The Chhattisgarh High Court in its order dated February 25, 2022 has held that denial of physical relationship by one spouse to the other in a matrimonial relationship constitutes cruelty. Holding thus, it allowed the plea for divorce made by the husband in this case.
The appellant-husband got married to the respondent in Bilaspur in 2007. After marriage, the respondent-wife came to her matrimonial home and resided there. However, within a few months of marriage, the respondent went to her parental home to celebrate some festivals. This became a recurrence that she would continuously go to her parental home on all important days, such as birthdays and festivals, for four years.
Therefore, the husband applied Section 13 (1) (i-a), (i-b), and (iii) of the Act of 1955 before Family Court, Bilaspur seeking dissolution of marriage dated 25.11.2007 by way of a decree of divorce.
The development ensued in an appeal preferred under Section 19(1) of the Family Courts Act, 1984 by the husband, challenging the judgment of Family Court dismissing his plea for divorce on the grounds enumerated in Section 13(1)(i-a), (i-b), and (iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
Grounds Raised By Husband
The grounds raised by the husband were that within few days of marriage, conduct of the respondent was of treating him with cruelty; she was continuously harassing him mentally, saying that he had a bulky physique and was not good-looking.
Moreover, after the death of the appellant’s father, she went back to her parents’ house resided there continuously for about four years; during this period, whenever the appellant contacted her on mobile phone and asked her to come back, she used to ask the appellant to come and settle in Bemetara, place of residence of respondent’s parents.
The respondent-wife also took a job without informing the petitioner. It is argued that it was clarified that the respondent would not be doing any job at the time of marriage.
Appellant was continuously deserted by respondent wife for about four years i.e. from 11.8.2010 to July 2014.
Chhattisgarh High Court
A Division Bench of Justices P. Sam Koshy and Partha Prateem Sahu noted that Section 12 (1) (i-b) of the 1955 Act envisages that a divorce decree can be granted on the ground that another party has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.
The Court noted that the language used under Section 13 of the 1955 Act is clear and unambiguous that before filing an application for divorce on the ground of desertion, the period of desertion by either spouse should not be less than two years.
Noting that from the pleadings, it is evident that application for grant of divorce is filed within four months of desertion by the respondent, the Court held that as per provisions contained in Section 13 (1) (i-b) of the Act of 1955, an application filed by the appellant for a grant of divorce on the ground of desertion is not maintainable.
On the question of cruelty on the ground of not establishing a relationship as husband and wife and exchange of words between them, the Court noted that,
Cohabitation between husband and wife is one of essential part of a marriage and not submitting by either spouse for relationship may be one of grounds of treating other spouse with cruelty.
Mental Cruelty In Law
The High Court noted that mental cruelty is not specifically defined under the 1955 Act. Still, it has to be ascertained from the nature of one spouse’s act, behavior, and conduct against another. It referred to the case of Jayachandra v. Aneel Kaur, where it was held that mental cruelty is a state of mind and feeling with one of the spouses due to behavior or behavior patterns by others.
Unlike the case of physical cruelty, mental cruelty is difficult to establish by direct evidence. It is necessarily a matter of inference to be drawn from the facts and circumstances of the case. The inference has to be drawn from attending facts and circumstances taken cumulatively.
Referring to several decisions of the Supreme Court, it was held that it is not defined to indicate what mental cruelty is and what would be considered to accept the plea of mental cruelty. It noted,
Mental cruelty and its effect cannot be calculated in an arithmetical manner, it varies from individual to individual; society to society and also from the status of a person.
Agonised feeling or for that matter of sense of disappointment can take place by certain acts causing a grievous dent at mental level. Inference has to be drawn from the attending circumstances.
Denial of Physical Relationship in Marriage
The High Court held that marital relationship is a relationship of trust, respect and emotions. After marriage each spouse is having marital responsibilities and duties towards each other. The court said,
From the facts, as appearing in record, as also evidence of respondent wife, it is apparent that from August, 2010 there was no relationship as husband and wife between two, which is sufficient to draw an inference that there was no physical relationship between them.
Physical relationship between husband and wife is one of the important part for healthy married life. Denial of physical relationship to a spouse by other amounts to cruelty. Hence, we are of the view that appellant was treated with cruelty by respondent wife.
The Court thus dissolved the marriage by granting divorce to the husband.
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