A Gujarat High Court Bench of Justice NV Anjaria and Justice Sandeep N Bhatt has upheld the decision of the Family Court that granted divorce to a student who had been forced to marry her teacher who was 12 years older than her.

Confirming that the act of the husband amounted to cruelty, the Court held that "The case put forth by wife was not rebutted by the appellant husband. In the totality of facts, the plaintiff could be said to have proved her case. Cruelty is not a defined concept. Whether cruelty is acted upon or not depends upon facts and circumstances. It is only the facts and circumstances of the particular case, which helped to determine that cruelty was proved or not as legal ground to grant the decree of divorce. A student forced to marry a teacher, both having large gap in terms of age and prospects, and post marriage treatment meted out to the plaintiff in the present case makes out to prove that the plaintiff wife was subjected to cruelty."

Counsel Ekrama H Qureshi appeared for the Appellant-husband, while Counsel Nishith P Acharya appeared for the Defendant-wife.

In this case, the Appellant-husband approached the Court to challenge the order passed by the Family Court granting divorce to his wife on the grounds of cruelty.

The Appellant-husband was a teacher, and the Defendant-wife had been his student in her college. He made advances on her and insisted that she must score an A grade in his subject, and if she failed, she would have to act as per his whims. He also insisted that she marry him and that if she agreed, his two children from his earlier marriage would gain a mother's love.

The Defendant-wife alleged that he obtained her signatures on some documents, and she only later found out that it was a marriage application form. However, his first wife was not dead and his marriage was subsisting. She alleged that her in-laws began to ask for dowry and that she was forced to undergo abortion three times. She further alleged that she was eventually driven out of her matrimonial home.

The Court took cognizance of the facts that "The relationship between the appellant and the respondent-original plaintiff was a teacher-student relationship. According to the case of wife, she was forced and trapped to contract marriage. There is gainsaying that the appellant held the position of dominance and trust both. The plaintiff aged 28 years was the student in the Polytechnic College. The husband aged 40 years was the teacher who used to take the classes where the plaintiff was also one of the pupil."

On hearing the contentions, the Court observed that "The evidence suggested in no uncertain terms that the respondent was driven out of matrimonial house and was deserted in the year 2013. These were acts and conduct amounting to cruelty to the wife."

Subsequently, the Court was of the opinion that "Recurring incidences of sending of message to the plaintiff was a kind of harassment and has to be viewed as harassment only when a person positioned as teacher sends such luring message to the student."

Therefore, holding that "The facts stated in the plaint by the wife and the allegations made were supported by her evidence. Little was trashed out in the cross-examination. In view of such facts, absence of some evidence would not be construed as absence of such facts otherwise gatherable from circumstantial facts", the High Court held that the decree passed granting divorce had no error and has to be upheld.

Cause Title: Dharmendra Babubhai Prajapati v. Khushaliben d/o Maheshbhai Patel

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