Denial Of Sex Not “Exceptional Hardship” To End Marriage: Delhi HC

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The Delhi High Court on Monday refused to set aside the order passed by the trial court dismissing the mutual divorce petition filed within one year of marriage.

The petitioners had moved the trial court for divorce on the ground of denial of conjugal relationship by both the parties.

The High court rejected the submissions of the parties that the denial of conjugal relations is such that it causes “exceptional hardship or exceptional depravity” to either or both of them.

The division bench of acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh observed in the order, “We are of the view, that though denial of conjugal relationship is a ground for divorce, and tantamount to cruelty, the same cannot be said to amount to “exceptional hardship.”

The bench further observed, “The exception of “exceptional hardship” or “exceptional depravity” would be attracted in extenuating circumstances, and is not intended to mean, or be treated, on the same line as cruelty simpliciter.”

The appellant/petitioner (wife) had challenged the order passed by the family court. The marriage between the appellant and the respondent was solemnised on 4 April 2021 as per the Hindu rites and ceremonies at Ram Nagar, Uttarakhand.

The appellant started living separately on April 14, 2021, in the same matrimonial home after marital differences cropped up between the couple. On July 29, 2021, the appellant left her matrimonial home and went to her parental house.

“Once the Parliament, in its wisdom, has legislated that denial of cohabitation/conjugal relationship over a period of one year, or more, would be tantamount to cruelty, it cannot be said that denial of sex simpliciter within the period of one year, would be a case an exceptional hardship. Thus we reject the submission of the appellant that the denial of conjugal relation by both parties is such, that it causes “exceptional hardship or exceptional depravity” to either, or both of them,” the judgment reads.

The bench said, “We reject this appeal and uphold the order of the family court rejecting the application of parties filed under the proviso to Section 14 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. We reserve the right of the parties to move to the appropriate court independently, after the expiry of one year of separation.”

The High Court said, “The intent behind the framing of Section 13, 13B and Section 14 of the Hindu Marriage Act was to protect both- the individuals, as also the marriage. What the legislature has sought to address by way of divorce on the ground of cruelty, cannot be categorised as exceptional hardship or depravity so as to by-pass the well-established procedure.”

The family court on October 16, 2021, had dismissed the divorce petition filed by the husband and wife under Section 13B (divorce by mutual consent) for dissolution of marriage. The family court had dismissed the application under Section 14 and the petition filed under Hindu Marriage Act as it was filed before the expiry of one year from the date of marriage.

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