The Kerala High Court has observed that husband's repeated taunts on wife that she is not a wife of his expectations and comparisons with other women etc. amounts to mental cruelty.

In this regard, the Bench of Justice Anil K Narendran and Justice CS Sudha observed thus "The constant and repeated taunts of the respondent/husband that the petitioner is not a wife of his expectations; the comparisons with other women etc. would certainly be mental cruelty which a wife cannot be expected to put up with."

In this case, the wife of the appellant had approached the Family Court seeking dissolution of her marriage on the ground of cruelty. The Family Court allowed the petition and the marriage between the petitioner-wife and the respondent-husband was dissolved by a decree of dissolution of marriage, but on the ground of non-consummation of marriage. The Court rejected the allegation of cruelty raised by the petitioner under Section 10(x) of the Divorce Act 1869.

Feeling aggrieved by the decree of dissolution of the marriage, the respondent-husband moved High Court.

Advocate Tushara James appeared for the appellant-husband whereas Advocate KP Sreeja appeared for the petitioner-wife.

Firstly, the Court considered the question-whether the marriage has been consummated. The Court observed the testimony of the doctor who had medically examined the petitioner-wife whereby the doctor had deposed that that there was no evidence of sexual intercourse. The Court noted that there was no reason to disbelieve the testimony of the doctor.

Secondly, on the question of whether there was willful refusal on the part of the respondent/husband to consummate the marriage, the Court noted that the from the evidence on record it could not be concluded that there was any willful abstinence or refusal to consummate the marriage by the husband.

"From the facts, circumstances and the evidence on record, to which we will be referring to shortly, the couple do not seem to have been very keen on consummating the marriage, which would be clear/evident from our discussion on the remaining point. Therefore, the finding of the court below on the ground under Section 10(vii) appears to be incorrect, and so needs to be interfered with.", the Court held.

The Court also highlighted the allegation that the husband-respondent belittled and humiliated the petitioner by comparing her with other women.

"Yet another allegation is that the respondent was always in the habit of belittling and humiliating the petitioner by comparing her with other women. In his opinion, she was not a wife of his expectations as she was not 'cute' like certain other women he had occasion to meet. Two such instances have been referred to in the petition.", the Court observed.

The Court placed reliance on a catena of cases and noted that to constitute cruelty, the conduct complained of should be "grave and weighty" so as to come to the conclusion that the petitioner spouse cannot be reasonably expected to live with the other spouse. It must be something more serious than "ordinary wear and tear of married life".

The Court observed that "The conduct of the respondent/husband can, by no stretch of imagination, be said to be the outcome of the normal "wear and tear" of family life. The parties cohabited for quite a short period of time and so there could hardly be any "wear and tear" of marriage. The marriage does not seem to have been consummated too, though the evidence does not satisfy the ground under Section 10(vii) of the Act."

Therefore, the Court dismissed the appeal filed by the husband of the petitioner against the decree of dissolution of marriage and modified the decree to the extent that the marriage stood dissolved on the ground of cruelty.

Cause Title- xxxxxxxx v. xxxxxxxx

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