurt the sentiment of the petitioner husband and affected their relationship. After abandoning her husband, she labeled allegations of harassment for dowry against her husband in a proceeding under Section 498A IPC followed by a proceeding under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.

The unprovoked humiliating treatment by the wife to her husband caused cruelty to the husband.

Apex Court, while laying down the broad parameters for determination of mental cruelty for the purpose of granting divorce in Samar Ghose v. Jaya Ghose, (2007) 4 SCC 511 reiterated the same principle and held as follows as one of the parameters:

“101…(xiv) Where there has been a long period of continuous separation, it may fairly be concluded that the matrimonial bond is beyond repair. The marriage becomes a fiction though supported by a legal tie. By refusing to sever that tie, the law in such cases, does not serve the sanctity of marriage; on the contrary, it shows scant regard for the feelings and emotions of the parties. In such like situations, it may lead to mental cruelty.”

Hence, in the present matter, both the grounds of cruelty and desertion existed on the date of filing of the divorce petition. Moreover, there is no denial of the fact that the husband and the wife are staying apart for more than 13 years and during this period they never lived together at any point of time.

Therefore, the present matter is a case of an irretrievable breakdown of marriage and it is quite impossible to save the marriage.

 Trial Court’s decision is upheld and the husband is directed to pay a monthly maintenance allowance for his wife and daughter.[Aparna Dey v. Alok Dey, 2020 SCC OnLine Tri 411, decided on 09-09-2020]

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