Normal Wear-Tear in a Matrimonial Life Cannot Constitute Mental Cruelty

The High Court of Delhi in MAT.APP.(F.C.)120/2015 decided on 09.09.2016 has held that "the instances given by him (Appellant Husband) are nothing but normal wear-tear in a matrimonial life which cannot constitute mental cruelty grave and weighty enough to dissolve the marriage."

In the present the marriage of the Appellant Husband and the Respondent Wife was solemnized two decades ago and there has been a separation of 10 years. The Appellant/Husband filed a petition seeking dissolution of marriage on account of cruelty but at the same time pleading that parties have been residing separately for more than twelve years. The Appellant/Husband did not seek dissolution of marriage on account of desertion. On the basis of averments made in the divorce petition and appreciating the evidence led in support thereof, learned Judge, Family Court held that the accusations of cruelty against the wife could not be proved. This resulted in dismissal of the divorce petition. This judgment and decree dated July 02, 2015 has now been assailed by the Appellant/Husband before this Court in the hope that the marriage having become dead, he may be able to get the marital ties with the Respondent/Wife snapped. .

The grounds pleaded by the Appellant/Husband in divorce petition before the Family Court was:

  • Appellant/Husband provided all facilities, love and affection to Respondent/Wife and family yet Respondent/Wife was ill tempered, abusive, and misbehave with him and his parents. She was also not taking proper care of the child.
  • The Respondent/Wife used to be instigated by her elder sister Shikha Sharma and her husband Anil Sharma and they brain washed the Appellant/Husband to the extent that he got separated from his family and also made him lodge false complaint against his parents.
  • The Respondent/Wife took away all the FDRs, NSCs and disposed of immovable properties purchased by him in the name of his wife and even took `60,000/- from his parents for vacating the house. The entire amount so taken by her was given by her to her sister and brother-in-law. Though it was a simple dowry-less marriage, the respondent/wife filed a false complaint with CAW Cell, Amar Colony and FIR No. 18/2003 was registered at PS Lajpat Nagar. However, all the accused including the petitioner and his family were discharged.
  • Appellant/Husband filed a petition under Section 9, Hindu Marriage Act which was withdrawn as his wife was not willing to join him.
  • Appellant/Husband had been paying maintenance as ordered by the Court from time to time in the proceedings under Section 125 Cr.P.C. and Section 24, Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
  • Appellant/Husband had been tolerating all the cruelties committed on him by the respondent/wife in the hope of getting the things normal with the passage of time. But the Respondent/Wife has made the entire life of the Appellant/Husband a ‘living hell’ by committing such acts which are absolutely immoral and uncaring amounting to utmost and extreme form of cruelty which any person can tolerate.

The High Court held that "If a husband wants to have a divorce on the ground of cruelty by his wife, he must specifically state in what way his wife treated him with cruelty. Merely because he is unable to cope with the conduct of his wife may cause mental disturbance to him but will not sufficient to snap the matrimonial bond. .

The term "Cruelty" is a mixed question of law and fact. The term "cruelty" for the purpose of Section 13(1)(ia) of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 should be of such a nature that the parties cannot reasonably be expected to live together and situation must be so grave that the wronged spouse cannot be reasonably expected to put up with the wrong doer spouse. No doubt, intention to hurt is not essential to be proved but in the absence of mental cruelty being proved for the purpose of seeking divorce, it is not possible to dissolve the marriage within the legal parameters. .

Since it is the husband who had approached the Court earlier for restitution of conjugal rights which was dismissed as withdrawn and later for dissolution of marriage on account of mental cruelty, we have carefully scrutinised the evidence led by him to prove mental cruelty. We have no hesitation to conclude that the instances given by him are nothing but normal wear-tear in a matrimonial life which cannot constitute mental cruelty grave and weighty enough to dissolve the marriage as held in AIR 2006 SC 1675 Naveen Kohli vs. Neelu Kohli. .

We are conscious of the fact that parties have been living separately for the last about 10 years. Efforts made at different levels by the Family Court as also by the Mediator could not resolve the issue between the parties. Parties may claim that the marriage has broken down irretrievably as they could not reconcile themselves to live together but the question is whether irretrievable break down of marriage can be sufficient to grant divorce. The answer has to be in negative in view of the decision of the Apex Court in (2009) 6 SCC 379 Vishnu Dutt Sharma Vs. Manju Sharma.

Accordingly, the appeal is hereby dismissed