Ker HC | Is not taking treatment for mental illness to bring out a peaceful family atmosphere a form of cruelty and thus, a ground for divorce? HC answers   

Kerala High Court

Kerala High Court: In an interesting case the Division Bench of A.Muhamed Mustaque and C.R. Sophy Thomas, JJ., held that not taking treatment for mental illness in order to bring out a peaceful and harmonious family atmosphere can also be counted as cruelty to the persons at the receiving end. Upholding the Family Court’s order granting divorce on the ground of cruelty, the Bench remarked,

“There is no merit in preserving intact a marriage, when the marital tie becomes injurious to the parties. When there is no rose, and only thorns left, and there is no scope for the plant to sprout again, there is no meaning in watering the same, knowing that it is dead forever.”

Factual Backdrop

In the instant case, the husband, who was an Engineer cum Yoga Trainer approached the Family Court to dissolve marriage under Section 10 of the Divorce Act, alleging cruelties, both mental and physical, and desertion, from the part of the wife, who was a Post Graduate. The husband was alleging that, from the very inception of marriage, the wife was showing behavioural disorders. She was intolerable even on minor domestic problems and she was abusive and assaultive in nature. She often threatened the husband that she would slice his throat and even strangulated him during sleep. Whenever he did not accede to her demand for unnatural sex, she threatened to slice away his penis. She often threatened him with suicide, and once she jumped out of a running car. She went out of the house during night hours without informing the husband, and there was occasion to bring her from street during midnight.

It was further the case of the husband that in spite of being taken to various psychologists and psychiatrists, his wife was not co-operating with the treatment. In July 2005, she went to her paternal house and never came back to live with her husband and children.

Findings of the Family Court

On analysing the facts and evidence, the Family Court found that the husband could establish the grounds of cruelty and desertion against the respondent-wife, and so, the O.P was decreed dissolving the marriage.

Challenging the said judgment and decree, the wife had come up in the instant appeal alleging that, by the impugned judgment, the husband was given an incentive for his own cruelty and desertion. The Family Court ought to have found that she had never intended to terminate her matrimonial life with the husband. In fact, she was prevented from entering her matrimonial home by an injunction suit filed by the mother-in-law.

Factual Analysis

Relying on the decision of the Supreme Court in Samar Ghosh v. Jaya Ghosh, (2007) 4 SCC 511, the Bench stated that in matrimonial life, cruelty can be defined in many ways; it has many perspectives which depend upon the socio-economic status and circumstances of parties to the marriage. With regard to the allegations made by the husband the Bench made following observations:

  • The appellant used to get irritated over minor domestic issues, and on one such occasion, since the husband could not heed to her request for purchasing a nighty from a shop, she bit off a portion of his shoulder muscle, and the bite mark was still there on his shoulder. His mother had to call the Police to manage that situation.
  • Statements of the doctors revealed that appellant was suffering from impulse control disorder which means, not able to control anger, and exhibiting anger in an excessive manner, which may adversely affect marital life. The persons suffering from impulse control disorder may be assaultive in nature and may throw things or may exhibit homicidal or suicidal tendency as stated by the doctor.
  • The doctor further stated that there is no complete cure for this illness, but it could be controlled under proper medication. However, even according to the appellant, after 2007 she had not continued the treatment.
  • The allegations of arrogance, and abusive and assaultive nature of the appellant, spoken to by her husband and children, get corroboration from medical report, and the testimony of Doctor.

One may suffer mental stress or strain due to very many reasons. But, not taking treatment for the same in order to bring out a peaceful and harmonious family atmosphere also may have to be counted as cruelty to the persons at the receiving end. The appellant has no case that, she had any difficulty to continue the treatment, but according to her, she had no psychiatric problem and so she discontinued the treatment.

Observations and Findings

In A: husband v. B: Wife, 2010 SCC OnLine Ker 4925, it had been held that law cannot recognise different varieties of cruelty as Hindu cruelty, Muslim cruelty, Christian cruelty or secular cruelty to justify a decree for divorce and matrimonial cruelty must have a uniform definition or conceptualisation to justify the founding of a decree for divorce. Further, under S.10(1)(x) of the Divorce Act, the cruelty must be such as to cause reasonable apprehension in the mind of the petitioner, spouse that it would be harmful or injurious for the petitioner to live with the respondent.

From the available facts and evidence, the respondent husband had amply proved that the appellant had treated him with such cruelty as to cause reasonable apprehension in his mind that it would be harmful or injurious to him to live with the appellant and that his children were also anxious to save the life of their father as the children deposed that if the appellant and respondent were again put together, they will lose their father. Further, from the evidence on record following circumstances were proved against the appellant wife:

  • The appellant herself admitted that she had left her matrimonial home in July 2005. She had no case that before her mother-in-law filed injunction suit against her, she preferred any complaints or petitions before any authority seeking restitution of conjugal rights or even for getting custody of her minor girl children.
  • She had no case that, when she left her matrimonial home, she was prevented from taking her children with her. So, of obviously, she left her matrimonial home even without caring her little girl children.
  • The children would say that, even when she was informed about their biological maturity, she did not care to see them. In the year 2005, the respondent was hospitalised due to heart attack and then also, the appellant did not turn up.
  • In 2009, when the appellant and her parents tried to make a forcible entry in the house, the mother-in-law filed a civil suit and obtained injunction. Though, the injunction was later vacated and subsequently the mother-in-law not pressed that suit, only after the civil suit, the appellant filed complaint under the Domestic Violence Act for getting residence order in the shared household.

Conclusion

Hence, considering the fact that the parties lived separately for the last more than 16 years, the Bench held that their marriage was to be treated as a deadwood which had no signs of life. In the result, the appeal was dismissed and the impugned judgment and decree were upheld. [Mary Margret v. Jos P Thomas, Mat. Appeal No.1119 of 2015, decided on 21-01-2022]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearance by:

Advocates for the Appellant: P.George William, Achu Subha Abraham, Philip T.Varghese and Thomas T.Varghese

Advocates for the Respondent: V.V.Asokan (Senior.), V.M.Kurian, Mathew B. Kurian, C.N.Sreekumar, K.T.Thomas and K.I.Mayankutty Mather

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