Wife initiating litigation for vindication of her rights not mental cruelty: Madras High Court

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The Madras High Court recently held that when a woman initiates litigation to vindicate her rights, it can never be considered as mental cruelty to the husband.

While setting aside a divorce decree that was granted by a lower court on the ground of mental cruelty, Justice R Vijaykumar of the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court said that when a woman files a case seeking custody of her child or to stake claim to her property right, the same is only for vindication of her rights and not to deliberately harass her estranged husband.

“This Court is of the considered opinion that the divorce petition lacks pleadings with regard to the mental cruelty, desertion and the deposition of the husband relating to the said allegation do not support the case of the husband. The litigation initiated by the wife is only to protect her property rights and her custody of her son. When the initiation of such proceedings is for the vindication of her rights, the said proceedings can never be considered to be a ground for mental cruelty,” the Court said.

The Court was hearing an appeal filed by a woman challenging a lower court’s order that had allowed an her estranged husband plea in a divorce petition filed by him.

The lower court had held that the wife was harassing the husband by filing petitions one after another. It had held that while there was no specific instance of cruelty, the husband had suffered mental cruelty due to the complaints lodged against him.

The woman challenged this order before the High Court.

During the proceedings, the High Court realised that the husband had left the matrimonial home and had married another woman without divorcing the first wife. It also noted that the crux of the dispute was the custody of the estranged couple’s son and the conflict over ownership of their residence.

Justice Vijaykumar further noted that while the husband had made allegations of adultery against the wife, he had failed to prove it.

The High Court, therefore, said that the first appellate court had erred in holding that the attitude of the wife was to harass her estranged husband by filing petitions.

Such finding, High court said, was not legally sustainable and was “without any basis,” and it therefore, allowed the second appeal filed by the wife.

Advocate ER Kumaresan appeared for the wife.

Advocates AN Ramanathan and M Bindran appeared for the respondent Husband.

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