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Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench of Krishna S. Dixit and P. Krishna Bhat, JJ., held that,

“Though contracting a second marriage by a Muslim may be lawful, but it more often than not causes enormous cruelty to the first wife justifying her claim for divorce.”

The present appeal calls in question the Judgment and Decree whereby Family Court had dissolved the marriage between the husband and wife (respondent).

Brief Facts

Both the appellant and the respondent are Sunni Muslims. Respondent had filed a suit seeking a decree for dissolution of marriage on the grounds of cruelty and desertion alleging that she and her parents were manhandled by the appellant and his parents without any justification.

Further appellant contracted a second marriage with another lady when the respondent was carrying and that he had begotten a child from the said lady.

Appellant while defending the suit claim in addition to seeking a decree for the restitution of conjugal rights contending that he had always loved the respondent and contracted for the second marriage only because of the pressured mounted by his parents.

It was also added that Sheriat permits a Mohammaden to contract plural wives and such a conduct per se does not amount to cruelty, nor constitute a ground for opposing restitution of conjugal rights.

Analysis and Decision

Bench on perusal of the facts and submission declined to interfere in the matter.

The fact that the respondent-wife and her parents were manhandled by the husband’s parents has been supported by the evidentiary material and the very admission of the appellant himself.

It is a bounden duty of every husband to protect his wife in any circumstances.

In the present matter, what acts the appellant did, to protect his wife from the onslaught of his parents is neither pleaded nor proved; the contention that his parents are very influential & powerful is too feeble a justification for allowing the poor wife to be tortured.

“…institution of marriage is founded inter alia on the mutual support and security of spouses; if the husband fails to protect his wife from his own violent parents, the very trust of the wife is shaken and therefore she is entitled to oppose restitution of conjugal rights, lest she should undergo the same ill-treatment.”

Act of Second Marriage | Sheriat 

Further, the Court added that it is a matter of common knowledge that, women regardless of their religion and socio-economic conditions, detest their husbands contracting a second marriage; therefore, the proof of consent requires cogent evidence which is militantly lacking in this case.

Appellant’s plea that the Sheriat permits a Muslim to contract in marriage plural wives, may be legally true. Kerala High Court’s decision in Shahulameedu v. Subaida Beevi, 1970 K.L.T 4 has observed the right of a Muslim to practise polygamy under the Sheriat.

Section 2 of the Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 recognizes the ‘cruelty of conduct’ of the husband as a ground for the dissolution of marriage at the instance of aggrieved ‘woman married under Muslim law’.

Marital Cruelty

Courts have emphasised that in the backdrop of spousal relationship, words, acts or conduct constituting cruelty are infinitely variable with the increasing complexities of modern life; no attempt at defining cruelty is likely to succeed, fully; merely because an act is lawful, it does not per se become justifiable in married life.

Though contracting a second marriage by a Muslim may be lawful, but it more often than not causes enormous cruelty to the first wife justifying her claim for divorce.

Privy Council in Moonshee Bazloor Ruheem v. Shamsunnissa Begum, (11 MIA 551) observed with regard to marital cruelty that,

“Indian law does not recognize various types of cruelty such as ‘Muslim’ cruelty, ‘Christian’ cruelty, ‘Jewish’ cruelty, and so on, and the test of cruelty is based on the universal and humanitarian standards, that is to say, conduct of the husband which would cause such bodily or mental pain as to endanger the wife’s safety or health. The onus today would be on the husband who takes a second wife to explain his action and prove that his taking a second wife involved no insult or cruelty to the first, and in the absence of cogent explanation the Court will presume under modern conditions that the action of the husband in taking a second wife involved cruelty to the first, and it would be inequitable for the Court to compel her against her wishes to live with such a husband.”

Hence, in view of the above circumstances, the present appeal lacks merits and is liable to be rejected. [Yusufpatel v. Ramjanbi, MFA No. 201154 of 2018 (FC), decided on 17-08-2020]