Persistent efforts of the wife to constrain the husband to be separated from the family for money consideration would be torturous for the husband and can be a ground of divorce: Supreme Court
CIVIL APPEAL NO.3253 OF 2008
NARENDRA VERSUS K. MEENA
Coram: J. ANIL R. DAVE and J. L. NAGESWARA RAO
Dated: OCTOBER 06, 2016
Facts of the case:-
The Appellant husband had married the Respondent wife on 26th February, 1992. Out of the wedlock, a female child named Ranjitha was born on 13th November, 1993. The reason for filing the divorce petition was that the Respondent wife had become cruel because of her highly suspicious nature and she used to level absolutely frivolous but serious allegations against him regarding his character and more particularly about his extra-marital relationship.
Moreover, the Respondent wanted the Appellant to leave his parents and other family members and to get separated from them so that the Respondent can live independently.
Another important allegation was that the Respondent would very often threaten the Appellant that she would commit suicide. In fact, on 2th July, 1995, she picked up a quarrel with the Appellant, went to the bathroom, locked the door from inside and poured kerosene on her body and attempted to commit suicide. On getting smell of kerosene coming from the bathroom, the Appellant, his elder brother and some of the neighbours broke open the door of the bathroom and prevented the Respondent wife from committing suicide.
On the basis of the above-mentioned facts, the learned Family Court granted the Appellant a decree of divorce dated 17th November, 2001, after considering the evidence adduced by both the parties.
Being aggrieved by the judgment and decree of divorce the Respondent wife had filed Miscellaneous First Appeal No.171 of 2002 (FC), which was allowed by the High Court and decree of divorce was set aside.
Being aggrieved by the judgment and order passed by the High Court, the Appellant has filed an appeal in Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.
Observations of the Supreme Court:-
Supreme Court observed that the allegations with regard to the character of the Appellant and the extra-marital affair with a maid were taken very seriously by the Family Court, but the High Court did not give much importance to the false allegations made. The constant persuasion by the Respondent for getting separated from the family members of the Appellant and constraining the Appellant to live separately and only with her was also not considered to be of any importance by the High Court. No importance was given to the incident with regard to an attempt to commit suicide made by the Respondent wife. However, it was mentioned by the Supreme Court that “We do not agree with the manner in which the High Court has re-appreciated the evidence and has come to a different conclusion.”
With regard to an attempt to commit suicide by the Respondent– Supreme Court observed that upon perusal of the evidence of the witnesses, the findings arrived at by the trial Court to the effect that the Respondent wife had locked herself in the bathroom and had poured kerosene on herself so as to commit suicide, are not in dispute. Had she been successful in her attempt to commit suicide, then one can foresee the consequences and the plight of the Appellant because in that event the Appellant would have been put to immense difficulties because of the legal provisions. The mere idea with regard to facing legal consequences would put a husband under tremendous stress.
Supreme Court further observed that in our opinion, only this one event was sufficient for the Appellant husband to get a decree of divorce on the ground of cruelty. Supreme Court mentioned the case of Pankaj Mahajan v. Dimple @ Kajal (2011) 12 SCC 1, wherein it at giving repehas been held thated threats to commit suicide amounts to cruelty.
Regarding wanting Appellant to get separated from his family– Supreme Court observed that the evidence shows that the family was virtually maintained from the income of the Appellant husband. It is not a common practice or desirable culture for a Hindu son in India to get separated from the parents upon getting married at the instance of the wife, especially when the son is the only earning member in the family. A son, brought up and given education by his parents, has a moral and legal obligation to take care and maintain the parents, when they become old and when they have either no income or have a meager income. In India, generally people do not subscribe to the western thought, where, upon getting married or attaining majority, the son gets separated from the family. In normal circumstances, a wife is expected to be with the family of the husband after the marriage. She becomes integral to and forms part of the family of the husband and normally without any justifiable strong reason; she would never insist that her husband should get separated from the family and live only with her.
In the instant case, upon appreciation of the evidence, the trial Court came to the conclusion that merely for monetary considerations, the Respondent wife wanted to get her husband separated from his family. The averment of the Respondent was to the effect that the income of the Appellant was also spent for maintaining his family. The said grievance of the Respondent is absolutely unjustified. There is no other reason for which the Respondent wanted the Appellant to be separated from the family– the sole reason was to enjoy the income of the Appellant. Unfortunately, the High Court considered this to be a justifiable reason. In the opinion of the High Court, the wife had a legitimate expectation to see that the income of her husband is used for her and not for the family members of the Respondent husband.
Further the Supreme Court observed that we do not see any reason to justify the said view of the High Court. If a wife makes an attempt to deviate from the normal practice and normal custom of the society, she must have some justifiable reason for that and in this case, we do not find any justifiable reason, except monetary consideration of the Respondent wife. The persistent effort of the Respondent wife to constrain the Appellant to be separated from the family would be torturous for the husband and in our opinion, the trial Court was right when it came to the conclusion that this constitutes an act of ‘cruelty’.
With regard to the allegations about an extra-marital affair with maid named Kamla- Supreme Court observed that the re-appreciation of the evidence by the High Court does not appear to be correct. There is sufficient evidence to the effect that there was no maid named Kamla working at the residence of the Appellant. Some averment with regard to some relative has been relied upon by the High Court to come to a conclusion that there was a lady named Kamla but the High Court has ignored the fact that the Respondent wife had leveled allegations with regard to an extra-marital affair of the Appellant with the maid and not with someone else. Even if there was some relative named Kamla, who might have visited the Appellant, there is nothing to substantiate the allegations leveled by the Respondent with regard to an extra-marital affair.
Supreme Court further observed that we have carefully gone through the evidence but we could not find any reliable evidence to show that the Appellant had an extra-marital affair with someone. Except for the baseless and reckless allegations, there is not even the slightest evidence that would suggest that there was something like an affair of the Appellant with the maid named by the Respondent. We consider leveling of absolutely false allegations and that too, with regard to an extra-marital life to be quite serious and that can surely be a cause for metal cruelty.
Supreme Court mentioned the case of Vijaykumar Ramchandra Bhate v. Neela Vijaykumar Bhate, 2003 (6) SCC 334 in which it was held that “The position of law in this regard has come to be well settled and declared that leveling disgusting accusations of unchastity and indecent familiarity with a person outside wedlock and allegations of extramarital relationship is a grave assault on the character, honor, reputation, status as well as the health of the wife. Such aspersions of perfidiousness attributed to the wife, viewed in the context of an educated Indian wife and judged by Indian conditions and standards would amount to worst form of insult and cruelty, sufficient by itself to substantiate cruelty in law, warranting the claim of the wife being allowed”
Supreme Court quashed the impugned judgment delivered by the High Court and the decree of divorce dated 17th November, 2001 passed by the Principal Judge, Family Court, Bangalore in M.C. No.603 of 1995 was restored.
Significance of this Judgment:-
Almost every day we hear the news that a son turned his parents out of the home or left his parents at old age home etc., the author believes this judgment is a significant step towards changing this pattern. In India, our social values and traditions teach us that we should live with our parents and take care of them till the day of their death. To fortify these values and traditions, Supreme Court has also held that even married daughters are liable to maintain their parents even after their marriage. So, if a wife asks or forces her husband to leave his parents just for money is totally unjust and unacceptable. Also, since even daughters are liable to maintain their parents then in case you are a married woman and your in-laws’ prevent you from fulfilling your duties/obligation then you can also take action against them.
However, it is very important to note that in case of temperamental differences between husband and wife or wife and in-laws’, it would depend upon the facts and circumstances of the case. In this judgment, Hon’ble Supreme Court has clearly said that “If a wife makes an attempt to deviate from the normal practice and normal custom of the society, she must have some justifiable reason for that and in this case, we do not find any justifiable reason, except monetary consideration of the Respondent wife.”