No wife should be expected to endure acts of cruelty for sadistic pleasure of her life-partner: Kerala High Court

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The Kerala High Court recently observed that no wife should be expected to endure acts of cruelty and sacrifice her physical and mental health for the sadistic pleasure of her life-partner.

While deciding a matrimonial dispute, a Bench of Justices Anil K Narendran and G Girish held,

“No wife could be expected to tolerate the acts of cruelty of the nature borne out of the evidence adduced by the respondent in this case against the appellant, and sacrifice her physical and mental health and personal safety for the sadistic pleasure of her life-partner.”

The High Court made the observation while dismissing an appeal filed by a man challenging a family court decision which dismissed his petition for dissolution of marriage based on cruelty and desertion.

The appellant claimed that the respondent wife had subjected him to verbal and emotional abuse, refused to fulfill marital obligations and created disturbances in their household, ultimately leading to their separation.

He further alleged that the wife filed false complaints against him and his family under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.

However, the respondent wife contested these allegations, asserting that she had been a victim of physical and mental cruelty at the hands of the appellant and his family. She accused them of demanding dowry, subjecting her to forced abortions and preventing her from having access to their child.

The family court had found insufficient evidence to support the appellant’s claims of cruelty by the respondent wife.

The High Court concurred with this assessment, noting that while the appellant made general allegations of mistreatment, he failed to provide specific instances of cruelty.

On the other hand, evidence presented by the respondent wife painted a picture of her enduring severe mistreatment, making it untenable for her to continue the marriage, added the High Court.

It clarified that while cruelty in matrimonial cases includes behaviour endangering life, limb, or health, the allegations in this case mainly revolved around the respondent wife’s alleged inability to maintain a harmonious family life.

The Court stressed on the need to differentiate between ordinary marital issues and cruelty, after considering factors like tolerance levels and the parties’ backgrounds.

“Cruelty consists of acts which are dangerous to life, limb or health. Cruelty may be physical or mental. Mental cruelty is the conduct of the spouse which causes mental suffering or fear in continuing the marital life with one’s partner. Cruelty, however, has to be distinguished from ordinary wear and tear of family life. As far as the present case is concerned, the allegations levelled by the appellant, to a great extent, is about the incompatibility of the respondent to lead a cordial family life by taking care of the interests of the appellant and his parents. The above incompatibility attributed to a life partner cannot be classified as cruelty of such a grade which would warrant the dissolution of marital tie.”

It added that the the degree of tolerance will vary from one couple to another. Further, the background and status of the parties, as well as their level of education must be considered to determine whether the alleged cruelty is sufficient to justify dissolution of marriage.

The High Court upheld the decision of the family court, affirming the denial of dissolution of marriage.

The appellant was represented by Advocates Jimmy George and MR Suresh.

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