Comparison to other women amounts to cruelty; dissolving wrecked marriage is in public interest: Kerala High Court

Latest News

The Kerala High Court recently observed that constant comparisons with other women and repeated taunts by the husband would amount to mental cruelty as contemplated under Section 10(x) of the Divorce Act, 1869, for the purpose of dissolution of marriage.

A Division Bench of Justices Anil K Narendran and CS Sudha observed that for the ground of cruelty to be met, the conduct of the husband must lead to the conclusion that the wife cannot be reasonably expected to live with him.

“The constant and repeated taunts of the respondent/husband that the petitioner is not a wife of his expectations; the comparisons with other women etc. would certainly be mental cruelty which a wife cannot be expected to put up with,” the Court said in its judgment.

Pertinently, the Court observed that even though irretrievable breakdown of marriage is not a sufficient ground for dissolution, when a marriage seems to have broken down beyond repair, the law should take note of the fact in the interest of the parties and society.

“Public interest demands not only that the married status should, as far as possible, as long as possible, and whenever possible, be maintained, but where a marriage has been wrecked beyond the hope of salvage, public interest lies in the recognition of that fact…. Human life has a short span and situations causing misery, cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely. A halt has to be called at some stage. Law cannot turn a blind eye to such situations, nor can it decline to give adequate response to the necessities arising therefrom,” the judgment stated.

The Court was considering an appeal moved by the husband against the order of a family court which had allowed the wife’s petition seeking dissolution of their marriage.

The family court had accepted the ground under Section 10(vii) of the Divorce Act, that is, non-consummation of marriage. However, it rejected the allegation of cruelty raised by the wife under Section 10(x) of the Act.

High Court’s analysis
Wilful refusal to consummate marriage

The wife contended that due to some physical aversion the husband had towards her, he had not consummated the marriage and wilfully refused to engage in any sexual relations throughout its subsistence.

The husband, however, said that they had engaged in sex several times, but had to stop a few times since the wife complained of some pain which a gynaecologist later said could be corrected through surgery or repeated intercourse.

On appreciation of the material on record, the Court found that wilful abstinence could not be established within the meaning of Section 10(vii) of the Act.

Physical and mental cruelty

The wife submitted that the husband was a short-tempered man and that he had been physically abusive towards her on several occasions, a fact that was supposedly witnessed by his mother.

She further stated that the husband used to constantly remind her that she did not meet his expectations terms of looks, that she was not “cute enough” for him and that she was a let down compared to other women, including some prospective brides of his brother.

It was also submitted that the husband used to get excessively jealous if she received any messages from male friends.

Referring to a host of precedents on the matter, the Court emphasised that whether or not a set of actions constitute cruelty within the confines of marriage must be ascertained on a case-to-case basis, keeping in mind the socio-economic and cultural background of the couple concerned.

In the instant case, the Court found that the material on record established a case of cruelty under Section (x) of the Act.

Taking note of the above aspects as well as the fact that the parties had been separated for many years, the Court dismissed the appeal.

“In the instant case, the matrimonial bond between the parties seems to be beyond repair. The marriage between the parties is only in name. The marriage has been wrecked beyond the hope of salvage, public interest and interest of all concerned lies in the recognition of the fact and to declare defunct de jure what is already defunct de facto. To keep the sham is obviously conducive to immorality and potentially more prejudicial to the public interest than a dissolution of the marriage bond,” the judgment stated.

Advocates Thushara James and MS Amal Dharshan represented the appellant-husband.

Advocates KP Sreeja and MB Sandeep represented the respondent-wife.

Source Link

Leave a Reply