Chhattisgarh High Court: In an appeal filed by the appellant-wife to challenge the judgment and decree dated 26-10-2017 passed by the Family Court, Rajnandgaon, Chhattisgarh (‘Family Court’), whereby the divorce was granted to the respondent-husband, the Division Bench of Goutam Bhaduri* and Deepak Kumar Tiwari, JJ., opined that though the husband stated that many efforts were made to bring back the wife, but nothing was there on record to appreciate the same. Thus, the ground of desertion was not fully established by the husband before the Family Court to get a decree of divorce. The Court also opined that though the issue of cruelty was not before the Family Court, but the Family Court observed it and also, failed to consider the aspects related to human relations or behaviour inter se. Thus, the Court sets aside the impugned judgment passed by the Family Court.
The parties got married on 29-11-2002 and a child was born from the wedlock. After the marriage, the wife hardly resided with her husband for a period of three years and since 13-08-2010, she had been residing in her parental home.
The husband stated that since he was the only son of his parents, he had to look after them, but the wife insisted him to live separately from them and as per her wishes, they resided separately from his parents but, the issue did not resolve. On 13-08-2010, the wife called a social meeting in a Gurdwara, but the husband and his family members were not present, therefore a subsequent date of 18-08-2010 was given to them. On 18-08-2010, the husband and his family members were present, but the wife and her family members were not present, and thereby all the efforts of reunion failed.
Consequently, the divorce was sought by the husband on the ground that the husband and wife had been residing separately from each other since 13-08-2010. However, the wife alleged that she was subjected to indecent behavior and abusive language by the husband, and he also used to beat her frequently, but she endured all this to save her married life. The wife further stated that she was left alone at the old house and the family members moved to another house and thereby she was deserted by the husband, who extended physical and mental cruelty to her. Therefore, there was no ground to grant the decree of divorce to the husband.
The Family Court vide judgment dated 26-10-2017 granted the divorce to the husband and stated that the wife left the husband without any lawful reason.
Analysis, Law, and Decision
The Court observed that the husband had brought the suit for divorce on the ground of desertion because on 13-08-2019, the wife had left her matrimonial home. The Court further observed that the Family Court had framed the issues only on the ground of desertion but, while granting a decree for divorce, cruelty was also considered as a ground for granting a decree for divorce.
The Court relied on Bipinchandra Jaisinghbai Shah v. Prabhavati, 1956 SCC OnLine SC 15 and opined that the husband stated that the wife left the matrimonial house, however, the wife alleged that because of the severe beating by the husband, on 13-08-2010, she was forced to inform her father, after which she and her father went to Gurudwara to resolve the matter. The Court opined that except the oral bald statements, there was nothing on record to appreciate that any serious attempt was made by the husband to bring back the wife.
The Court opined that in the matter of decree of desertion, corroboration was not an important instinct, and the rule of precaution was to be applied. The wife’s statement that she never wanted to take divorce from her husband remained unrebutted. The Court opined that when there was a separation, the essential question was always whether the act of separation could be attributable to the desertion.
The Court opined that the desertion commenced when the fact of separation and animus deserendi, both co-existed. It was not necessary that the fact of separation and animus deserendi should commence at the same time, but it could be gathered from the factual aspects and the evidence before the Court. The Court opined that when the separating spouse abandoned the marital home with the express or implied of bringing cohabitation permanently to close, the inference of desertion could be drawn. In the present case, the statements of the parties showed that after 18-08-2010, though the husband stated that many efforts were made to bring back the wife, but nothing was there on record to appreciate the same. Thus, the Court opined that the ground of desertion was not fully established by the husband before the Family Court to get a decree of divorce.
Further, the Court noted wife’s allegation that when they were living together, separately from the husband’s parents, he frequently used to stay out all night as he had illicit relations outside their marriage. The Court observed that these allegations appeared to be doubting the husband’s character as he frequently used to come late at night.
The Court opined that it was normal human behaviour and obvious that when a husband came late at night frequently, some doubt might come in the wife’s mind and if such doubt was expressed, it could not constitute cruelty. If the husband’s conduct was otherwise, the doubt would not have cropped in. The Court also observed that the husband also had similar doubts as he stated that the wife would talk to her brother’s friends to which he objected. The Court further opined that in a relationship between the husband and the wife, the minimum standard of belief on each other should be maintained and it was not expected that the wife would talk to outsiders as per the wish and will of the husband and unless otherwise something came to forefront which assassinated the wife’s character.
The Court opined that though the issue of cruelty was not before the Family Court, but the Family Court observed it and also, failed to consider the aspects with regard to such human relations or behaviour inter se. Thus, the Court set aside the impugned judgment passed by the Family Court.
Further with regard to the maintenance, the Court relied on Rajnesh v. Neha, (2021) 2 SCC 324, and opined that in the instant case, the wife was working as a government teacher and the husband was a contractor having any properties which showed the husband’s financial capacity. Thus, to avoid the multiplicity of proceedings, the Court held that the wife was entitled to get Rs. 45,000 per month towards the maintenance.
[Rainpreet Kaur v. Kulbir Chhabra, 2023 SCC OnLine Chh 4137, decided on 16-10-2023]
*Judgment authored by- Justice Goutam Bhaduri
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Appellant: Sumesh Bajaj and Rishabh Bajaj, Advocates;
For the Respondent: Anup Majumdar and Saket Pandey, Advocates