The Hindu Marriages in India are governed by the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 which provides for the conditions for the solemnisation of Hindu Marriages between two individuals. Hindu Marriages are considered to be a sacrosanct and not mere contracts unlike the Muslim marriages. Marriages are considered to be a pious obligation of every Hindu without which he will not be able to attain the ultimate purpose of life. Before the coming into force of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, there was no codified provisions for the dissolution of marriage as it was considered to be a non dissoluble bond existing between the contracting parties.
However, with the advent of time, a need was realised to provide the right of dissolution of marriage to the parties whose marriage were irretrievably broken down with no scope of reconciliation. In consonance with this concept, the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 also enacted Section 13 in the Act which provides for the various grounds of dissolution of marriage. One of the important ground of dissolution of marriage provided by the Act is cruelty. Section 13(1)(ia) of the Act provides that if either party to the marriage treats the other party with cruelty, the party treated with cruelty may present a petition for divorce.
The term cruelty has not been defined in the Act. However, a general definition which is accepted by the Courts is such a conduct which is exhibited by one spouse to the other that it becomes impossible for the other spouse to live with him. Cruelty can be either physical cruelty or mental cruelty. Mental cruelty refers to a state of mind and feeling which is caused because of the behavioural pattern or attitude of the other spouse. What constitutes mental cruelty is a matter of fact which is to be determined by the Courts according to the facts and circumstances of the case. The present case deals with one such aspect of mental cruelty which is meted out by the wife to the husband thus leading to divorce between the parties.
The present case arises out of an appeal filed by the wife Smt. Anita Gaur against the decree of divorce granted by the Principal Judge, Family Court, Dehradun on a petition for divorce filed by the husband Rajesh Gaur who is the respondent in the present case. The marriage between the parties was solemnised on May 12th, 1999 as per the Hindu rites and ceremonies. After the marriage, the party shifted from Dehradun to Mumbai where the husband Rajesh Gaur started his own business. Two children were born out of the wedlock. The relationship between the parties were going on cordially.
However, after few years of marriage, a change was witnessed by the husband Rajesh Gaur in the behaviour of the wife Anita Gaur. It was alleged by the husband that the wife Anita treated him with cruelty. It was alleged that certain valuable articles such as jewellery, cash, etc. started disappearing from the house. The husband Rajesh Gaur also started receiving threatening calls from different person asking him to return their money back or else he will be abducted.
On enquiring about the calls from the wife Anita, it was found out that she had borrowed money from various persons at an interest of 10 per cent per month. The wife Anita Gaur had also purchased clothes and ornaments for her on credit. After this, the crooked person who had lent money to Smt. Anita Gaur started chasing the husband Rajesh Gaur and also threatened him that they will capture his flat. Therefore, in order to escape from the threat that has been caused to the life and liberty, the couple left Mumbai and moved back to Dehradun.
After returning to Dehradun, a panchayat was held by the village members in which Smt. Anita Gaur, the appellant herein, admitted her mistake in writing. However, even after admitting her mistake, she used to fight with the husband Sri. Rajesh Gaur on many occasions which made it difficult for the parties to live together amicably. Therefore, on June 3rd, 2014, a petition for divorce was filed by the husband against the wife under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 alleging that she had treated him with cruelty.
In reply to above allegations levelled by the husband Sh. Rajesh Gaur, a written reply was filed by the wife Smt. Anita Gaur wherein she admitted the fact that she had borrowed an amount of ₹10,00,000 at an interest of 10 percent per month. However, the reason for borrowing the above amount was that the husband had stopped lending money to the wife for meeting the household expenses, payment of school fees, etc. It was also alleged that the plaintiff husband had illicit relationship with another woman whom he subsequently married despite of the existence of marriage between them. Allegation of cruelty was made by her against the husband because of which a complaint was also made by her to the Women Cell and under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
The main issue that was framed for the adjudication of the Court in the present case was about the validity of the decree of divorce granted by the Principal Judge, Family Court, Dehradun. The appellant wife was represented in the present case by Advocate Sri. Kaushal Sah Jagati and Advocate L.K. Tiwari. The following were the arguments which were advanced by the Counsels for the Appellants for the consideration of the Court:
The learned Principal Judge, Family Court, Dehradun has committed grave error of law by disbelieving the testimony of the witnesses produced the wife in her evidence.
No cogent evidence was produced by the husband (respondent) in proving the acts for cruelty on the part of the wife.
Any amount taken by the wife for running the household expenses cannot be termed as cruelty on the part of the husband.
The arguments for the respondent husband was presented by learned Advocate Mr. B.D. Pande. It was contended by the respondent that no error has been committed by the learned family court in granting the decree of divorce as the marriage between the parties had irretrievably broken down. It was further contended that the parties have been living separately from the past six years and there was no scope of reconciliation between them. The judgment delivered by the Hon'ble Bench may be analysed in the following sub heads:
The meaning of Cruelty
It was laid down by the Hon'ble Court that cruelty has not been defined anywhere in the Act of 1955. However, to make a conduct cruel, it should be of such a nature that no reasonable man shall be expected to tolerate it. The cruel conduct on the part of the spouse must be wilful and unjustifiable. By wilful, it is meant that the conduct of the spouse must be with the intention of troubling the other spouse. In other words, there must be knowledge on the part of the spouse acting with cruelty that the other spouse shall not tolerate such a conduct.
Cruelty on the part of the Wife
The Hon'ble Bench observed that the appellant wife Smt. Anita Gaur had treated the husband Sh. Rajesh Gaur with cruelty. The wife had admitted before the Panchayat that she had borrowed a sum of ₹10,00,000 from various persons in Mumbai and even stole money, ornaments, jewellery and many other valuable articles from her own house. The people who had lent money to Smt. Anita Gaur also started threatening the husband because of which he had to wind up his business in Mumbai and return to Dehradun. This conduct of the wife had caused a threat to the life, limb as well as health of the respondent husband.
Moreover, the wife had alleged that the husband is a character less person who had illicit relationship with other woman. She also alleged that he had remarried again despite of the subsistence of the marriage between the parties. All this amount to mental cruelty to the husband. Also, making a complain to the woman cell and lodging a F.I.R. under Section 494 also amounts to mental cruelty to the husband. Therefore, granting the decree of divorce to the husband was absolutely valid.
No cruelty on the part of the Husband
It was further observed by the Hon'ble Bench that the allegations levelled by the Appellant wife against the husband were not proved because of the failure of the wife to provide any cogent evidence before the Court to substantiate her claim. It was held that the witnesses as have been deposed by the wife could not be relied upon by the Court as the witnesses were not residing in Mumbai. Therefore, these witnesses cannot be deemed to be aware of the day to day activities of the parties. Moreover, the evidence of the daughter cannot be relied upon as she was not produced for cross examination by the appellant. Since the appellant wife failed to substantiate the charge of cruelty and the charge of illicit relationship of the husband before the court, therefore the Court did not accept that the husband has treated the wife with cruelty.
It was held that borrowing money without the information of the husband amounts to cruelty to the husband or stealing jewellery, ornaments or valuable articles from the house amounts to cruelty to the husband. The marriage between the parties is a relationship of trust and confidence. Any conduct on the part of either spouse which breaks this trust and confidence amounts to cruelty on the part of such spouse. This present case is a perfect example of a situation in which because of the inadvertence on the part of the wife, threat was caused to the life and limb of the husband. Moreover, the wife by stealing ornaments from her own home has broken the trust which the husband has reposed in the wife. Therefore, the Court was completely justified in granting the decree of divorce to the appellant husband.
Written By:Mr. Manik Mahajan, Final Year Student, LLB, Punjab University, Law Intern at S. Bhambri & Associates (Advocates)