Kerala High Court: While adjudicating a divorce case, the Division Bench of A. Muhamed Mustaque and Sophy Thomas*, JJ., raised concern about the rise of live-in-relationships just to say goodbye when they fall apart. Expressing concern about the alarming increase of divorce cases in the State, the Court remarked,
“The wails and screams coming out of disturbed and destroyed families are liable to shake the conscience of the society as a whole. When warring couples, deserted children, and desperate divorcees occupy the majority of our population, no doubt it will adversely affect the tranquillity of our social life, and our society will have a stunted growth.”
A husband, who lost his case for divorce on the ground of matrimonial cruelties had approached the Court to assail the Family Court's order. The husband appellant contended that though they were leading a very cordial and smooth marital relationship till 2018, thereafter the respondent developed some behavioural abnormalities, and she often picked up quarrels with him for no reason. He further alleged that because of the indifferent, abusive, and violent behavior of his wife (the respondent herein), he became mentally stressed and physically ill.
The Court, on analysing the facts and evidence, found that the appellant failed to prove the allegations of cruelty against the respondent so as to dissolve their marriage for the following reasons:
As a responsible husband, the appellant was bound to know the reason for such behavioural changes in his wife, whether it be physical, mental, or psychological. He has no case that he ever took his wife to a psychologist or psychiatrist to know the reason for her behavioural abnormalities.
The appellant did not disclose/admit that the couple had a love marriage, though his own mother and his own close relative admitted that fact before Court.
According to the respondent, her marital life with the appellant was so smooth till 2018 and thereafter, he was trying to avoid her and her children.
The mother and close relatives of the appellant categorically deposed that in the year 2017, the appellant developed some illicit intimacy with a lady named Anjali, and thereafter, he wanted to avoid his wife, children, and even his own mother.
In such a scenario, the normal human reactions or responses from a wife, on knowing that her husband was having illicit connection with another lady, could not be termed as behavioural abnormality or cruelty from the part of the wife, so as to dissolve their marriage.
The appellant was not hesitant, even to question the chastity of his own aged mother, as she was supporting the respondent.
In the light of the aforesaid, the Court opined that the appellant wanted to avoid the respondent and her children to continue his unholy alliance with another woman. The Court noted,
“When the wife had reasonable grounds to suspect the chastity or fidelity of her husband, and if she questions him, or expresses her deep pain and sorrow before him, it cannot be termed as a behavioural abnormality, as it is the natural human conduct of a normal wife.”
Hence, rejecting the appellant's case on the ground of mental cruelty, the Court said,
“Courts cannot come to the aid of an erring person to legalise his activities, which are per se illegal. If the husband having unholy alliance with another woman wants to avoid his lawfully wedded wife and his three little children, he cannot seek the assistance of a court of law to get his present relationship legalised by dissolving his lawful marriage, without any valid reasons for the same.”
Non-Cohabitation as a Ground for Divorce
Similarly, considering the respondent's willingness to save the marriage and resume her marital life with her husband, the Court rejected the appellant's case on the ground of non-co-habitation for a long time. The Court relied on Uthara v. Dr.Sivapriyan, 2022 SCC OnLine Ker 921, to hold that non-co-habitation however long it may be, if it was due to deliberate avoidance or due to pendency of cases filed by one party, the other party cannot be found fault with, when that party is still ready to continue his/her matrimonial life, and no grounds recognized by law are established against that party to break their nuptial tie.
Emphasizing on the present trend to break the nuptial tie on flimsy or selfish reasons, or for extra-marital relationships, even unmindful of their children, the Court said,
“Now-a-days, the younger generation thinks that marriage is an evil that could be avoided to enjoy free life without any liabilities or obligations. They would expand the word ‘WIFE' as ‘Worry Invited For Ever' substituting the old concept of ‘Wise Investment For Ever'.”
The Court noted that law and religion consider marriage as an institution by itself and parties to the marriage are not permitted to walk away from that relationship unilaterally, unless and until they satisfy the legal requirements to dissolve their marriage through a court of law or in accordance with the personal law which govern them.
Hence, considering that the respondent still wants to live with her husband and live together along with their children, the Court directed that if the appellant is ready to come back to his wife and children, they are ready to accept him, it could not be said that the chances of an amicable reunion are foreclosed forever.
Resultantly, the Court upheld the finding of the Family Court that the appellant is not entitled to a decree of divorce on the ground of matrimonial cruelties.
[Libin Varghese v. Rajani Anna Mathew, Mat. Appeal No. 456 of 2020, decided on 24-08-2022]
*Judgment by: Justice Sophy Thomas
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Mathew Kuriakose, J. Krishnakumar (Adoor), and Moni George, Advocates, Counsels for the Appellant;
B.J. John Prakash, P. Pramel, Nimmy Shaji, and Balasubramaniam R., Advocates, Counsels for the Respondent.
*Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together.