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Venkatesh Narasimhan vs V Sujatha on 1 May, 2020

* IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI
% Date of decision: 01.05.2020
+ MAT.APP.(F.C.) 47/2020 and CM APPLs. 5688-5689/2020
VENKATESH NARASIMHAN ….. Appellant
Through: Mr. I.C. Kumar and Mr. S.N. Jha,
Advocates
versus

V. SUJATHA ….. Respondent
Through: None

CORAM:
HON’BLE MS. JUSTICE HIMA KOHLI
HON’BLE MS. JUSTICE ASHA MENON

ASHA MENON, J.

1. This appeal has been preferred against the judgment of the learned
Family Court, Patiala House Courts, dated 11.11.2019 whereby the marriage
between the appellant/respondent and the respondent/petitioner was
dissolved on a petition moved by the latter, seeking dissolution on the
grounds of cruelty and desertion within the meaning of Section 13(1)(i-a)
and (i-b) of the Hindu Marriage Act (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Act’).

2. The admitted facts of the case are that both the parties were married
on 22.05.1992 at Chennai as per Hindu rites, customs and ceremonies. They
were blessed with a daughter on 15.10.1994, who is by now a major. The
respondent/petitioner has alleged in her petition that the conduct of the
appellant/respondent was extremely cruel and he was possessed of a callous
and indifferent attitude since the initial years of marriage and he did not give
the respondent/petitioner any support, financially or emotionally. In short,

MAT.APP.(F.C.) 47/2020 Page 1 of 13
she discovered that he had many personality and behavioural problems but
nevertheless, she tried her level best to cope up with her husband’s
shortcomings with compassion and tried to help him acquire stability and
status in life, many times forgiving his violence and encouraging positive
skills. However, on repeated occasions, she found to her consternation, that
the appellant/respondent made no effort to either settle down in his job or
contribute to the household including taking care of the child’s educational
needs.

3. Very often, the respondent/petitioner found that the
appellant/respondent disclosed complete indifference to the challenges being
faced by her in the marital life and he was never available to her in times of
need, including, when she required his assistance to take care of their
daughter, when she had to complete her education/assignment and when she
suffered from physical ailments which prevented her from taking on the
entire burden of running the household and attending to the daughter, times
when she expected some support, physically and emotionally from the
appellant/respondent. Things reached a breaking point when despite the
request of the respondent/petitioner not to invite his parents to their transit
accommodation at Jawahar Lal Nehru University which had limited space
and to request them to stay with his sister who was residing in Gurgaon, the
appellant/respondent threw a tantrum and left the house in October 2011
without understanding that the reason for the said request was only the pre-
board exams of their daughter. Even thereafter, the respondent/petitioner had
sent emails to the appellant/respondent to assist her in looking for various
course options for their daughter but no help was forthcoming. Thereafter,

MAT.APP.(F.C.) 47/2020 Page 2 of 13
there was no cohabitation between the parties. Premised on all these facts,
the respondent/petitioner prayed for divorce on grounds of cruelty and
desertion.

4. In the written statement that was filed by the appellant/respondent, all
that was claimed was that the respondent/petitioner could not get the benefit
of her own wrong as she was the one who had left his company without any
reason. It was further claimed that the main reason for the differences was
on account of the temporary nature of the employment of the
appellant/respondent and the disparity in their incomes and education,
though the respondent/petitioner had full knowledge of his qualifications at
the time of the marriage, which was an arranged marriage. His only claim
was that they had lived a happily married life for 20 years and now, with the
daughter having turned major and of a marriageable age, it was not in her
interest that the divorce petition be allowed, as that would destroy the life of
the daughter.

5. On the basis of the pleadings of the parties, the learned Family Court
settled the following the issues:

1. Whether the respondent has committed cruelty
upon the petitioner ? OPP

2. Whether the respondent has deserted the
petitioner? OPP

3. Whether the petitioner is entitled to the relief
claimed. OPP

6. The respondent/petitioner examined herself as PW-1. The daughter of
the parties was examined as PW-2 while the appellant/respondent examined

MAT.APP.(F.C.) 47/2020 Page 3 of 13
himself as DW-1. On an assessment of the evidence and material brought on
record, the learned Family Court concluded that in modern times, when
wives are also working, it is the legitimate expectation of a wife that her
husband, who is a life partner, “assist her with the upbringing of the child
and running of the household.” It was also held that it was unfair to expect
only the working wife to take the entire responsibility of both, child rearing
and running of the household. As a result, the petition for divorce filed by
the respondent/wife was allowed and the marriage was dissolved.

7. The appellant/respondent has preferred the present appeal on the
ground that the petition for divorce has been filed by the
respondent/petitioner after nearly 20 years of the marriage and therefore, it
ought to have been dismissed. It is further submitted that the
respondent/petitioner could not have taken advantage of her own wrong as
she has never instituted any proceedings for restitution of conjugal rights, to
bring back the appellant/respondent. It is further submitted that as under the
Hindu Law, marriage is a sacrament, it could not be broken and the
respondent/petitioner has not thought of the welfare of their daughter in
seeking divorce from the appellant/respondent and has also instigated the
daughter to file a complaint against him under Section 12 of the Domestic
Violence Act, for seeking maintenance.

8. Mr. I.C.Kumar, learned counsel for the appellant contended that the
sole concern of the appellant/respondent was the future of their daughter as
she was of marriageable age and the divorce would impact her matrimonial
prospects and her life as an adult. He alluded to a letter dated 02.07.2000,
addressed by the respondent/petitioner to the appellant/respondent wherein

MAT.APP.(F.C.) 47/2020 Page 4 of 13
she had written off with “lots and lots of love kisses, yours ever Sujju”, and a
letter dated 11.07.2000, again ending with words “lots of love, kisses and
hugs. Yours ever, Sujata” and yet another letter dated 29.07.2000 stating that
“I have been thinking a lot of you. It’s been a month since you left. It’s more
than a month since you left. Last time we met after 40 days. Now it is very
long separation. Lots of love and kisses. Yours Sujju”, to contend that the
language used itself demonstrates that there were no hard feelings between
the couple and therefore, the story of cruelty was just a figment of the
imagination of the respondent/petitioner on which the marriage could not
have been dissolved.

9. We have heard the learned counsel for the appellant/respondent,
perused the impugned judgment and examined the Family Court’s record
that was summoned. In our opinion, the pleas taken by learned counsel for
the appellant/respondent, as recorded above, are no better than a drowning
man clutching on to a straw. It is quite evident from the letters written by the
respondent/petitioner that while she was doing her very best to preserve the
marriage, there was no reciprocation from the appellant/respondent. For
instance, the letter dated 11.07.2000, starts with these words: “I have been
writing to you every week regularly. There is no reply from you? I have left
4-5 inlands in our room letter holder. Pick one of them and write back
soon.” In the letter dated 29.07.2000, once again, it starts “how are you?
There is yet no letter from you.” Therefore, to submit that these letters
disclose a ‘happy family’ scenario, is to blink at the truth. In fact, they only
reflect the immense effort that the respondent/petitioner was putting in to
salvage the matrimonial relationship, with no response at all coming from

MAT.APP.(F.C.) 47/2020 Page 5 of 13
the side of the appellant/respondent.

10. Specific and a long list of instances of cruelty have been referred to in
the impugned judgement. A few of them are: the absence of any help when
the respondent/petitioner was at Chennai when the child was born and she
had to travel 40 Kms on a two wheeler for her work; when she took up a job
at Goa and expected the appellant/respondent to shift alongwith her, he
came much later; when within a day of joining her new job in Goa, the
respondent/petitioner suffered a ligament tear and yet the
appellant/respondent went off to Delhi to attend the house-warming
ceremony of his sister, leaving her high and dry with their six years old
daughter; he did not even care to return immediately when he learnt that
their daughter had also sustained a fracture; when the respondent/petitioner
had joined her duties at Delhi, the appellant/respondent had undertaken to
take care of their young daughter during her absence but despite such an
assurance, he did not come to stay with the daughter and on account of the
concerns for her safety, the respondent/petitioner had to summon her brother
from Bangalore to stay with the daughter when she had to leave station on
official work; on other occasions too, she had to cancel her official
programmes to return back to be with her daughter; there was complete
indifference on his part to the health and well-being of the
respondent/petitioner; the appellant/ petitioner showed no involvement with
the academic progress of the daughter and did not behave as a family man
even to spend holidays together. The repeated onslaught on her emotions
even subsequent to these instances took a toll on the physical and mental
health of the respondent/petitioner. The callous attitude of the

MAT.APP.(F.C.) 47/2020 Page 6 of 13
appellant/respondent also impacted the well being of their daughter.

11. The learned Family Court has rightly held that all these circumstances
establish that the appellant/respondent was in fact cruel to the
respondent/petitioner. Only because the respondent/petitioner continued to
live with him, with a forgive and forget attitude just to make the marriage
work, could not be taken as condonation of the continuous cruel acts, ill
behaviour and misconduct of the appellant/respondent. Thus, the
respondent/petitioner was found entitled to divorce on the grounds of
cruelty. As regards the plea of desertion, it was held that the
appellant/respondent had deserted the respondent/petitioner physically on
04.10.2011, but constructive desertion on his part had taken place for several
years prior thereto since he failed to provide emotional, material and
conjugal support to the respondent/petitioner. As a result, the marriage
between the parties was dissolved.

12. Since the learned Family Court has discussed the facts of the case at
some length in the impugned judgment, we do not consider it necessary to
further discuss the same. Suffice it is to note that all the relevant events that
have continuously occurred in the lives of the parties, reflect a one sided
relationship where the appellant/respondent has taken everything for
granted, with no sense of responsibility, while the entire burden of trying to
keep the marriage alive was left for the respondent/petitioner to shoulder.

13. However, taking note of the plea of learned counsel for the
appellant/respondent that his client was concerned with the future of his
daughter, who was of a marriageable age and the divorce, if granted, would

MAT.APP.(F.C.) 47/2020 Page 7 of 13
adversely affect her future prospects, we consider it necessary to refer to the
testimony of the daughter, who was examined as PW-2, as it draws a very
grim picture of the matrimonial life of the parties and falsifies the stand of
the appellant/respondent. In her affidavit (Ex. PW-2/A), PW-2 has averred
the following facts: –

“4. …That though my father Shri N. Venkatesh
physically left our house in October 2011 after an
argument with my mother V. Sujatha, even much before
this action, I recall that my mother was under great
mental stress, harassment and hardship on account of my
father’s behaviour, some of which include:

a) He would tell very little about himself and his
whereabouts but insisted on my mother accepting
his decision.

b) xxx xxx

c) xxx xxx
d) I found my mother to be in great stress and often
breakdown in tears because he would be very

obstinate and insistent, repeated his point over and
over again without listening or responding to her.

e) At times, when my mother enquired about his job
and his activities, he would avoid the discussion,
leave in a huff and remained absent while my
mother had to manage the house without any
support.

f) On top of all this, my father along with his
parents and sister used to find fault with my
mother about the way she ran the house and
about the household expenditure, even though she
paid it all from her earnings. They always nagged
her and put her on the defensive by repeating that

MAT.APP.(F.C.) 47/2020 Page 8 of 13
she could have done the work herself instead of
hiring a maid, that she should not have bought a
pressure cooker and so on.

5. That I was disturbed by the fact that my mother
who was so educated and who was the breadwinner of
our family broke down so often and ended up being
depressed every other week, whereas my father who
contributed little was firm and stubborn and never gave
up. ……… The situation in our house in 2011 was not a
happy one. It was my board year 2011 and my chemistry
tuition teacher had left; I was very anxious at the time of
my quarterly exam in September because a lot of
chapters had to be covered and I could not concentrate
on all subjects equally and had great fear of forgetting
something important. … I tended to forget what I knew as
soon as I received the question paper and made several
careless mistakes in calculation.

6. That my teachers wanted to talk to my parents,
but my father never attended any parent teacher
meeting nor asked me about my exams. My mother
always attended the parent teacher meetings; …. my
mother was very worried, tried talking to me and made
arrangements for another Chemistry teacher. She also
explained the situation to my father and requested him
to be supportive but he refused to listen to anything
unless she agreed to his decision about his parents. …
His behaviour was quite hostile towards me though I
never took part in their arguments or ever took a stand
against him; I have always regarded him with respect
and have never uttered anything against him. Seeing my
father’s nonchalant and lackadaisical behaviour, my
mother who was very serious about my career and
academic growth was even more distressed and suffered
mentally witnessing how my father was making no
effort to bring me up or support me academically.

7. That after my father left, he never got in touch

MAT.APP.(F.C.) 47/2020 Page 9 of 13
with me for about 3 months. But my mother started
giving full attention to my problems. She counselled me,
taught me to how to face the exams; she made me do
some pranayam exercises. There was great peace in the
house and by the time of half yearly exams in December
2011 my performance improved. … I obtained 95.7% in
the board examination and secured the award for the
best mathematics student of the year. I could do better
because the constant conflict created by my father in
our house came to an end. ……. my mother had to take
on excess responsibility and with that came excess
stress. All this affected her mental peace as she would
on most days find it very difficult to provide care to me
and to also attend to her professional duties.

8. xxx xxx

9. …. He always went away to his sister’s house and
did not stay with us on festivals like Diwali and on
holidays, though my mother made all arrangements for
the celebration. This also caused grave mental agony to
my mother and to myself.

10. That in December 2010, my mother had travelled
out of Delhi for a conference and my father agreed to
come home early during her absence. However, he never
returned home till midnight nor informed me where he
was and when he will come. When I called him, he
briefly replied he will be late. I was alone in the house
and scared and had to call my mother and talk to her.
As this continued for more than a day, she cut short her
official trip and returned to Delhi.

11. …. her mother aged 87 years, who was residing at
Pondicherry was seriously ill. She wanted to rush to
Pondicherry from Chennai airport but my father would
not allow her to go because he wanted us to go to his
parent’s house in Chennai first. He held on tightly to
the auto rickshaw we were sitting in and created a

MAT.APP.(F.C.) 47/2020 Page 10 of 13
scene at the Chennai airport in July 2011 while my
mother was very upset and embarrassed.

….

20. That when my mother used to (sic.) cry silently at
home, I used to ask her to take a divorce from my father.
However, she would say that she has suffered silently
all these years for my sake as I was yet to settle in life.
Now that I am an adult and have got admission in a good
educational institution, I have myself insisted on my
mother to file this instant case and to secure her peace
of mind after years of suffering torture, mental cruelty
and agony.

21. xxx

22. …However, out of sheer ill will, he wishes to add
to my mother’s woes by contesting her divorce petition
and draining her of her time, energy and money. My
father who had shown no care or concern for me till
now is contesting my mother’s petition on the grounds
that it will affect my welfare. His total neglect of my
well being has caused great mental agony to me and my
mother.

23. xxx

24. …Besides, he has used the harshest language
against me and abused me of bad values for claiming
support due from him as my father.”

(emphasis provided)

14. It is very significant that none of the aforesaid specific allegations
have been challenged by the appellant/respondent at the time of cross-

examination. He has not even questioned the occurrence of such events or
claimed that PW2 had misunderstood such events. In other words, there can

MAT.APP.(F.C.) 47/2020 Page 11 of 13
be no doubt that the events as presented in the affidavit, Ex. PW-2/A, had in
fact taken place and that it correctly reflects the impact of these events on
the respondent/petitioner and on the daughter herself. The continuous
badgering of the respondent/petitioner by a very insensitive and selfish
appellant/respondent is clear as day light from the testimony of the daughter
and nothing more needs to be said. In fact, this is a typical case that
showcases as to what would amount to cruel behaviour on the part of one
spouse to the utter detriment of the other.

15. Every human being has a right to mental peace, happiness and
contentment. Marriage is no doubt a sacrament, but it cannot be a one sided
affair. Both parties to the marriage are equal partners and are entitled to
mutual respect, sharing of duties and responsibilities, affection, emotional
bonding, financial and all other support for the well being of one another. If
the relationship is so bitter and lopsided that the welfare and well being of
one is at the immense cost and well being of the other, there can be no
sacrament such as that the appellant/respondent now harps about.

16. The material on record goes to amply demonstrate the sincere efforts
made by the respondent/petitioner to salvage the marriage and show that she
did more than what was her duty, to preserve it. There is nothing to
commend the appellant/respondent. It is indeed to the credit of the
respondent/petitioner that presently, the daughter is studying for her PhD in
the UK and has done her Masters at ETH, Zurich, Switzerland. She had filed
an application under the Domestic Violence Act for seeking 50%
contribution from her father, the appellant/respondent herein, towards the
expense for applying for her master’s program, scholarship and jobs, which

MAT.APP.(F.C.) 47/2020 Page 12 of 13
unfortunately, he contested and waited till the court finally directed him to
pay some amount to her. She is doing extremely well in her academics,
particularly after October 2011. It may not be incorrect to infer that had he
not left the respondent/petitioner in October 2011, it may have resulted in
the down spiralling of the future of the daughter, about whose welfare the
appellant/respondent is now showing such concern.

17. In the light of the foregoing discussion, we find no reason to interfere
with the decision of the learned Family Court of dissolving the marriage
between the parties on grounds of cruelty and desertion. The impugned
judgment dated 11.11.2019, is accordingly upheld and the present appeal is
dismissed as meritless alongwith the pending applications. Trial Court
Record be returned forthwith.

(ASHA MENON)
JUDGE

(HIMA KOHLI)
JUDGE
MAY 01, 2020
pkb/s

MAT.APP.(F.C.) 47/2020 Page 13 of 13

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