Delhi High Court: In a case wherein, an appeal was filed by the appellant under Section 28 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (‘the HM Act’) to challenge the judgment dated 31-8-2007, where the appellant’s petition for divorce on the grounds of cruelty and desertion under Section 13(1)(ia) and 13(1)(ib) of the HM Act, the Division Bench of Suresh Kumar Kait and Neena Bansal Krishna*, JJ., opined that the Court could not be a party to such mental cruelty, and accordingly, allowed the appeal and granted the divorce on the grounds of cruelty and desertion under Section 13(1)(ia) and 13(1)(ib) of the HM Act.
On 9-4-1989, the appellant-wife and the respondent-husband got married on 9-4-1989 as per Hindu custom and rites. Thereafter, both the parties resided together for almost seven years and then subsequently separated on 27-11-1996.
The wife stated that she was a Delhi University graduate with outstanding achievements and prior to her marriage, she worked with the Multinational Corporation. She further stated that at the time of the marriage it was represented that the husband was a Delhi University graduate and his monthly income from all the sources was Rs. 10,000. However, after the marriage she came to know that the husband was not a graduate, and was dependant on his mother for income.
The wife also claimed that she was subjected to various acts of physical and mental cruelty by her husband and his family members, due to which she suffered her first abortion on 14-8-1992. Further, in 1996, she again got pregnant, but suffered miscarriage on 30-5-1997 because of the husband’s cruel behaviour.
The wife also claimed that the she was not provided with basic necessities of life and was treated like a maid servant in the house. The wife further stated that because of her husband’s cruel conduct, she became the patient of epilepsy. The husband also gambled, consumed liquor on a daily basis and also maltreated his wife by abusing in foul language. In addition to the demands of money for business assistance, flat, physical abuse and threats, the husband threatened her wife that he would compel her to commit suicide if his demands were not met.
Subsequently, the wife came to her parental home on 27-11-1996, but the husband told her that the doors of matrimonial home were closed permanently and if she tried to return, she would be killed by the husband’s family.
Thereafter, the wife filed a divorce petition on the ground of cruelty under Section 13(1)(ia) of the HM Act and also sought divorce on the ground of desertion under Section 13(1)(ib) of the HM Act. The Trial Court held that none of the incidents amounted to cruelty and the husband had not deserted her wife and accordingly, dismissed the petition.
Thus, the present appeal was filed before the Court.
Analysis, Law, and Decision
The Court relied on V. Bhagat v. D. Bhagat, (1994) 1 SCC 337 and Shobha Rani v. Madhukar Reddi (1988) 1 SCC 105, and opined that the mental cruelty could not be defined in any straitjacket parameter and the circumstances of the spouses had to be considered to ascertain that the complained acts were the source of mental agony and pain.
The Court stated that in the present case, it was easier to decipher the mental trauma as there was huge disparity in the financial status of the wife and the husband, since the wife was working and the husband was not working. The Court further stated that the such kind of instability as faced by the husband was bound to result in mental anxiety, and could be termed as constant source of the mental cruelty to the wife. The term ‘mental cruelty’ was wide enough to include ‘financial instability’.
The Court noted that the wife had stated that the allegations of illicit relationship with her brother-in-law was made by the husband and opined that there could be no greater cruelty than making false allegations against the chastity of a woman.
The Court further noted that it was on record that the parties had separated since 1996 and there was no conjugal relationship between them and opined that “the essence of marriage is sharing of common life, a sharing of all the happiness that life has to offer and all the misery that has to be faced in life, an experience of the joy that comes from enjoying, in common, things of the matter and of the spirit and from showering love and affection on one’s offspring. Living together is a symbol of such sharing in all its aspects.”
The Court opined that since no conciliation had taken place since 1996, this proved that the parties were unable to sustain their matrimonial relationship. A couple deprived of conjugal relationship and each other’s company amounts to mental cruelty.
The Court further relied on Naveen Kohli v. Neelu Kohli, (2006) 4 SCC 558; Samar Ghosh v. Jaya Ghosh, (2007) 4 SCC 511 and Rakesh Raman v. Kavita, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 497, opined that a dead relationship only brought pain and agony and the Court could not be a party to such mental cruelty.
Thus, a situation of such separation of more than 27 years since December, 1996 was a ground for dissolution of marriage on the ground of cruelty and accordingly, held that the wife was entitled to divorce on the ground of cruelty under Section 13(1)(ia) of the HM Act.
The Court further stated that the husband had separated from the wife in 1996 and had no intention to resume the matrimonial relationship, thus, the wife was also entitled to divorce on the ground of desertion under Section 13(1)(ib) of the HM Act.
[Poonam Wadhwa v. Rajiv Wadhwa, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 5535, decided on 6-9-2023]
*Judgment authored by- Justice Neena Bansal Krishna
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Appellant: Akash Madan, Advocate;
For the Respondent: Akash Madan, Advocate