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Making false accusation of impotency by a spouse in matrimonial proceedings amounts to cruelty
XXXXXXXX Vs XXXXXXXX
MAT.APPEAL NO. 254 OF 2015
About/from the judgment:
The High Court has recently held that casting aspersions of impotency or erectile dysfunction by one spouse against other in matrimonial proceedings will constitute cruelty.
The appeal was filed by the appellant husband, against the order of the Family Court, Thrissur which denied a decree of dissolution of marriage to the appellant. The High Court allowed this appeal and set aside the order of the Family Court to the extent of rejecting the claim for dissolution of marriage on the ground of cruelty.
The respondent had accused the appellant of suffering from erectile dysfunction and sexual incapacity in her written statement, which was contradicted by her own statement and lack of evidence.
The Court held that "unsubstantiated accusation and character assassination in a written statement would constitute mental cruelty". The marriage between the appellant and the respondent was hence declared to be dissolved.
Delusion Disorder in a Spouse Not A Ground for Divorce
The respondent in her statements admitted of experiencing delusions on an occasional basis for which she was under medication. However, there was nothing on record to prove that she suffered from incurable unsoundness of mind.
Nevertheless, the appellant urged that suppression of this vital information warrants divorce. Commenting on Section 19 of the Divorce Act, it was observed thus:
"This Section cannot be treated as a provision placing burden upon a spouse to the marriage, to reveal the entire information about him or her to the other. This provision can not at all be operated vis a vis the suppression of information."
Non-Disclosure of Facts Not Fraud
It was observed by the High Court that suppression of information would only amount to fraud only if a particular fact was presented to be true when the other party was aware of its falsity. When evidence of such fraud is presented, a marriage can be annulled under Section 19.
However, in this matter, the allegation is not that there was deception, but non-disclosure of a particular fact. The Division Bench noted that respondent was not legally obliged to provide the appellant with such information, thereby releasing her from the charge of fraud.
For the above reason, the Court found it unnecessary to interfere with the order of the Family Court that denied a decree of nullity or dissolution of marriage to the appellant on the ground of fraud.
Malevolent Intention Not Essential For Cruelty
The appellant had alleged in the original petition that he was subjected to cruelty by the respondent. He contended that the respondent had behaved in an unreasonably abnormal manner throughout the duration of their stay together, including being unhygienic, lethargic and hostile towards other members in the matrimonial home.
However, he failed to produce any evidence to back this claim apart from his own oral testimony. Although the burden of proof falls on the appellant, independent witnesses may not be available in such disputes since they occur within the four walls of the matrimonial home.
It is the duty of the judiciary to build a decision based on the preponderance of probabilities. Hence, the Court found it practical to act upon the sole testimony of the appellant, if found convincing and reliable.
Although the respondent's conduct may not have been intentional, malevolent intention is not essential to cruelty. Such conduct, even if it arises from minor mental illnesses, cannot be excused. Therefore, it was observed that the appellant's relief for the annulment of his marriage cannot be denied on the ground that there was no deliberate ill-treatment from the respondent.
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