Chh HC | Wife attempts suicide; throttles husband, daughter; assaults mother-in-law; consistently behaves abnormally. Is this mental cruelty, ground for husband to obtain divorce? HC elucidates

Chhattisgarh High Court: The Division Bench of Prashant Kumar Mishra and N.K. Chandravanshi, JJ., while finding error in trial court’s decision held that wife attempting to commit suicide and consistently showing abnormality in her behaviour by pressing neck of daughter and husband, jumping to neighbour’s roof will amount to mental cruelty forming ground of dissolution of marriage.

Appellant was aggrieved by the impugned judgment and decree passed by the Family Court dismissing his application under Section 13(1)(i—a) of the Hindu Marriage Act for grant of divorce.

Factual Matrix

Parties were married and their daughter was now residing with the respondent/wife.

It was submitted that from the very next day of the marriage respondent insisted to leave the matrimonial house, but on persuasion stayed for 5-6 days and called her mother to return to her parental house and did not come back for 15-20 days.

Later respondent’s mother informed the elderly persons of the society that she is a schizophrenic, which was not informed to the appellant before the marriage.

Incidents of abnormal behaviour

She used to call elderly persons in the in-laws’ family by their name and on one night she jumped to the neighbour’s house from the roof of appellant’s house. She used to leave her matrimonial house every now and then without any rhyme or reason. When the appellant and other family members objected to her behaviour she used to filthily abuse them and locked the door from inside.

Respondent denied all the allegations.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Decisions pertaining to the concept of mental cruelty were referred to. In the Supreme Court decision of Samar Ghosh v. Jaya Ghosh, (2007) 4 SCC 511, illustrative cases where inference of mental cruelty could be drawn was indicated.

Supreme Court decision in V. Bhagat v. D. Bhagat, (1994) 1 SCC 337, held that mental cruelty in Section 13(1)(i—a) can broadly be defined as that conduct 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.

Mental cruelty must be of such a nature that the parties cannot reasonably be expected to live together.

In Naveen Kohli v Neelu Kohli, (2006) 4 SCC 558, the Supreme Court held that the word “cruelty” has to be understood in the ordinary sense of the term in matrimonial affairs. If the intention to harm, harass or hurt could be inferred by the nature of the conduct or brutal act complained of, cruelty could be easily established. But the absence of intention should not make any difference in the case.

In view of the above decisions, Court in the present matter stated that in light of the facts of the case, it can be seen that the respondent-wife admitted to attempting to commit suicide and assaulting her mother-in-law.

As per the evidence placed, it was stated that the respondent once jumped from the roof to fall in the neighbour’s house and tried to strangulate her daughter and husband. There have also been instances of respondent-wife leaving the house during the night hours wearing white saree without putting bangles and vermilion on the forehead.

Hence, considering the instance as stated above along with the psychiatrist treatment, Bench held that it was sufficient to prove that her conduct amounted to sustained reprehensible unjustifiable conduct affecting physical and mental health of the appellant.

When she attempts to commit suicide, this singular act by itself amounts to causing such mental cruelty, which is beyond repair.

Bench noted that in the present case there was consistent irresponsible or abnormal behaviour of the respondent, therefore, when the entire married life is reviewed as a whole, inference was that the relationship was being deteriorated and it was extremely difficult for the appellant-husband to live with respondent-wife.

While concluding the decision High Court expressed that the wife was guilty of committing mental cruelty, furnishing a ground for dissolution of marriage.

Trial Court committed an error in not appreciating the evidence, hence the impugned judgment and decree was set aside. [Rajeshwar Prasad Kaushal v. Gayatri Kaushal, 2021 SCC OnLine Chh 799, decided on 31-03-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Appellant Mr D.N. Prajapati, Advocate

For Respondent Mr C.K. Sahu, Advocate

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