Continued litigation, complaints to remove spouse from job amounts to cruelty for divorce

Continued litigation, complaints to remove spouse from job amounts to cruelty for divorce

Sivasankaran Vs Santhimeenal

Supreme Court

13/09/2021

CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 4984-4985 OF 2021

About/from the judgment:

It took two decades for a marriage, which could not take off and was never consummated with spouses' starting litigations just a fortnight after marrying, to be legally dissolved with the Supreme Court on Monday allowing the divorce plea of a husband holding that multiple litigations initiated by wife against him amounts to cruelty.

A bench invoked special power under Article 142 of the Constitution to grant divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage and also on account of cruelty in light of conduct of the wife for filing multiple cases in courts against him including plea in HC for disciplinary action against her husband who was working as an assistant professor in a government college.

The court noted that law has not been amended despite recommendations of the Law Commission to recognise irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground of divorce and the matter is also pending in the apex court. It, however, said that it would not serve any purpose to keep the matter pending and dissolved the marriage by invoking its special power to do justice.

It took two decades for a marriage, which could not take off and was never consummated with spouses' starting litigations just a fortnight after marrying, to be legally dissolved with the Supreme Court on Monday allowing the divorce plea of a husband holding that multiple litigations initiated by wife against him amounts to cruelty.

The bench said that the trial court and high court did not find adequate material to come to the conclusion that the husband was entitled to divorce on grounds of cruelty and the conduct of wife during the pendency of the case had to be examined. The court noted that the wife had taken recourse to not just litigations but also publicly threatened him in his office. It said that HC wrongly brushed aside these incidents as "wear and tear of marriage".

"... these continuing acts of the respondent would amount to cruelty even if the same had not arisen as a cause prior to the institution of the petition, as was found by the trial court. This conduct shows disintegration of marital unity and thus disintegration of the marriage. In fact, there was no initial integration itself which would allow disintegration afterwards. The fact that there have been continued allegations and litigative proceedings and that can amount to cruelty is an aspect taken note of by this court," the bench said.

"She sought disciplinary proceedings against the appellant on account of the second marriage despite the fact that the second marriage took place soon after the decree of divorce. Thus, she sought to somehow ensure that the appellant loses his job. Filing of such complaints seeking removal of one’s spouse from job has been opined as amounting to mental cruelty," it said.

In this case the couple got married in 2002 but as the court said "there was a crash landing at the take-off stage itself!" as she left immediately after marriage saying that her consent was not taken. A fortnight later husband sought divorce for non-consummation of marriage but she refused to give her consent and sought restitution of conjugal rights. The family court granted divorce after five years and the husband within a week got married again.

The family court order was set aside by Madras HC and the husband approached the apex court which brought to an end the litigation of two decades during which the parties were living separately.

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