The Punjab and Haryana high court in its recent order has held,
Matrimonial matters are matters of delicate human and emotional relationship that demands mutual trust, regard, respect, love and affection with sufficient play for reasonable adjustments with the spouse.
While allowing a plea by an Army officer seeking divorce from his estranged wife, Justice Ritu Bahri and Justice Ashok Kumar Verma remarked that the institution of marriage occupies an important place and role to play in the society.
The couple was married in November 2010. In the month of May 2011, the wife left the company of the appellant and went to her parents’ house on the pretext of getting admission for her doctoral studies. When the husband requested her to come back, she refused to accompany him. All the efforts made by the husband and his relatives went in vain.
The woman, however, claimed that her husband had deserted her.
The Ambala family court after considering the averments of both the parties, dismissed the divorce petition filed by the man under Sections 12 and 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
Allegations by Husband
According to the petitioner husband, his wife was making various complaints to his superiors in the Army so that his career progress was adversely affected. She wrote a letter, dated November 29, 2013, to the then Chief of Army Staff levelling serious allegations against the appellant regarding demand of dowry, non-maintenance, and harassment by the appellant and his family members.
She requested that strict disciplinary action may be taken against her husband. She also made various complaints to other authorities and posted defamatory material on other platforms. The net outcome was that the husband’s career and reputation had suffered.
Allegations by Wife
The wife, however, had contended that she was pursuing her legal remedies in accordance with the law. The issue for consideration in the present appeal was whether the relationship of the husband and wife has come to an end and if the respondent-wife is not ready to give mutual divorce to the appellant husband, whether this act of her, would amount to cruelty towards the husband, keeping in view the fact that she is not staying with her husband for the last 10 years and there is no scope that they can cohabit as husband and wife again.
Punjab & Haryana High Court
The Punjab & Haryana High Court was hearing an appeal by the husband who had sought directions to set aside the judgment dated December 11, 2018, passed by the principal judge, family court, Ambala that had dismissed his plea for divorce.
The bench took a macro view and said,
The relationship has to conform to the social norms as well. The matrimonial conduct has now come to be governed by statute framed, keeping in view such norms and changed social order.
It is sought to be controlled in the interest of the individuals as well as in a broader perspective, for regulating matrimonial norms for making a well-knit, healthy, and not disturbed and porous society.
After hearing both the parties, the high court observed that once the parties have separated and separation has continued for a sufficient length of time and any one of them presented a petition for divorce, it can well be presumed that the marriage has broken down. The high court thus observed,
The court, no doubt, should seriously make an endeavour to reconcile the parties; yet, if it is found that the breakdown is irreparable, then divorce should not be withheld. The consequences of preservation in the law of the unworkable marriage that has long ceased to be effective are bound to be a source of greater misery for the parties.
In the present case, the husband and wife have been living separately since May 2011. Firstly efforts were made to resolve the matrimonial dispute through the process of mediation, which is one of the effective modes of alternative mechanism in resolving the personal dispute but the mediation failed between the parties.
On the woman’s argument that she was pursuing her legal right against the husband, the HC observed that her explanation that she made those complaints in order to protect the matrimonial ties would not, in our view, justify the persistent effort made by her to undermine the dignity and reputation of her husband.
The HC also observed that the conduct of the woman in filing a complaint making unfounded, indecent, and defamatory allegations against her mother-in-law, who is suffering from cancer, indicates that she made all attempts to ensure that the appellant and his parents are put in jail and the appellant is removed from his job.
Allowing the husband’s plea for divorce, the Punjab & Haryana High Court concluded,
We have no doubt that this conduct has caused mental cruelty to the appellant-husband.
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