A Division Bench of Ravi Malimath and Narayan Singh Dhanik, JJ., dismissed an appeal by estranged wife against the order of the Principal Judge, Family Court, which had ruled in favour of plaintiff husband by dissolving marriage.
The marriage of Rajesh Gaur (plaintiff-respondent) was solemnised with Anita Gaur (defendant-appellant) as per Hindu customs and ceremonies in May 1999, after which they shifted to Mumbai where the man was running his business. The couple had two children born out of wedlock.
In June 2014, the husband instituted a suit under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act against the wife, seeking a decree of divorce on the ground of cruelty.
The man alleged, that since five years, there was a sudden change in the behaviour of his wife and valuable articles such as jewellery, cash, etc. went missing from the house. Further, he alleged that 2-3 years thereafter, he had started receiving telephone calls from crooked persons asking him either to return the money, else he would be abducted.
On being questioned, the wife confessed to him that she had borrowed money at 10% interest per month and she had also purchased ornaments and clothes on credit.
After getting continuous threats of abduction and taking over of his flat, the defendant-appellant fearing for his life and liberty, decided to approach court. A Panchayat (community hearing) too was held in the village in which the defendant-appellant admitted her mistakes in writing, but even after that quarrels amongst the two became common on several occasions. When it was impossible for the husband to continue living with the woman, he decided to move court for divorce.
However, the wife in her written statement in the court, denied all allegations levied by husband. Although she admitted borrowing money amounting to Rs 10,00,000 (one million) for household expenses, payment of school fees, etc. She also submitted that it was her who was being harassed by the man instead and she also made a complaint to the Women’s Cell with regards to the same. Subsequently, a case was lodged against the man under Section 494 of the Indian Penal code.
After examining the evidence, the family court granted divorce to the man, substantiating reasons stated for instituting the suit. The court also concurred that the acts alleged by the husband against his wife, qualified to fall under the category of ‘cruelty – ground for divorce’.
When the woman appealed to Uttarakhand High Court against the family court order, the court dismissed the same while upholding the lower court judgement. The court explained that the word “cruelty’ was not defined under the Act and it could be physical or mental.
The High Court relied on various judgments of the Supreme Court like in Praveen Mehta v. Inderjit Mehta, (2002) 5 SCC 706, where it held:
Mental cruelty cannot be established by direct evidence and it is necessarily a matter of inference to be drawn from the facts and circumstances of the case.
Citing another case of Raj Talreja v. Kavita Talreja, (2017) 14 SCC 194, the Court held:
Cruelty can never be defined with exactitude.
The Court also stated that the plaintiff-respondent failed to substantiate the allegations which she had made against the plaintiff-respondent. The Court conluded:
All these acts and conduct, in our considered view, constitute cruelty. Further, as is evident, it was not a solitary instance of cruelty on the part of the defendant-appellant. The defendant-appellant indulged in repeated acts of cruelty and misbehaviour with her husband.