The Delhi High Court recently held that matrimonial cases must be decided based on the overall picture that emerges since the issues are generally confined to the bedroom and home (Rahul Kesarwani v. Sunita Bhuyan).
A Bench of Justices Jasmeet Singh and Vipin Sanghi opined that while examining evidence in matrimonial disputes, if contradictions are minor, the same should be ignored by appellate courts. It was noted that to justify interference, there must be inconsistencies substantial enough to change a judgment’s essence.
The Division Bench observed that a lot of times, these cases do not have any independent, impartial witness and therefore, the overall picture that emerges from the undisputed and uncontroverted facts and circumstances, and those established by documentary or other evidence, must be considered.
The doctrine of preponderance of probabilities must be applied while evaluating the evidence in cases of matrimonial issues, the Court said. In support of this, the judgment in Sheenu Mahendru v. Sangeeta was relied upon. In this judgment, it was held,
“Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a proof of a higher standard, which generally governs criminal trials or trials involving inquiry into issues of a quasi-criminal nature. Such proof beyond a reasonable doubt could not be imported in matters of pure civil nature especially matrimonial matters.”
The High Court was hearing a husband’s appeal against a judgment of a family court allowing a plea for dissolution of marriage as sought by his wife. The lower court found that the husband had assaulted, beaten, and tortured the respondent continuously, and accused her of bad character. For this and other reasons, the court concluded that the actions of the husband amounted to cruelty, which is a ground for divorce under Section 13(1)(ia)of Hindu Marriage Act.
At the outset, the High Court noted that after interacting with the parties to explore the possibility of a mediated settlement, it came to the conclusion that the same was not possible.
The appellant put forth several arguments before the High Court, including that the family court had not given any reasoning as to why, without any documentary evidence being proved on record or third-party affirmation, the respondent had successfully proved her case.
However, after examining the numerous contradictions in the family court’s judgment pointed out by the appellant, the Court was unconvinced of his case.
“The contradictions pointed out by the Appellant are not so serious as to change the finding, persuading us to set aside the impugned judgment, nor are they so grave that they violate the principles of natural justice.”
The Bench relied on the judgment of the Supreme Court in Samar Ghosh v Jaya Ghosh where it was observed that there could be no fixed parameter to determine cruelty.
“In most of the cases, cruelty is inflicted by one party and felt by another in a variety of circumstances. What may constitute cruelty in one matter may not constitute cruelty in another. Each case and relationship must be viewed separately and its own totality,” the High Court remarked.
It was determined that the family court had correctly employed the standard of proof and the appellant had not been able to substantiate his grounds of challenge.
Concluding that the marriage between the parties would cause undue harm to not only the respondent but also the appellant since there had been a complete breakdown of marriage, the Court dismissed the appeal for being devoid of merits.
“It is clear from a bare perusal of the matter at hand that the marriage is beyond repair. The continuity of this marriage is fruitless, and is rather causing grief and harm to both the parties.”
Advocate Abhey Narula appeared for the appellant. The respondent appeared in person
Read Judgement here: