The Madras High Court, Madurai Bench has held that when the initiation of the proceedings is for the vindication of the wife’s rights, the said proceedings can never be considered to be a ground for mental cruelty in a Divorce case.

A Single Bench of Justice R. Vijayakumar observed, “… this Court is of the considered opinion that the divorce petition lacks pleadings with regard to the mental cruelty, desertion and the deposition of the husband relating to the said allegation do not support the case of the husband. The litigation initiated by the wife is only to protect her property rights and her custody of her son. When the initiation of such proceedings is for the vindication of her rights, the said proceedings can never be considered to be a ground for mental cruelty.”

The Bench said that when the husband has not established the ground of mental cruelty and desertion, it is constrained to set aside the finding of the Trial Court.

Advocate E.R. Kumaresan appeared on behalf of the appellant/wife while Advocate A.N. Ramanathan appeared on behalf of the respondent/husband.

Brief Facts -

The respondent had filed an application before the Additional Subordinate Court seeking divorce on the ground of cruelty and desertion but the same was dismissed by the Trial Court. Challenging the same, he approached the District Court which allowed the appeal and granted a decree of divorce. Hence, the appellant approached the High Court against the said decree.

The appellant was alleged to have led an adulterous life with a man and despite several requests, she refused to abandon her illicit activities. The respondent lodged a complaint before the Judicial Magistrate but the same was dismissed. He contended that for the past 10 years, there was no connection between him and his wife, and hence, the appellant was guilty of desertion.

The High Court in view of the facts and circumstances of the case noted, “… the husband has made a serious allegation of adultery as against the wife and despite being unsuccessful before the criminal Court, he had chosen to repeat the same allegation in the divorce proceedings. Therefore, the finding of the First Appellate Court that the attitude of the wife is to harass of her husband by filing one petition after another is not legally sustainable.”

The Court further noted that even as per the case of the husband, he is residing away from the matrimonial home from the year 2001 onwards.

“He has chosen to file a present divorce petition in the year 2007 alleging mental cruelty. If really the husband had suffered mental cruelty before leaving the matrimonial home, he would have immediately presented a divorce petition on the said ground. Therefore, the findings of the First Appellate Court that the wife had caused mental cruelty by filing the civil and criminal proceedings is without any basis whatsoever”, held the Court.

The Court said that when the husband had left the matrimonial home and he is residing away and there is an allegation of second marriage on the husband, the wife cannot be blamed for not taking steps to restore the conjugal rights. It added that the First Appellate Court was not right in placing the blame upon the wife for not filing any application for restitution of conjugal rights after arriving at a finding that the husband has miserably failed to prove the allegation of adultery.

“It is clear that the parties to the marriage are living apart only due to the property dispute which is pending S.A(MD).No.1068 of 2007. Some attempts made by this Court to settle the issue were not fruitful. … All the substantial questions of law are answered in favour of the appellant”, concluded the Court.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the appeal and set aside the judgment of the First Appellate Court.

Cause Title- Chandra v. Selvaraj

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