The Calcutta High Court has held that compelling husband for living separately from his parents or family without any justifiable reason amounts to cruelty.

The Court said that the Trial Court rightly derived his inferences that the conduct of the wife amounted to cruelty against her husband as she brought criminal prosecution against him on a false statement and hence the husband would be entitled to claim divorce.

A Division Bench of Justice Soumen Sen and Justice Uday Kumar observed, “Gender equality is equality for both the spouse. No spouse enjoys predominance and can impose his / her decision or desire on the other. Where desires and demands of two spouses move in opposite directions and they fail to reconcile each of them should be prepared to accept the inevitable consequence of break-down of marital ties. ... wife's demand for a separate residence may amount to obstinacy and an act of mental cruelty.”

The Bench also observed that normally no husband would tolerate such acts of wife and no son would like to be separated from his parents and other family members.

“… adverse consequence of pending criminal case on joining government job would amount to mental cruelty on petitioner-respondent-husband. Similarly the act of appellant to compel the husband for living separately from his joint family without any justifiable reason would amount to inflict cruelty on petitioner– husband as well. … We do not find any reasons for interference in the impugned judgment and decree”, further held the Court.

Advocate Rahul Karmakar appeared for the appellant/wife while Senior Advocate I. Mukhopadhyay appeared for the respondent/husband.

Facts -

The Trial Judge decreed the suit instituted under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 by the husband for termination of his marital ties solemnized with the wife and being aggrieved and dissatisfied by the said order, the wife preferred an appeal. The unemployment of the husband was the root cause of the wife’s agony and turbulence in their matrimonial life and though the husband was earning from his profession of part-time teaching in school and from private tuition, the same was not sufficient to satisfy the financial requirement of his family and so, he occasionally asked for money from his wife as she was getting an honorarium as ‘Anganbari worker’.

The wife always cursed him for his cowardly attitude and became belligerent to her in-laws which gradually increased after the birth of their daughter but still, the husband tried his level best to tune his relationship with her but to no avail, rather she abetted him for committing suicide. Subsequently, the husband was selected for a government job but his joining was delayed on the ground of a pending criminal case lodged against him by his wife.

The High Court after hearing the contentions of both parties asserted, “It is true that the foundation of a sound marriage is based on tolerance, adjustment and respect for one another. Tolerance to each other's fault to a certain bearable extent has to be inherent in every marriage. But the criminal case lodged by appellant intentionally to cause damage to husband Prashant by affecting his chance of joining government job; has certainly reined the possibility of acquiring his government employment and thus would amount to mental cruelty to him.”

The Court further asserted that bringing criminal prosecution on a false statement by either spouse amounts to mental cruelty as held by the Supreme Court.

“Due to thick social belief, it was not suitable for him to live separate because in our society, it is a pious obligation of the son to live and maintain the parents. A son living with his parents is absolutely normal in Indian culture and ethos. Despite that petitioner resided with appellant and his daughter from 14th August 2006 to 03rd March 2007, till the date when appellant left to her parents’ house with all belongings”, noted the Court.

The Court observed that when such disputes concerning respective rights, liberty, and obligation come to the Court of law for adjudication, those are to be decided on the touchstone of the reasonableness of conjugal living in the context of the society they live in and a reasonable demand or refusal to meet an unreasonable and obstinate demand does not constitute an act of mental cruelty.

“It is fact that Indian culture nurtures the concept of pious obligation of the son to maintain his parents. If a wife makes an attempt to deviate the son from the normal practice and normal custom of the society, she must have some justifiable reason for that and in this case, we do not find existence of any justifiable reason, except the instances of clash of ego on trifle domestic issues and problems related to fulfillment of financial requirements. The appellant wife wanted the respondent to get separated from his family. It is not common practice for a son in India to get separated from parents at the instance of the wife”, said the Court.

The Court also said that the persistent effort of the wife to constrain the husband to be separated from the family would be torturous for the husband and that long separation, mental and physical torture, and the unwillingness of the party to live together, leaves no scope to repair a marital bond and hence, denial to grant a divorce decree would be disastrous for the parties. The Court, therefore, directed the husband to pay maintenance to the wife and towards study and other expenses of the daughter.

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the appeal.

Cause Title- Jharna Mandal v. Prashant Kumar Mandal

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