Divorce can not be granted only on ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage
S G Vs R K G
About/from the judgment:
The Delhi High Court has held that irretrievable breakdown of marriage alone cannot be a ground of divorce and can only be considered as a circumstance by the Court if it is merged with cruelty.
The Court was hearing an appeal challenging a decree of divorce, passed by the Family Court in a petition filed by the respondent. The appellant/wife and the respondent/husband had married as per Hindu rites in August, 1989 and out of their wedlock two sons had been born a few years later. Since 2008, they had been living separately. Due to disputes and differences between them, the husband had filed the said petition before the Family Court under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Act seeking dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce on the ground of 'cruelty'. The respondent before the Family Court had pleaded that since the very beginning, the appellant had not been inclined to live in the matrimonial home with his family and even after living separately to get some respite, the appellant had persisted in her behavior and had even ridiculed him due to his low educational qualifications. Moreover, it was further alleged that she had refrained from any household work and used to beat him up with the help of her brother to pressurize him into transferring his property. Suffering from depression, he had thus filed the divorce petition.
Contesting the petitioner, the appellant had pleaded ill-treatment from her in-laws, being turned out of her matrimonial home, misappropriation of all her stridhan by her in-laws, physical abuse for insufficient dowry and lack of any financial support from her husband for running household expenses. She also alleged that she and her children had suffered from a constant state of tension, depression and trauma due to the violent temperament of her husband and that it was her brother who had taken care of her and her children for the last three years. She further alleged that the petition before the Family Court was a counterblast to her case against the respondent under the Domestic Violence Act 2005.
The Family Court had examined the issues and had ruled in favour of the respondent observing that he was being deprived of any emotional or household support from his wife and his non-contribution to household expenses could be justified due to his meager salary. On the issue of cruelty, relying upon the cross-examination of the appellant where she had alleged the respondent's extramarital affair with his sister-in-law, the Court had concluded that allegations of such sort constituted mental cruelty. Moreover the Family Court observing that the marriage was dead for all purposes since they had been living separately, ordered it to be dissolved, for it would have been a 'travesty of justice' to let it continue since the respondent would only receive ridicule due to his low educational status from the appellant, in the event of its continuation. In doing so, the Court had relied upon a number of cases, where the concept of cruelty was blended with an irretrievable breakdown of marriage to a pass decree of divorce.
The Bench comprising of Justices G.S Sistani and Jyoti Singh of the Delhi High Court observed non-fulfillment of duties had been claimed by both sides but although the issue of cruelty had been examined before the Family Court, the respondent had failed to prove any of his allegations against the appellant due to which the decree of divorce could not be sustained. Furthermore, the Family Court judgment was also questioned, since no reason had been provided by it to show how the acts of the appellant had amounted to cruelty. In agreement with the petitioner, the Bench observed that the Family Court had erred in construing that the petitioner had alleged the respondent of an extra marital affair and her answer had been taken out of context since her answer actually implicated her sister-in-law in acts of abuse of threat against her in a manner similar to her husband. Emphasis on such admission during her cross-examination as a ground and treating it as mental cruelty was held to be erroneous by the Bench. The Bench further held that allegations of not cooking food, not paying bills, for business loss, difference in educational status were "normal wear and tear" of an ordinary married life.
Further it was observed that although irretrievable breakdown of marriage in cases has been blended in recent judgments in order to dissolve the marriages beyond repair, such conditions were absent in the present case. It held that in any case, irretrievable breakdown of marriage by itself was not a ground under the Act on which alone a decree could be passed and it can only be a circumstance which the Court can take into account when cruelty is proved and blend them together. Since the ground of cruelty had not been proved, a decree of divorce could not be passed only on account of irretrievable breakdown of marriage.
Thus setting aside the Family Court order, the appeal was allowed.
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