Unilateral withdrawal from divorce settlement without just cause is mental cruelty: Delhi High Court

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The Delhi High Court recently held that a spouse unilaterally withdrawing from a mutually agreed divorce settlement agreement amounts to mental cruelty.

A division bench of Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Neena Bansal Krishna referred to judgments of the Supreme Court and various High Courts to stress that when a divorce by mutual consent is agreed upon by the spouses, a unilateral withdrawal of consent by one spouse without any just cause adds to the cruelty meted out to the other spouse.

“Thus, such conduct of the appellant/wife in driving the respondent to believe that their disputes were about to be put to an end and then to withdraw from the attempted settlement can cause disquiet, cruelty, and uncertainty in the mind of the respondent (husband). It is evident that the fight inter se the parties was not on any justifiable grounds, but was a war between the egos prompted by the desire to wreak vengeance against the spouse. Such unilateral withdrawal from divorce by mutual consent thus, amounted to cruelty,” the Court held.

The Court returned the finding while dealing with an appeal filed by a woman against a family court order dated March 20, 2017, allowing her husband’s plea for divorce on grounds of cruelty.

The couple got married in December 2001 but the marriage survived only for thirteen months as they separated in January 2003.

Since disputes emerged soon, the couple agreed to get a divorce by mutual consent. In part execution of the settlement, a demand draft of ₹5 lakh was accepted by the wife. However, she subsequently returned the same.

The husband filed for divorce thereafter.

After considering the case, the High Court noted that even though the wife had alleged that her husband was friendly with many girls and had adulterous relationships, she conceded in her cross-examination that she had no concrete proof to prove any allegation of adultery.

The Court concluded when all the incidents alleged were viewed together, they clearly depicted the non-adjusting attitude of the wife “who had no maturity to sort out the differences with the husband without his public humiliation due to which the respondent (husband) suffered mental cruelty.”

“In view of the foregoing discussions, we conclude that there is no infirmity in the Judgment dated 20.03.2017 of the learned Principal Judge granting divorce on the ground of cruelty to the respondent/husband under Section 13(1)(ia) of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955,” the Court went on to hold.

The wife’s appeal was, therefore, rejected.

Senior Advocate Raman Kapur and Advocate Varun Kapur appeared for the wife.

The husband was represented through advocates Amarjit Singh Bedi and Varun Chandiok.

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