Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench of Arindam Sinha and Suvra Ghosh, JJ. confirmed a decree of divorce passed in favour of the husband by the trial court on grounds of cruelty by the wife. The instant appeal, dismissed by the High Court, was preferred by the wife against the judgment of the trial court.

Backdrop and Factual Matrix

The husband filed for divorce against the wife on grounds of cruelty, alleging that she made false allegations against him of having illicit relations with other women as well as their own daughter. The trial court found that no cogent proof of illicit relationship was forthcoming from the wife which could prove the allegations made by her against the husband. Therefore, the trial court held it amounted to cruelty against the husband under Section 13(i)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; and granted a decree of divorce in favour of the husband.

Contentions ─ Wife

The wife argued that the allegation of cruelty was erroneously held to be proved against her. She submitted that the persons named were not produced as witness. Extreme financial hardship had prevented her from fully participating at the trial, but that by itself did not justify finding in the trial court’s judgment and decree that the allegation of cruelty was proved against her.

Contentions ─ Husband

The husband submitted that the suit was filed in year 2004. Dilatory tactics were adopted by the wife. He gave evidence and was cross-examined, which could not shake his evidence. Such unshaken testimony was corroborated by their daughter. The daughter was married and living happily in her matrimonial home. Grave and serious allegations against him were made regarding carrying on with several women, including, their daughter. This part of the evidence was also corroborated by the daughter. The daughter took to the witness box and corroborated unshaken testimony of the husband, and therefore the wife did not cross-examine her, nor turn up to give evidence and be cross-examined. In such circumstances, further corroboration was not required and the Court below correctly appreciated the evidence to find cruelty inflicted on him.

It was further submitted that he had allowed the wife to stay in his flat and is regularly paying her enhanced permanent alimony. Eighteen years of separation had happened and there should not now be reversal of the trial court’s judgment and decree. He relied on the Supreme Court decision in Adhyaatmam Bhaamini v. Jagdish Ambala Shah, (1997) 9 SCC 471.

Law, Analysis and Decision

The High Court analysed the facts and allegations in two parts. Firstly, the allegations were regarding the wife having taken up a 9 am to 9 pm job, after which she became very ill. The husband, in his evidence, stated that he put pressure on the wife to leave the job. On the other hand, the wife said that the husband forced her to work on a sales office to earn money to meet family expenses. On examining the record, it appeared to the High Court that the wife took up the job, after which she fell ill, and the husband caused her to leave the job. Therefore, the wife’s account on this point was disbelieved by the Court.

Secondly, the allegation against the wife was that in July-August 2003, she visited the husband’s office, informing the Committee of Housing about him maintaining illicit relationship with their daughter. As a consequence, members of the Committee came to their residence. The wife admitted that on one occasion, she went to her husband’s office, but only to meet him. She did not meet allegations regarding her approaching the Committee members.

The allegations of the husband against the wife, were corroborated by their daughter in her evidence-in-chief. Although some statements in her affidavit were hearsay. The Court opined that:

There are some statements in her affidavit-in-chief, which are hearsay. The parts of her affidavit that can be attributed to be her evidence is in corroboration of what her father said in the petition, his affidavit-in-chief and from the Box, in cross-examination.”    

 On a complete analysis, the High Court held that the wife made reckless allegations against the husband, amounting to cruelty. The Court was convinced that there is no scope of interference in the trial court’s judgment and decree. The appeal was fount without any merit and was therefore dismissed. [Radha Majumder v. Arun Kumar Majumder, 2021 SCC OnLine Cal 1398, decided on 23-03-2021]


Advocates who appeared in this case:

Mr. Pradip Kumar Roy

Ms. Shraboni Sarkar … for appellant wife

Mr. Debabrata Acharyya

Mr. Sital Samanta … for respondent-husband

Case BriefsHigh Courts

To marry or not to marry and if so whom, may well be a private affair. But, the freedom to break a matrimonial tie is not.

(N.G. Dastane v. S. Dastane: (1975) 2 SCC 326).

Kerala High Court: The Division Bench of C.K. Abdul Rehim and R. Narayana Pisharadi, JJ., while addressing the instant petition highlighted the observation that:

a petition for divorce under Section 27 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 can be filed only when the marriage is solemnised or deemed to be solemnised under the provisions of that Act.

Husband in the instant case has challenged the divorce decree passed by the Family Court filed by the wife.

Section 27(1)(d) of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 provides that, subject to the provisions of that Act and the Rules made thereunder, a petition for divorce may be presented to the District Court either by the husband or the wife on the ground that the respondent has treated the petitioner with cruelty.

Petitioner and respondent had solemnised their marriage under the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, 1954.

Primary allegation against the respondent was that he was always suspicious of the moral character of the petitioner and that he always used to make accusations of infidelity and immorality against her.

Highlight in the petition

Imputations made by the respondent on the character of the petitioner, especially the accusation of illicit relationship by her with her colleagues in the profession.

Whether the conduct of the respondent imputing infidelity and immorality on the petitioner amounts to inflicting mental cruelty?

Mental cruelty is 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 (See V. Bhagat v. D. Bhagat : (1994) 1 SCC 337)

Bench stated that to constitute cruelty, the conduct complained of must be something more serious that ‘ordinary wear and tear of married life’.

In the instant case, it was submitted that the respondent had publicly humiliated the petitioner by telling two strangers that his wife was sleeping with another man on the previous night.

Court noted that it was proved that the respondent had informed the colleagues of the petitioner in the hospital that she was having an affair with another doctor. Thus the respondent made the petitioner a subject of scandal in the hospital where she was working.

Due to the above-stated petitioner had to resign from the hospital on account of shame.

The above-discussed incidents proved that the respondent was in the habit of imputing infidelity and immorality on the part of his wife.

Injury to reputation is an important consideration in dealing with the question of cruelty.

In Raj v. Kavita : (2017) 14 SCC 194, Supreme Court held that, the conduct of a spouse levelling false accusations against the other spouse which would have the effect of lowering his/her reputation in the eyes of his/her peers, would be an act of cruelty.

In Narendra v. Meena: (2016) 9 SC 455, Supreme Court held that, levelling of absolutely false allegations and that too with regard to an extra-marital life, is quite serious and that can surely be a cause for mental cruelty.

With regard to the above discussions, it was observed that

Unending accusations and imputations can cause more pain and misery than physical beating.

Legal Cruelty

Bench expressed that, in a delicate human relationship like matrimony, one has to see the probabilities of the case. One has to see what are the probabilities in a case and legal cruelty has to be found out, not merely as a matter of fact, but as the effect on the mind of the complainant spouse due to the acts or omissions of the other.

Court further in line with the above discussions also stated that

Any woman with reasonable self-respect and power of endurance would find it difficult to live with such a suspicious and taunting husband.

Hence, the lower Court’s conclusion that the petitioner was treated with cruelty by the respondent and she was entitled to get divorce decree in light of the same was correct.

Special Marriage Act, 1954

Appellant’s Counsel submitted that since the marriage was solemnised in a church, the marriage solemnised under the provisions of Special Marriage Act, 1954 would not prevail and the petition for divorce filed under Section 27 of the said Act would not be maintainable.

Hence, the petition for divorce should have been filed under Section 10 of the Divorce Act, 1869.

The Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 is not applicable to territories which were comprised in the erstwhile State of Travancore – Cochin existed before the 1st November 1956.

The marriage between the parties in the instant case had taken place in an area comprised in the erstwhile Travancore State.

Therefore, the marriage between the parties in the instant case was not governed by the provisions of the above-mentioned statute.

High Court observed that when the marriage is not governed by any statutory law, the validity of the marriage has to be decided in accordance with the personal law applicable.

Further, it followed that there was no valid marriage solemnised between the parties in the church. If that be so, the marriage solemnised as per the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 is the valid marriage that existed between the parties.

Adding to the above, bench stated that had the marriage between the parties conducted in the church been valid, it was not necessary for the parties to solemnise the marriage under Chapter II of the Special Marriage Act, 1954.

The very fact that the marriage between the parties was solemnised by them under the provisions of Chapter II of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 would indicate that the parties were also aware and conscious of the fact that the marriage between them conducted in the church was not valid.

In Stephen Joshus v. J.D. Kapoor: 58 (1995) DLT 57,

the parties were Christians who had been married to each other under the provisions of the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872. A joint petition was preferred by them under Section 28 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 seeking the dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce by mutual consent.

The trial court dismissed the petition on the ground that the marriage was solemnised under the Christian Marriage Act whereas divorce had been sought under the Special Marriage Act and therefore, the petition was not maintainable.

The Delhi High Court held that sub-section (2) of Section 28 of the Special Marriage Act confers jurisdiction upon the District Court to grant a decree, declaring the marriage to be dissolved only on the satisfaction that the marriage has been solemnised under that Act and therefore, upheld the dismissal of the petition by the lower court.

In Aulvin v. Chandrawati: 1974 SCC OnLine All 285,

the husband filed a petition for divorce against the wife on the ground of desertion under Section 27 of the Special Marriage Act. The parties were admittedly Christians and they were married in a Christian church according to Christian rites.

The wife contended that since the parties were Christians and had been married under the provisions of the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872, the petition for divorce should have been filed under Section 10 of the Divorce Act, 1869 and the petition filed under Section 27 of the Special Marriage Act was not maintainable.

The Allahabad High Court held that the petition for divorce presented under Section 27 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 was not maintainable since the marriage between the parties was neither solemnised nor registered under that Act.

Hence, the Court held that the marriage between the petitioner and respondent in the church was not valid and marriage solemnised under the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 would prevail over it. If only the marriage conducted between the parties in church was valid, the solemnisation of marriage under Chapter II of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 would have been an exercise in futility.

Therefore, the divorce petition under Section 27 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 would not be maintainable.[Kiran Kumar v. Bini Marim Chandi, 2018 SCC OnLine Ker 13579, decided on 11-10-2018]


Advocates who appeared before the Court:

For Appellant:

SRI.S.V.PREMAKUMARAN NAIR
SMT.M.BINDUDAS
SMT.P.S.ANJU
SRI.P.K.JANARDHANAN
SRI.R.T.PRADEEP

For Respondent:

SMT.MAJIDA.S
SMT.MAJIDA.S CAVEATOR
DR. SEBASTIAN CHAMPAPPILLY AMICUS CURIAE
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of J.R. Midha, J. dismissed the appeal filed by the appellant-husband against the order of trial court whereby the court dismissed his petition for dissolution of marriage filed under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

The parties married in the year 1988; and in 2005, the husband filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. It was alleged that the respondent-wife treated him with cruelty; there were continuous fights; the wife did not take care of him during illness; she made false allegations of the illicit relationship against him; filed false and frivolous cases against him, etc. The wife contested the petition. The trial court held that the husband miserably failed to prove allegations of cruelty, and therefore dismissed the petition. Aggrieved thus, the husband preferred the present appeal. The husband submitted that there was an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage between the parties, and thus a decree of dissolution may be passed.

On careful consideration of the record, the High Court agreed with the trial court that the husband failed to prove cruelty. It was noted that the husband did not cross-examine the wife on allegations of illicit relationship as levelled against him. The wife produced a witness to corroborate the said allegation, and even that witness was not cross-examined. In circumstances of the case, the Court was of the view that submission of the wife that the husband wanted to take advantage of his own wrong seemed plausible. Furthermore, in respect of the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage, the Court held that it is not empowered to dissolve the marriage on that ground. The appeal was accordingly dismissed. [M v. A,2018 SCC OnLine Del 10688, dated 17-08-2018]