The Calcutta High Court held that allegations of cruelty in divorce cases must be of significant magnitude, creating a sense of insecurity in a reasonable person's mind. The Court emphasized the principle of equal rights between spouses and ruled that the wife's decision to sell property in her name without seeking her husband's approval did not constitute cruelty, as she had the right to make such decisions independently. The Trial Court had found in favor of the husband, citing the wife's withdrawal of money from a joint bank account and the sale of property without the husband's consent as instances of cruelty.

A Division Bench of Justice Harish Tandon and Justice Prasenjit Biswas held that, “It appears that both are educated and if the wife decided to sell the property standing in her name without seeking approval or permission from the husband-respondent, it shall not constitute the cruelty. The dominance of male over the female is not acceptable to the present society nor the framers of our Constitution ever inculcated such sense.”

The Court said that, “There cannot be any bias on gender as both male and female have equal right and if the husband can sell the property without the approval and permission of wife we are unaware to comprehend that the property standing in the name of the wife cannot be sold by her without the permission and/or approval of her husband.”

Advocate Chandreyi Alam appeared for the Appellant and Advocate Saurav Chaudhuri appeared for the Respondent.

The wife's counsel argued that the husband's allegations of cruelty and adultery were unproven and that the wife was willing to continue the marital relationship, despite the husband's actions.

The key issues before the Court were whether the judgment and decree on grounds of cruelty and desertion can be upheld and whether the wife's allegations of the husband's second marriage and cruelty were proven.

The Court established that for an act to constitute cruelty in divorce cases, it must be of significant magnitude and create a sense of insecurity in the reasonable person's mind. Factors like behavior, social status, education, and living environment are considered. It's emphasized that minor disagreements in a marriage should not be considered cruelty.

The Court noted that in this case, there were allegations of suspicion, but no independent witnesses supported them. The Court emphasized that allegations alone were not enough to prove cruelty.

It was alleged that the wife took control of a business and sold property without the husband's permission. The Court said, “The wife cannot be regarded as a property of the husband nor she is expected to seek any permission from the husband to do any act or a thing which she decided to do in her life. The mindset of the husband-respondent is evident that he wanted the wife to remain a passive companion having no freedom of mind nor to take any decision of her life without his permission or concurrence.” The Court held that the property was in the wife's name, and her decision to sell it without his approval is not considered cruelty.

The Court rejected the idea that the wife's withdrawal of money from a joint bank account after her father-in-law's death constituted cruelty. It suggested that the father-in-law's decision to open the account with the wife indicated confidence in her. The Court also noted that the withdrawal of money should be addressed in a separate civil suit filed by the mother-in-law and elder brother-in-law. The wife's admission that she withdrew the money was explained as a necessity due to the husband's failure to provide financial support.

The Court questioned the trial court's finding that the parties were not happy in their marriage from the beginning. It pointed out that the birth of a daughter within two years of marriage contradicted this finding. The Court acknowledged the absence of conjugal life and consummation since 2003, which could be considered desertion, but it noted the lack of specific findings on desertion.

The Court noted, in this case, the wife expressed her willingness to restore the matrimonial relationship and cohabitation, but the husband had no intention to do so. This fulfilled the requirements for desertion.

The Court stated that allegations made during proceedings should be supported by credible evidence. In this case, the husband's role in a second marriage was discussed, but the evidence suggested his intention to end the current marriage.

The Court concluded that the trial court's judgment and decree cannot be upheld. The matrimonial suit was dismissed.

Cause Title: Mridula Sikdar v. Jitendra Nath Sikdar

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