The Delhi High Court held that if a wife leaves her matrimonial home from time to time without there being any act or fault on the part of the husband, it amounts to mental cruelty.

The Court held thus in a matrimonial appeal under Section 19 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 filed by the husband against the judgment of the Family Court by which the petition for divorce under Section 13(1)(i-a) and 13(1)(i-b) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (HMA) was dismissed.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and Justice Neena Bansal Krishna observed, “The entire compendium of the evidence, as led by the respondent does not bring forth any act of cruelty on the part of the appellant; rather the entire evidence shows that the respondent was dissatisfied, unhappy with the conduct of her mother which made her so unhappy in the matrimonial home that she felt lack of space, control and respect in the house and she left the matrimonial home. It is a clear case where the respondent left the matrimonial home, from time to time, without there being any act or fault on the part of the appellant. Such withdrawal by the respondent from time to time, are acts of mental cruelty to which the appellant was subjected, without any reason or justification.”

The Bench also took note of the fact that the wife performed her last rites in the kitchen and also tied a “Rakhi” on his hand while telling him that he would be like her brother to her and hence, abandoned the relationship of husband and wife.

"Marriage, personified as the essence of togetherness, blooms on the fertile soil of mutual support, devotion and allegiance. However, repeated acts of separation, akin to a relentless storm, only uproot this foundation, scattering seeds of discord that threaten the sanctity of the union. Amidst the tempest of distance and abandonment, this bond breaks beyond repair, leaving behind irreparable scars on the landscape of trust and commitment", the Court emphasised.

Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra appeared for the appellant/husband while Advocate Reena Jain Malhotra appeared for the respondent/wife.

Brief Facts -

The appellant/husband was a qualified MBBS Doctor who got married to the respondent/wife who was also an MBBS Doctor in 1992. They were blessed with one daughter in 1994 and one son in 2002. They eventually separated in 2011 as the wife possessed an intemperate and volatile nature who inflicted a vast panoply of cruelties upon the husband and deserted him on at least seven occasions, including the last and final desertion. Since the day of their marriage, the husband was conveyed that the wife wanted to marry another person and he alleged that she and her family members started falsely claiming that he had no intention whatsoever to go for Honeymoon.

Their Honeymoon plan to Goa got cancelled as the husband’s father suffered from a heart attack. Also, there was unnecessary interference of wife’s family in their household decisions which led to frequent quarrels between the couple. The husband claimed that the behaviour of the respondent was always erratic and in their 19 years of married life, there were at least six occasions, when she left his company and finally left the matrimonial home in June 2011. The Family Juge, took each incident separately and minutely analysed them to conclude that the husband failed to prove the allegations as made in the petition and hence, the divorce petition was dismissed. Aggrieved by this, the appellant approached the High Court.

The High Court in view of the facts and circumstances of the case noted, “It is pertinent to refer to the testimony of the appellant, who has deposed that on the said date, the respondent performed his last rites in the kitchen and also tied a “Rakhi” on his hand while telling him that henceforth, he would be like a brother to her and she abandoned the relationship of husband and wife. The truthfulness of this can be inferred from the explanation of the respondent that the appellant had a long time back, taken a vow of celibacy and had also told her that she was not interested in her and there was much opportunity available outside. The explanation of the respondent again speaks volumes about her rejection and abandonment of the matrimonial relations.”

The Court said that the Family Judge dissected each incident individually and separately but life is not made up of isolated incidents and each day experience adds up to the next day and the entire period of matrimonial relationship has to be considered as a whole.

“Instances of cruelty are not to be taken in isolation, but cumulative effect of facts and circumstances emerging from evidence, has to be taken into consideration to draw a fair inference whether a spouse had been subjected to mental cruelty due to conduct of other spouse as held by the Supreme Court in Parveen Mehta Vs. Inderjit Mehta (2002) 5 SCC 706. Similar observations have been made in Samar Ghosh v. Jaya Ghosh, (2007) 4 SCC 511 and Gurbux Singh v. Harminder Kaur, (2010) 14 SCC 301, that while looking at the acts of mental cruelty, the court must look at the married life as a whole and not merely at a few isolated incidents”, it added.

The Court further observed that the Family Judge erred in analysing the life of the parties by taking a myopic view and by considering each incident as an independent window, when in fact it is the journey of the parties through their matrimonial life, which is determinative of their compatibility, progressiveness and growth. It also said that there is overwhelming evidence to show that it is the respondent, who subjected the appellant to a life of uncertainty with there being no settlement and mental peace in the matrimonial life, despite 20 years of being spent together.

“It’s a case of mental agony to the appellant entitling him to a divorce, on the ground of cruelty under S. 13(1)(ia) of the Act. … In the present case, the Petition has been filed on 28.11.2014, after about three and a half years of the respondent leaving the matrimonial home on 10.06.2011 and the acts of separation are admitted by both the parties. The appellant has explained the incident of 10.06.2011 as referred above, which again is reflective of an intent of abandonment and rejection of matrimonial relationship”, it remarked.

The Court noted that the evidence proves that the respondent had no intention of continuing in the matrimonial relationship which is also evident from the fact that no serious conciliatory efforts were made by her, to return to matrimonial home.

“The efforts were made by the appellant through family friends and relatives, but admittedly did not succeed. It is, therefore, proved that the respondent has deserted the appellant without any reasonable cause and is entitled to divorce, on the ground of desertion”, it concluded.

Accordingly, the High Court allowed the appeal, set aside the judgment of Family Court, and granted divorce on the ground of cruelty.

Cause Title- ABC v. XYZ (Neutral Citation: 2024:DHC:2721-DB)


Appellant: Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra, Advocates Kamakshi Gupta, and Manas Agrawal.

Respondent: Advocate Reena Jain Malhotra

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