While hearing a man’s plea against a family court order, which rejected the grant of divorce, the Delhi High Court observed that the insistence of the wife’s family for the man to “abandon his parents and become a Ghar Jamai” amounts to cruelty.
A division bench of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and Justice Neena Bansal Krishna in its August 11 order referred to a 2016 Supreme Court decision, which said that asking a son to separate from his family amounts to cruelty.
“It was stated that for a Hindu son in India, it is not a common practice or desirable culture to be separated from his family after marriage. A son has a moral and legal obligation to take care of his parents when they become old and have negligible or no income. Thus, the insistence of the family of the respondent (wife) for the appellant (husband) to abandon his parents and become a ‘Ghar Jamai’ and live in their house amounts to cruelty,” the bench said.
The observations came in an appeal moved by a man against a 2019 family court order, which rejected his divorce plea sought on the grounds of cruelty and desertion under the Hindu Marriage Act.
The couple got married in 2001. The man claimed that within four months of marriage, the behavior of the respondent/wife became aggressive. Within six months, he said, she informed him that she was not willing to live with him. He claimed her family took her back to Delhi in 2002 from his home in Gujarat.
He said that he made sincere efforts in March 2002 to convince her to come back, but she refused as she and her family wanted him to shift from Gujarat to Delhi and stay in their house as ‘ghar jamai’, to which he did not agree as he had aged parents to take care of.
He also asserted that a daughter was born out of their wedlock but he was not informed about her birth; he said he made an endeavour to meet the child but was not permitted.
The man said his wife had filed a criminal case under IPC sections 498A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and 406 (punishment for criminal breach of trust), making “false allegations” against him in 2007 but he had been acquitted in the case in 2016.
“From the conduct of the respondent, who had made complaints against the petitioner, it can be inferred that she had no intention to resume her relationship with the petitioner… It needs no reiteration that the bedrock of any matrimonial relationship is cohabitation and conjugal relationship. The very fact that the parties were able to live together barely for six months and since February 2002, they have been living separately, proves that the parties were unable to sustain their matrimonial relationship. For a couple to be deprived of each other’s company proves that the marriage cannot survive, and such deprivation of conjugal relationship is an act of extreme cruelty,” the HC ruled.
The HC noted that the wife had claimed she was “being beaten and subjected to acts of cruelty”, but had not been able to “substantiate” it with any incident. “Hence, false complaints filed by the wife against the husband constitute mental cruelty against the husband,” the bench said.
The HC also noted that the man had admitted to being in a live-in relationship and also had a child from that relationship. The HC also observed the man had testified that the woman “is in a live-in relationship” with another man whom she had a joint bank account with.
She claimed this man was her brother and since she did not have an ID or voter’s card to get a bank account opened, she used his identity (card) for this purpose. The HC, however, said the woman had not showed any cogent evidence to rebut the man’s testimony.
The HC said this was a case where long separation has forced both the man and woman to “apparently find companionship in a third person”. It further observed that the evidence on record “sufficiently” proved that the woman had withdrawn from the man’s company for which she was unable to give any cogent reason.
Allowing the man’s appeal, the HC said, “Considering the entire evidence, it is proved that the parties had drifted away and that respondent has deserted the petitioner/ appellant without any reasonable cause. We hereby set aside the impugned judgment dated 07.02.2019 and allowed the petition under Section 13 (1) (ia) & 13 (1) (ib) of grant the divorce on the ground of cruelty and desertion”.
The woman and her daughter told the court that they could not pay accommodation rent of Rs 8,500 per month for the last three months, and it was suggested that the woman may apply for allotment of a flat in EWS Category, for which a BPL card is required.
The Food & Supply Officer who was present in court assured the bench that as and when an application is received, the BPL Card shall be issued within 15 days.