IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE FOR RAJASTHAN
BENCH AT JAIPUR
D.B. Civil Misc. Appeal No.244/1993
Nathulal v. Nathi Bai
Judgment reserved on 5.4.2016
Judgment pronounced on 31.5.2016
Hon’ble Mr. Justice Ajay Rastogi
Hon’ble Mr. Justice J.K. Ranka
Mr. Ravi Kasliwal, counsel for appellant
Mr. Suresh Pareek, Sr. Counsel, assisted by
Mr. N.C. Sharma, counsel for respondent
By the Court (per Ranka, J.)
1. This appeal is directed against the judgment & decree dated 24.2.1993 passed by the Family Court, Kota, by which application filed by the appellant u/sec. 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (for short the Act 1955), has been rejected with cost of Rs.1000/-.
2. This case has a chequered history of litigation.
3. The husband, Nathulal filed a divorce petition u/sec. 13 of the Act 1955, which was registered as Civil Misc. Case No.183/1991, and the same came to be dismissed by the Family Court. Appeal against the said judgment and order on an earlier occasion came to be decided by Division Bench of this Court vide order dated 1.3.1997, by which Coordinate Bench of this Court allowed the appeal and set aside the judgment and decree of the Family Court and granted a decree for divorce in favour of the appellant-husband. The respondent wife, Nathi Bai carried the matter to the Apex Court in Civil Appeal No.3422/1997 that came to be allowed vide order dated 8.10.2002 and order of the Division Bench in the present appeal, No.244/1993 dated 1.3.1997 was set aside and the matter was remitted to the Division Bench of this Court for fresh hearing and disposal in accordance with law.
4. The appellant moved an application u/O.41 R.27 CPC for taking subsequent events on record. Taking note of the various contentions and in the light of directions of the Apex Court vide order dated 8.10.2002, the Coordinate Bench of this Court vide judgment dated 9.10.2006, dismissed the appeal filed by the appellant. The appellant filed a review petition which too came to be dismissed by the Coordinate Bench of this Court on 20.12.2006 and the application filed u/O. 41 R.27 CPC remained unattended. The appellant filed Civil Appeal No.(S) 366-367/2009 before the Apex Court against the judgment of this Court dated 9.10.2006 and dismissal of the review application dated 20.12.2006. The Apex Court allowed the appeal of appellant and again remitted the matter back to this Court with a direction to take into consideration application u/O.41 R.27 CPC and decide afresh. The operative portion of the order of Apex Court is quoted thus :-
Keeping all the circumstances in view, since avowedly the High Court has not decided the appellant’s application under Order XLI Rule 27 CPC, the course which commends itself to us is to remand the matter in its entirety to the High Court with a direction to first decide the Appellant’s application under Order XLI Rule 27 CPC. The Impugned Order is accordingly set aside. The matters are remanded back to the High Court for consideration afresh.
Appeals stand disposed of. No order as to costs.
After the matter was remitted back to this Court, application u/O.41 R.27 was allowed and the judgments annexed thereto were taken on record vide order dated 9.7.2015.
5. Having noticed the above facts, the salient features for disposal of present appeal are noticed hereunder.
6. Admittedly the appellant-husband got married with the respondent-wife on 27.4.1979 as per the Hindu rites and custom. It has been alleged that in the month of February 1983 respondent wife left the house of appellant husband without any reason and did not turn back. The appellant filed a divorce petition u/sec. 13 in the year 1986 which the appellant withdrew as both the parties entered into a compromise. It is further alleged that in the month of August 1986, respondent came back to the house of the appellant and for some time the behaviour of the respondent was normal, but she started giving threatening and started quarreling with the appellant. It is further alleged that torture of the respondent had gone to such an extent that the respondent lodged a false case against him u/sec. 498-A and 406 IPC in the police station Vigyan Nagar, Kota, on 28.8.1986 against her in-laws in which allegations were levelled regarding demand of dowry against the father and brothers of the appellant and the police after investigation submitted final report, the Investigating Officer having found the entire allegations to be false and that was accepted by the Competent Court of jurisdiction. It is also alleged that the respondent pushed the cycle of the appellant-husband and caught hold of his collar and after abusing him shouted that she would not allow him to go to duty and shut him up in the room and thus there was continuous quarrel in between the parties.
7. The appellant has also lodged a report on 30.8.1988 against the respondent. It has further been stated that the appellant is serving in Instrumentation Ltd., Kota, and the respondent on one occasion reached the factory premises and misbehaved with the appellant outside the factory gate. It is also alleged that on 2-3 occasions respondent wife brought two persons who attacked the appellant at the time when he was returning from his office. It has further been alleged that the respondent was bent upon to commit his murder and looking to the conduct and behaviour of the respondent and fact of cruelty inflicted upon the appellant, the appellant was unable to live with her and thus an application was moved u/sec. 13 of the Act 1955 in the year 1989, which came to be dismissed as aforesaid.
8. Mr. Kasliwal, the learned counsel for the appellant has contended that taking into consideration the facts brought in the application for divorce coupled with the material on record, clearly proves that the respondent caused continuous mental and physical cruelty on the appellant husband. The learned Family Court has not considered the material on record insofar as the cruelty of the respondent wife is concerned. There are oral as well as documentary evidence available on record which proves the same. He further contends that the behaviour and conduct of the respondent wife since beginning was not proper and on a small pretext, she left the matrimonial home initially and admittedly did not come for a period of about 3 years and the appellant had to file an application u/sec. 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act before the Family Court, which however was withdrawn because of the intervention of the family members and her relatives, the respondent wife came back to the matrimonial home and after staying, her behaviour for sometime was normal but a false complaint was made against the father and brothers of the appellant on 28.9.1986 with the allegations of beating and demanding dowry, however, after investigation the police filed final report and the same was accepted by the competent court.
He drew attention on the complaints/cases :-
(i) 28.8.1986 : FIR No.62/1986 u/sec. 498A IPC by Nathi Bai against appellant’s father and brothers : After investigation police found allegations false.
(ii) 5.10.1989 : Complaint by Vikas Adhikari, Panchayat Samiti Sultanpur (where father of the appellant Nathu Lal was employed) to the effect that respondent Nathi Bai came at the office and tried to create nuisance by which office work was disrupted.
(iii) 14.12.1989 : Complaint by Dwarka Lal, father of the appellant against Nathi Bai and her brothers to the effect that they came at their house and misbehaved with him and mother of the appellant, even the clothes of appellant’s mother were dis- robed. On an FIR having been filed by the appellant, challan was filed against the respondent before the competent court and the respondent had been bound down by the Court of Law to behave well with the appellant.
(iv) 23.3.1990 : FIR No.37/1990 u/sec. 498A IPC by Nathi Bai against father, mother and brothers of appellant
Vide order dated 18.1.2003 passed by Addl. CJM, Fast Track, Digod (Kota), accused were found not guilty in
(v) 7.4.1990 : FIR No.42/1990 u/sec. 498A and 324 IPC by Nathi Bai against father and mother of appellant.
Vide order dated 31.1.2003 passed by Addl. CJM, Fast Track Digod (Kota), accused were found not guilty in
(vi) 21.5.1990 : Complaint No.867 registered at Police Station Vigyan Nagar, Kota, on information received over telephone that at the factory gate of Instrumentation Limited Nathu Lal and Nathi Bai were quarreling and fighting. Both were taken to the police station by police. However, subsequently they were released on bail by order of ADM (City) Kota.
(vii) 5.12.1990 : Dwarka Lal, father of appellant filed a complaint before Dy.SP (Rural), Kota, to the effect that Nathi Bai tried to destroy crop of Wheat in his fields by discharging canal water.
(viii) 14.3.1991 : FIR No.21/1991 u/sec.341, 323/34 IPC by Mangi Bai (mother of appellant) against Nathi Bai and her brothers.
Vide order dated 25.7.2002 passed by Judl. Magistrate (First Class), Digod, accused were found guilty in
9. He also drew attention of this Court on application under O.41 R.27 CPC by which he placed reliance on three aforementioned orders dated 25.7.2002 (Case No.366/1997), 18.1.2003 (Case No.428/2002), and 31.1.2003 (Case No.117/2002) passed by Digod Courts. Thus, he contended that there has been plethora of cases and even one criminal case is sufficient to prove cruelty whereas in the instant case there are several criminal cases which certainly proves to the hilt about the physical and mental cruelty against the appellant. He also relied upon the statements of several witnesses recorded, which clearly brings on record the behaviour of the respondent.
10. He further contended that admittedly from August 1989, now almost about 27 years, both husband and wife are living separately, and there being no issue out of the wedlock, no bonding between them, the appellant is now aged about 55 years, certainly needs now a peaceful life, at-least at this stage of his career/life, which has been totally ruined/spoilt by the respondent. He contended that both the appellant and respondent merely can be said to be husband and wife on record but in reality their marriage does not subsist and it is a case of irretrievable breakdown of marriage and under such circumstances, the decree of divorce deserves to be granted in favour of the appellant and the appeal may be allowed. He relied upon the following judgments :-
Naveen Kohli v. Neelu Kohli (2006) 4 SCC 558;
Mayadevi (Smt.) v. Jagdish Prasad (2007) 3 SCC 136;
Vishwanath Agrawal v. Sarla Vishwanath Agrawal (2012) 7 SCC 288;
Smt. Savitri Balchandani v. Mulchand Balchandani AIR 1987 Delhi 52;
Jayakrishna Panigrahi v. Smt. Surekha Panigrahi AIR 1996 Andhra Pradesh 19;
Smt. Sadhana Srivastava v. Arvind Kumar Srivastava AIR 2006 Allahabad 7;
11. Per contra Mr. Suresh Pareek, learned Sr. Counsel for the respondent, assisted by Mr. N.C. Sharma, Advocate, contended that the respondent was always ready, willing and prepared to live as wife of the appellant, peacefully but the appellant was never interested in keeping the respondent and created hindrances by filing complaints for no rhyme or reason. He further contended that the respondent who is present in Court, has categorically, expressly and openly said that she is ready and willing to live with the appellant in the manner appellant wishes, and words before this Court should be taken in the right spirit and at-least the sacred function of the Court in matrimonial matters, should be taken sympathetically, as it is a matter of life and death of a poor and illiterate lady from a village background who do not know the niceties of law, may have taken some abrupt action which does not come within the definition of cruelty.
12. He further contended that the appellant and his family members demanded dowry and only under such compelling circumstances, complaint was lodged u/sec. 498A IPC by the respondent which by itself cannot be said to be a cruelty. She lived with the appellant, admittedly, from August 1986 to the year 1989 but then, the appellant himself was not interested and created complex situations.
13. He further contended that the appellant also filed an application for judicial separation which too was dismissed vide order dated 5.12.1995, and contended that the judgment of Trial Court relied upon by the learned counsel for the appellant and brought on record with the application under O.41 R.27 CPC were not before the Family Court and the same cannot be taken into consideration and if at all required, the matter may be remitted to the Family Court for reconsideration of subsequent developments/judgments.
14. He further contended that the Family Court has taken into consideration each and every factor, particularly the statements of witnesses and came to a correct conclusion which is not required to be interfered with, and vehemently supported the order passed by the Family Court and contended finally that the husband being habitual of filing divorce petition or judicial separation application, wants to get rid of her by seeking divorce by some method. He further contended that age is no consideration in matrimonial matters, rather contended that at this age of about 55 years or so, both husband and wife needs companionship and endeavour of the Court should be to see that they are reunited not only on papers but in reality. He relied upon the following judgments :-
Archna Sharma v. Suresh Kumar Sharma I (1995) DMC 133 [Punjab & Haryana High Court];
Sujit Banerjee v. Anita Banerjee II (1997) DMC 48 (DB) [Calcutta High Court];
Vegi Jagadesh Kumar v. V. Radhika II (2000) DMC 470 (DB) [Andhra Pradesh High Court];
Smt. Santosh Sharma v. Ashok Kumar AIR 2001 Delhi 422;
Jagat Singh v. Sarojini Devi I (2002) DMC 645 [Punjab & Haryana High Court];
Bishwanath Pandey v. Anjana Devi II (2002) DMC 397 (DB) [Jharkhand High Court];
Yudhishter Singh v. Smt. Sarita I (2003) DMC 538 (DB) [Rajasthan High Court];
Hari Ram v. Lichmaniya and Others AIR 2003 Rajasthan 319;
P.Malleswaramma v. P.Prathap Reddy AIR 2006 Andhra Pradesh 4;
Jitendra Singh v. Yashwanti II (2008) DMC 482 [Delhi High Court];
Pramodkumar C Shah v. Rajulaben Pramodkumar Shah II (2013) DMC 240 (DB) (Guj.);
Kajal Das v. Juli Mahajan (Das) III (2013) DMC 295 (DB) (Gau.);
Chetan Dass v. Kamla Devi RLW 2001 (2) SC 201;
15. We have heard the learned counsel for the parties and have gone through the impugned order and judgments passed by this Court earlier minutely and the observations of the Apex Court.
16. At the outset, we may quote sec. 13(1) of the Act 1955 and also quote sec. 498A, 323 and 406 IPC for disposal of the present appeal, which reads ad infra :-
13. Divorce- (1) Any marriage solemnized, whether before or after the commencement of the Act, may, on a petition presented by either the husband or the wife, be dissolved by a decree of divorce on the ground that the other party-
(i) has, after the solemnization of the marriage had voluntary sexual intercourse with any person other than his or her spouse; or (ia) has, after the solemnization of the marriage, treated the petitioner with cruelty; or (ib) has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition; or
(ii) has ceased to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion ; or
(iii) has been incurably of unsound mind, or has suffering continuously or intermittently from mental disorder of such a kind and to such an extent that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent.
Explanation- In this clause-
(a) the expression “mental disorder” means mental illness, arrested or incomplete development of mind, psychopathic disorder or any other disorder or disability of mind and include schizophrenia;
(b) the expression “psychopathic disorder” means a persistent disorder or disability of mind (whether or not including sub-normality of intelligence) which results in abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct on the part of the other party and whether or not it requires or is susceptible to medical treatment; or (iv) has been suffering from a virulent and incurable form of leprosy; or
(v) has been suffering from veneral disease in a communicable form; or
(vi) has renounced the world by entering any religious order; or
(vii) has not been heard of as being alive for a period of seven years or more by those persons who would naturally have heard of it, had that party been alive;…
498A. Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.
Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine. Explanation.For the purpose of this section, cruelty means
(a) any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or
(b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.
323. Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt.Whoever, except in the case provided for by section 334, voluntarily causes hurt, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.
406. Punishment for criminal breach of trust.Whoever commits criminal breach of trust shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
17. Admittedly the ground for divorce taken by the appellant against the respondent is that the respondent has treated the appellant with cruelty.
18. It would also be apt to quote the statements of material witnesses from both the sides to make home what has transpired in between the parties :-
AW-1 Nathulal son of Dwarka Lal stated, inter alia, that on 12.5.1989 at about 8:AM, Nathi Bai misbehaved with him and tried to prevent him from going to his office. He was rescued by neighbourers. One day she fought with him and told that neither she will allow him to go to his duties, nor let him live in Kota, and threatened to even kill him. He also stated that she along with her brothers after abusing him went to his parents’ house where they misbehaved with them and even declothed his mother.
AW-3 Dwarka Lal son of Magan Lal, inter alia, stated that Nathi Bai used to misbehave with him and his wife and even they have suffered beating from her and her brothers. On being cross examined, he stated that he has no knowledge how burn marks at her leg were received by her but she used those marks to gain sympathy from others.
AW-4 and AW-5 Dinesh Gautam son of Moti Shankar and Banwari Lal son of Madan Lal, have stated that they have witnessed the incident of Nathu Lal being abused by Nathi Bai in front of the factory gate of Instrumentation Ltd.
AW-6 Shyam Manohar son of Chaturbhuj, inter alia, has stated in his statement that on 12.3.1991 at about 2:30 in the afternoon when he was going home from village bust stand, he saw 20-25 persons together near the Primary School, and Nathi Bai was also there along with her three brothers and they were abusing and ill-behaving with father and mother of the petitioner Nathu Lal.
19. On perusal of the witnesses at the instance of the appellant, in our view, clearly proves that the respondent is in the habit of misbehaving not only with aged parents of the appellant and his brothers, but the appellant himself. Leaving apart the statement of AW-1, as he is petitioner appellant-Nathu Lal. Dinesh Gautam (AW-4), Banwari Lal (AW-5), Shyam Manohar (AW-6) and other witnesses have described about the incident of fight which ensued in between the parties outside the factory gate, where the respondent was found beating the appellant and abusing him in front of the staff and officials of the Instrumentation Ltd.
NAW-1 Nathi Bai wife of Nathu Lal in her statement, inter alia, stated that she did not fight with her husband on 12.5.1989 nor abused him. She also denied that she had ever threatened her husband. She then stated that after September 1989 she neither went to her in-laws’ house nor abused them. She denied the allegation that she ever wished that her husband should die so that she gets employment in his place. She alleged that for want of dowry, Nathu Lal had left her and differences have widened between them.
NAW-2, NAW-3 and NAW-4 Ghanshyamdas son of Madhodas, Ram Ratan Swami, and Birdhilal both sons of Ram Narain, inter alia, stated that dispute between the parties is for demand of dowry by Nathu Lal’s parents.
NAW-5, NAW-6 Saroj Singh daughter of Ravindra Pratap Singh, and Kamla Bai wife of Ramkumar, have stated, inter alia, that one day Nathi Bai was weaping and standing outside the house, they enquired from her about the reason of her weaping and standing outside the house, to which Nathi Bai answered that she is wife of Nathu Lal but he has sent a notice/letter of divorce to her. She further stated that when the dispute between the parties grew up, one day in 1986 members of the colony including them, went to Vigyan Nagar Police Station and lodged a report to the effect that Nathi Bai is wife of Nathu Lal but he uses force against her and misbehaves with her. Both the witnesses further stated that younger brothers were residing with the petitioner who used to forcibly push Nathi Bai to go out of the house and torture her. They also claimed that with the help other neighbourers they made Nathi Bai to enter in the house.
20. We have gone through the statements recorded at the instance of the respondent. While Ghanshyamdas (NAW-2), stated that there was a demand of gold chain in dowry which was conveyed to him by the father of respondent-Nathi Bai, however, in cross-examination he denies having any talk with the appellant in this regard. Ram Ratan Swami (NAW-3), though supports the version of Ghanshyamdas (NAW-2), but speaks of the incident about 10-12 years old and that too by mentioning that respondent’s father had told him about demand of dowry, however, he admitted in cross-examination that the appellant-Nathu Lal never raised any demand for any chain in his presence. Birdhilal (NAW-4), though he is stated to be a Head Constable in the Police Department, but he does not remember his place of posting when appellant’s father and appellant had said about demand of one tola gold chain. In cross-examination, however, he stated that the said incident did not happen in his presence. Ms. Saroj Singh (NAW-5), and Kamla Bai (NAW-6), Mrs. Santosh wife of Suresh Chandra (NAW-7), Mrs. Kesar wife of Radhe Shyam (NAW-8), Mrs. Shanti Verma wife of K.L. Verma (NAW-9), all spoke about the incident of 1986, which in our view is not required to be stressed upon particularly in view of the fact that thereafter admittedly both were living jointly at the instance of the family members of the respondent, and it is only after 1989 that further disputes took place in between the parties.
21. It would be appropriate to deal the judgments of the Apex Court which have laid down the principles which help discharge the Family Court and other Courts the onerous task in a more realistic and effective manner to decide petitions like this.
22. In the case of Naveen Kohli v. Neelu Kohli (supra), the Apex Court has laid down the principles which will help discharging the Family Courts and other Courts the onerous task in a more realistic and effective manner to decide the petitions, and the same is quoted thus :-
66. Irretrievable breakdown of marriage is not a ground for divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955. Because of the change of circumstances and for covering a large number of cases where the marriages are virtually dead and unless this concept is pressed into service, the divorce cannot be granted. Ultimately, it is for the Legislature whether to include irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground of divorce or not but in our considered opinion the Legislature must consider irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground for grant of divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955.
67. The 71st Report of the Law Commission of India briefly dealt with the concept of Irretrievable breakdown of marriage. This Report was submitted to the Government on 7th April, 1978. We deem it appropriate to recapitulate the recommendation extensively. In this Report, it is mentioned that during last 20 years or so, and now it would be around 50 years, a very important question has engaged the attention of lawyers, social scientists and men of affairs, namely, should the grant of divorce be based on the fault of the party, or should it be based on the breakdown of the marriage? The former is known as the matrimonial offence theory or fault theory. The latter has come to be known as the breakdown theory.
68. In the Report, it is mentioned that the germ of the breakdown theory, so far as Commonwealth countries are concerned, may be found in the legislative and judicial developments during a much earlier period. The (New Zealand) Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Amendment Act, 1920 included for the first time the provision that a separation agreement for three years or more was a ground for making a petition to the court for divorce and the court was given a discretion (without guidelines) whether to grant the divorce or not. The discretion conferred by this statute was exercised in a case in New Zealand reported in 1921. Salmond, J. in a passage which has now become classic, enunciated the breakdown principle in these word:
“The Legislature must, I think, be taken to have intended that separation for three years is to be accepted by this court, as prima facie a good ground for divorce.
When the matrimonial relation has for that period ceased to exist de facto, it should, unless there are special reasons to the contrary, cease to exist de jure also. In general, it is not in the interests of the parties or in the interest of the public that a man and woman should remain bound together as husband and wife in law when for a lengthy period they have ceased to be such in fact. In the case of such a separation the essential purposes of marriage have been frustrated, and its further continuance is in general not merely useless but mischievous.”
23. The Apex Court in the case of Samar Ghosh v. Jaya Ghosh (2007) 4 SCC 511 has held that cruelty is a state of mind, reiterating certain illustrative cases where inference of mental cruelty can be drawn. It would be appropriate to quote the relevant para 101 of the judgment :-
101. No uniform standard can ever be laid down for guidance, yet we deem it appropriate to enumerate some instances of human behaviour which may be relevant in dealing with the cases of mental cruelty. The instances indicated in the succeeding paragraphs are only illustrative and not exhaustive:
(i) On consideration of complete matrimonial life of the parties, acute mental pain, agony and suffering as would not make possible for the parties to live with each other could come within the broad parameters of mental cruelty.
(ii) On comprehensive appraisal of the entire matrimonial life of the parties, it becomes abundantly clear that situation is such that the wronged party cannot reasonably be asked to put up with such conduct and continue to live with other party.
(iii) Mere coldness or lack of affection cannot amount to cruelty, frequent rudeness of language, petulance of manner, indifference and neglect may reach such a degree that it makes the married life for the other spouse absolutely intolerable.
(iv) Mental cruelty is a state of mind. The feeling of deep anguish, disappointment, frustration in one spouse caused by the conduct of other for a long time may lead to mental cruelty.
(v) A sustained course of abusive and humiliating treatment calculated to torture, discommode or render miserable life of the spouse.
(vi) Sustained unjustifiable conduct and behaviour of one spouse actually affecting physical and mental health of the other spouse. The treatment complained of and the resultant danger or apprehension must be very grave, substantial and weighty.
(vii) Sustained reprehensible conduct, studied neglect, indifference or total departure from the normal standard of conjugal kindness causing injury to mental health or deriving sadistic pleasure can also amount to mental cruelty.
(viii) The conduct must be much more than jealousy, selfishness, possessiveness, which causes unhappiness and dissatisfaction and emotional upset may not be a ground for grant of divorce on the ground of mental cruelty.
(ix) Mere trivial irritations, quarrels, normal wear and tear of the married life which happens in day to day life would not be adequate for grant of divorce on the ground of mental cruelty.
(x) The married life should be reviewed as a whole and a few isolated instances over a period of years will not amount to cruelty. The ill conduct must be persistent for a fairly lengthy period, where the relationship has deteriorated to an extent that because of the acts and behaviour of a spouse, the wronged party finds it extremely difficult to live with the other party any longer, may amount to mental cruelty.
(xi) If a husband submits himself for an operation of sterilization without medical reasons and without the consent or knowledge of his wife and similarly if the wife undergoes vasectomy or abortion without medical reason or without the consent or knowledge of her husband, such an act of the spouse may lead to mental cruelty.
(xii) Unilateral decision of refusal to have intercourse for considerable period without there being any physical incapacity or valid reason may amount to mental cruelty.
(xiii) Unilateral decision of either husband or wife after marriage not to have child from the marriage may amount to cruelty.
(xiv) Where there has been a long period of continuous separation, it may fairly be concluded that the matrimonial bond is beyond repair. The marriage becomes a fiction though supported by a legal tie. By refusing to sever that tie, the law in such cases, does not serve the sanctity of marriage; on the contrary, it shows scant regard for the feelings and emotions of the parties. In such like situations, it may lead to mental cruelty.
24. The Apex Court has found that there can be no uniform standard but deemed it appropriate to enumerate some instances of human behaviour in dealing with the case of mental cruelty. In our view, sub paras (i), (ii), (x) and (xiv) are relevant in the instant case.
25. In the case of K. Srinivas Rao v. D.A. Deepa (2013) 5 SCC 226, not only the Apex Court adjudged the above points of mental cruelty as expressed in the case of Samar Ghosh (supra) but also added few more points namely, making unfounded defamatory allegations against spouse or his relatives even in pleadings, filing repeated false complaints or issuing notices or news items which may have adverse impact on the business prospects or the job of spouse and filing repeated complaints and cases against spouse in the facts of the case, amount to causing mental cruelty.
26. It is true that the foundation of a sound marriage is tolerance, adjustment and respecting one another. Tolerance to each others fault to a certain bearable extent has to be inherent in every marriage. It is true that every matrimonial conduct which may cause annoyance to the other, may not amount to cruelty. Mere trivial irritations, quarrels between spouses which happen in day to day married life may also not amount to cruelty. Mental cruelty may consist of verbal abuses and insults, by using filthy and ugly language leading to constant disturbance of mental peace of the other party.
27. In the case of Mayadevi (smt) v. Jagdish Prasad (supra) the Trial Court found that the allegation of cruelty was established. Several instances were noted. One of them related to wife’s behaviour on the date of judgment in the criminal case. After the judgment of conviction was pronounced, she threatened the husband to kill him and prosecute him. It was also noted by the Trial Court that allegation made by her alleging dowry demand was disbelieved and the police gave final report stating that the case was falsely lodged and on these facts the Trial Court granted the decree of divorce, which was confirmed by the High Court. The Apex Court taking into consideration the facts and circumstances in that case held that the husband was subjected to mental and physical cruelty and thus dismissed the appeal.
28. In the present case as well, the case instituted u/sec. 498-A IPC was dismissed and the same has not been assailed before higher forum.
29. In the instant case, the contention of learned counsel for the respondent that proceedings u/sec. 498-A IPC and other cases were filed subsequently cannot be considered, but in the light of the judgment of Vishwanath Agrawal (supra) the contention of learned counsel for the respondent is repelled.
30. We find that the judgments in Vishwanath Agrawal v. Sarla Vishwanath Agrawal (supra), Smt. Savitri Balchandani v. Mulchand Balchandani (supra), Jayakrishna Panigrahi v. Smt. Surekha Panigrahi (supra), Smt. Sadhana Srivastava v. Arvind Kumar Srivastava (supra), A. Jayachandra v. Aneel Kaur (2005) 2 SCC 22, and Suman Kapur v. Sudhir Kapur (2009) 1 SCC 422 were relied upon wherein it is held that false, scandalous, malicious, baseless and unproved allegations even in the written-statement is cruelty to the other party.
31. It would also be appropriate to mention about the judgments relied upon by the learned counsel for respondent.
32. In the case of Sujit Banerjee v. Anita Banerjee (supra) the High Court found that a unilateral act of one spouse, reducing the relationship to a situation where the marriage would be deemed to have broken down and such act unless made an issue by the wronged spouse cannot be deemed to be a valid ground to take away the legal right which was caused by the solemnization of marriage. In the abovesaid case, wife did not opt to dissolve the marriage in spite of suffering at the hands of the husband and there was bona fide on her part. On these facts the High Court dismissed the appeal. In our view, the facts are different and entirely distinguishable to what are available in the instant case.
33. In the case of Archna Sharma v. Suresh Kumar Sharma (supra), the Court found that allegations of cruelty were not pleaded in the divorce petition by seeking amendment thereto and, therefore, not put to trial, and the Court observed that the allegations of cruelty could not be taken note of while granting divorce unless these were made a part of the divorce petition. The High Court in that case was not inclined to grant decree of divorce. However, in the light of the judgment in Vishwanath Agrawal (supra) of the Apex Court, where it has been held that subsequent events can be taken note of and considered, the said judgment is contrary to the law laid down by the Apex Court and is distinguishable. To the same effect is the judgment relied upon by the learned counsel for respondent in the case of Smt. Santosh Sharma v. Ashok Kumar (supra).
34. Similarly in the case of Vegi Jagadesh Kumar v. V. Radhika (supra), there were mere accusations, taunts by one against other and the High Court found that they were not willful in nature and does not constitute cruelty. The High Court also observed that the other party committed willful and unjustifiable acts inflicting pain and misery on the complainant and causing injury to his/her health. The conduct of complainant must be serious and higher than the wear and tear of married life. It is not cruelty, if acts complained of are not violent in nature. Mere complaints, accusations, or taunts by one against the other if the same are not willful in nature, do not constitute cruelty. The other judgments relied upon by the learned counsel for respondent in the cases of Pramodkumar C Shah (supra), Jagat Singh (supra), Jitendra Singh (supra), Chetan Dass (supra), Kajal Das (supra), Yudhishter Singh (supra), Hari Ram (supra) and P.Malleswaramma (supra), are judgments where the Courts found that cruelty on the spouse was not proved, or one cannot take advantage of his own wrong and on mere fact that erring spouse is moody, whimsical, irritable or inconsiderate, are no grounds for divorce. However, we have taken into consideration the judgments of the Apex Court and the conduct of the respondent in repeatedly causing cruelty on the appellant. Therefore the judgments are distinguishable on facts.
35. In the instant case in our view there are several complaints against the respondent who took law into her hands, tried to beat the appellant and his family members not only once but on other occasions as well and created commotion even outside the factory gate with the appellant, coupled with filing of cases u/sec. 498-A and other facts clearly lead to irresistible conclusion that cruelty was certainly caused by the respondent against the appellant husband both mental as well as physical.
36. Taking into consideration the facts as noticed hereinbefore, and the complaints lodged by both the sides, and in particular at the instance of the respondent-Nathi Bai, it is clear that the criminal cases filed at her instance stood dismissed. However, the criminal cases lodged at the instance of the family members of the appellant stood allowed against the respondent, who was found guilty, and in our view taking into consideration the judgments cited supra, clearly make out a case of physical and mental cruelty against the appellant, and a clear case is made out for grant of decree of divorce.
37. We have also noticed that the respondent filed several complaints against the appellant, she was also convicted in one of the cases involving father, mother and brothers of the appellant, and was sent to jail, whatever time she lived with her husband, she never lived peacefully with him. She left her matrimonial home and came back after more than 3 years. Thereafter also there was no improvement in the conduct of the respondent, as is evident from criminal complaints and the reports of the independent persons against her behaviour so as to gain sympathy of any person. The relevant consideration is to see whether the conduct is such as to cause a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the one that it will be harmful or injurious for him/her to live with the other side. We have given hereinbefore the cases instituted by both the parties against each other. While the cases instituted at the instance of respondent Nathi Bai were found false or/and the accusations made by Nathi Bai were found not guilty, however, in the complaints made at the instance of the petitioner or/and family members, challan was filed against accused Nathi Bai and her brothers and they were found guilty. Thus, this even otherwise proves that the respondent was in habit of filing repeated cases and in our view even one case is sufficient to prove mental cruelty, at-least in matrimonial matters like this.
38. Though the Court on several occasions tried to persuade both the parties to come to amicable solution through mediation as Courts go slow at-least in matrimonial matters to try to make rapprochement so that bonding of marriage which is considered to be sacred and sacrosanct in the Hindu Law, is maintained/retained.
39. In matters like this, something more is required to be considered rather than ordinary wear and tear of married life and the Courts have to be very practical and pragmatic in approach while dealing with the divorce petitions filed on the ground of cruelty or otherwise. Foundation of a sound marriage is tolerance, adjustment and respecting one another. The Court has to bear in mind that the problems before it are those of human beings and a delicate bond of husband and wife should be maintained.
40. Taking into consideration that the respondent has been threatening that she will either put an end to her life or kill the appellant, abusing the husband time and again and threatening that she will make him loose his job, insulting the husband in front of others and his parents also, complaints of independent persons regarding her quarrelsome and uncalled for behaviour, tarnishing not only the image of her husband but also his parents, are almost so grave an order as to imperil the appellant’s sense of personal safety, mental happiness, job satisfaction and reputation, in our humble view a case of cruelty is clearly made out. Taking into consideration that admittedly both have lived separately since 1989 i.e. almost 27 years now and have been fighting tooth and nail against each other, in our view it also can be said to be irretrievable breakdown of marriage or rather it is a failed marriage and the delicate bond of marriage of sacrifice no more is apparent in addition to cruelty and we feel appropriate to let both husband and wife now be made free from the marriage bonding which was solemnized as per Hindu rites and customs in April 1979 i.e. 37 years ago by now, may be dissolved.
41. In our view, taking into consideration the statements of the witnesses of both sides, the mental cruelty stands proved against the appellant at the instance of the respondent, and the appellant husband deserves indulgence in seeking their marriage dissolved.
42. A feeble attempt was made by the learned counsel for respondent that the second petition filed by the appellant on the same subject is barred by the principle of res judicata. In our view, taking into consideration the subsequent development and fresh material/evidence, which has come on record for filing of the divorce petition subsequent to earlier petition having been withdrawn, is in order as it can always be filed in view of the subsequent developments. Equally important is that no ground was raised before the Family Court insofar as the second petition is concerned. Accordingly, the argument of learned counsel for the respondent, is rejected.
43. For the reasons aforesaid, the appeal deserves to be allowed and we quash and set aside the judgment and decree dated 24.2.1993 and their marriage solemnized on 27.4.1979 stands dissolved. A decree for divorce is hereby granted to the appellant. No costs.
(J.K. Ranka) J. (Ajay Rastogi) J.