In a matrimonial matter, the Bombay High Court at Nagpur has observed that the expression of desire by a well-qualified wife that she wants to do a job does not amount to cruelty.

The Division Bench of Justice A.S. Chandurkar and Justice Urmilla Joshi Phalke was hearing a plea moved by the Appellant-Husband alleging that Respondent-Wife after their marriage harassed him for a job and subsequently left her matrimonial home which amounted to cruelty and desertion under the Hindu Marriage Act. The Appellant-Husband had filed a Petition for the dissolution of marriage under Section 13(1) (ia) and Section 13(1) (ib) of the Hindu Marriage Act. The Appellant-Husband had also alleged that Respondent-Wife terminated her pregnancy without his consent and subjected him to cruelty.

The Trial Court on a plea moved by the Respondent-Wife had allowed the Petition for the restitution of conjugal rights and dismissed the Divorce Petition moved by the Appellant-Husband.

Counsel R.G. Kavimandan appeared for the Appellant-Husband while Counsel D.S. Khushlani appeared for the Respondent-Wife before the Court.

  • The issues dealt with by the Court were –

i) Whether the petition for dissolution of marriage is liable to be allowed on the ground of cruelty as pleaded in the petition.

ii) Whether the appellant/husband proves that the respondent/wife intentionally abandoned him without a reasonable cause.

iii) Whether the judgment and decree of the restitution of conjugal rights passed by the trial Court and dismissal of the divorce petition calls for any interference.

The Court noted that the Petition for the dissolution of marriage was preferred mainly on the allegation that the Respondent-Wife had treated the Appellant-Husband with cruelty after marriage.

The Court further also noted that admittedly there was no evidence to prove that the Respondent-Wife terminated the pregnancy against his consent, although the wife had contended before the Court that the pregnancy was terminated due to her sickness.

With regards to the allegation of cruelty against the Respondent-Wife, the Court observed –

"Cruelty has not been defined under the Hindu Law. Admittedly, there is no allegation of violence against each other. In relation to matrimonial matters it is contemplated that a conduct of such type which endangers the living of the other amounts to cruelty. Cruelty consists of acts which are dangerous to life, limb or health. Cruelty may be physical or mental. Mental cruelty is the conduct of other spouse which causes mental suffering or fear to the matrimonial life of the other. Cruelty however, has to be distinguished from the ordinary wear and tear of the family life. The question whether the act complained of was a cruel act is to be determined from the whole facts and the matrimonial relations between the parties."

The Court further noted that the allegations of cruelty cannot be considered on trivial issues. The Court held that the allegation should have the origin with reference to time, place and manner of cruelty and thus observed –

"General allegations of cruelty do not constitute cruelty in the eyes of law so as to grant decree of dissolution of marriage on that premise. It is observed by the Hon'ble Apex Court in A. Jayachandra Vs. Aneel Kaur 2005 (5) ALL MR 313 (S.C.) that mere annoyance or irritation may not constitute cruelty, rather it is a spontaneous change in human behavior which restricts the other side to live with the spouse under the fear of endangering life or bodily injuries. Though, the word 'cruelty' has not been defined strictly, but it has to be gathered from attending circumstances of each case. The allegations should be specific with regard to time, place and manner of committing such cruelty. The cruelty should be such in which it is not reasonably expected to live together."

The Court further also held, "Here in the present case, expressing desire by wife who is well qualified that she wants to do the job does not amount to cruelty. The appellant/husband has to make out a specific case that the conduct of wife was such a nature that it was difficult for him to lead the life along with her."

The Bench additionally held that the allegations made by the Appellant-Husband fall under the routine wear and tear in the nature.

In the context of allegations of 'Desertion' against the Respondent-Wife, the Court observed –

"'Desertion' means the intentional, permanent forsaking and abandonment of one spouse by the other without the other's consent and without reasonable cause. Desertion means withdrawing from the matrimonial obligations. To constitute desertion two essential conditions must be established : (1) the factum of separation, and (2) the intention to bring cohabitation permanently to an end (animus deserendi). For holding desertion as proved the inference may be drawn from sudden circumstances."

"There is no evidence to show that the respondent/wife was desiring to end the relationship permanently. If the contention of the appellant/husband is accepted that she left the matrimonial house to fulfill her desire to do the job, admittedly, she was not doing any job when she left the matrimonial house. After three years of leaving the matrimonial house she got the job in one Ashram Shala. Therefore, the contention of the appellant/husband that she left the matrimonial house to fulfill her desire is not sustainable. The contention of the respondent/wife appears more probable that she was constrained to leave the matrimonial house as her character was suspected," the Bench held.

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the appeals and upheld the judgment of the Trial Court.

Cause Title – Pundlik Martandrao Yevatkar v. Sau. Ujwala @ Shubhangi Pundlik Yevatkar

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