Acts of commission by a woman in filing a criminal complaint against her husband and his relatives resulting in the husband being in distress in jail constitute mental cruelty to him and, therefore, he is entitled to get the relief of divorce, the Madras High Court has held.
A Division Bench of Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and M. Venugopal said this in its judgment while allowing appeals by a person challenging a common order of the Principal Family Court here of April 24, 2008 dismissing his petition praying for divorce and allowing his wife's petition seeking restitution of conjugal rights.
He had married the daughter of a former Tamil Nadu MLA here in April 2000 as per Hindu custom.
The appellant's senior counsel, P. Wilson, contended that his client's wife after initiating criminal proceedings against her husband and nine others was not entitled to obtain the relief of restitution of conjugal rights because of the inconsistency in her case.
The judges said what conduct would amount to cruelty was a question of fact to be decided on the facts and particulars of each case. When a divorce was being sought on grounds of cruelty, the acts complained should be so grave and weighty to enable a court to conclude that one party could not reasonably be expected to live with the other.
The Bench said that in its considered opinion, on grounds of cruelty, the whole matrimonial relations should be considered.
Citing a Supreme Court judgment, the Judges observed that cruelty would normally consist not of harmful acts but of injurious reproaches, complaints, accusations or taunts.
It should be established that one party in the marriage, ignoring consequences, had misbehaved, which the other party could not be called upon to endure, and that misconduct had caused injury to health or a reasonable apprehension of such injury.
The Bench pointed out that in the present case, the husband had been put in jail for 22 days for alleged offences of dowry harassment and attempt to murder. Further, the woman had gone to the extent of filing intervening application opposing the bail sought by her husband. The case later ended in acquittal.
Filing of a criminal complaint by the wife against the husband and his relatives, instituting cases based on it and the same ending in acquittal and before that the husband being in distress for 22 days in jail, all these acts of commissions by the wife clearly constituted mental cruelty to the husband who admittedly would have undergone a traumatic experience and suffered humiliation in social circles.
In the present case, the marriage had become emotionally dead. It had irretrievably broken down. Moreover, the element of separation between the parties unerringly point out that there was an intention to bring cohabitation permanently to an end. The differences of opinion should not be considered as temporary passions.
The Bench ruled that the husband was entitled to get divorce.
His wife was not entitled to get the relief of restitution of conjugal rights. It said the marriage would stand dissolved.