Denying child’s affection to other spouse cruelty: Delhi HC

The calculated act of a spouse of denying the child’s affection to the other parent amounts to mental cruelty, the Delhi High Court has said while upholding the divorce of an estranged couple.

The court dismissed an appeal by the wife against a 2018 family court order granting divorce and observed that in the instant case, the daughter was “totally alienated” and used as a weapon against the husband, an army officer.

“The learned Principal Judge, Family Courts has, therefore, rightly concluded that such child alienation is an extreme act of mental cruelty towards a father who has never shown any neglect for the child,” said a bench of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and Neena Bansal Krishna in a recent order.

The court said discord and the disputes were between the couple, who got married in 1996 as per Hindu customs and rites, and no matter how bitter the relationship was, it was not appropriate to involve the child or embitter her against the father or to use her as a tool against him.

“Any act of any parent calculated to deny such affection to the other parent, amounts to alienating the child which amounts to mental cruelty…Nothing more can be more painful than experiencing one’s own flesh and blood i.e., the child, rejecting him or her. Such wilful alienation of the child amounts to mental cruelty,” the court said.

The court also rejected the appellant wife’s objections with respect to daily consumption of alcohol by the husband, saying “merely because a person consumes alcohol daily, it does not make him an alcoholic or add up to a bad character” when there was no untoward incident.

It also said making friends at workplace, when the parties were living separately due to work exigencies, also cannot be termed as cruelty.

The wife alleged that the husband used to be withdrawn whenever she visited him and would always remain busy on phone with his friends, both male and female.

“A person who is essentially living alone, may find solace by having friends and merely because he used to talk to his friends, it can neither be held to be an act of ignoring the appellant nor a cruel act.

“It has to be appreciated that both the parties having been essentially living separately because of their work exigencies, were bound to make friends at their place of work and otherwise; and such friendships without anything more, cannot be termed as cruelty,” the court stated.

It said when an “intimate relationship” of the husband with another woman had been earlier “condoned” by the wife, it cannot be taken as an act of cruelty while deciding the petition for divorce.

It also said the conduct of the wife in making complaints to the department against the husband “cannot be expected from an educated spouse” and “proves her vengeance to bring down the respondent (husband)”.

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“Once vindictiveness has crept in and the appellant had marched on to the war path and not only filed complaints in the Department but also initiated various civil/legal cases since 2011, i.e., for about 12 years and has even alienated the daughter from the respondent, it leads to irresistible conclusion that various acts of cruelty have been committed towards the respondent,” the court said.

The husband sought divorce from the wife before the family court on several grounds including that being an Army officer, he used to get posted at different places, but she never displayed any inclination to join him at his place of work and did not allow him to interact with the daughter.

He also claimed that the wife shifted to Pune and withdrew the daughter from the school in Delhi to snap any contact between the father and the child.

The husband also alleged that the wife unilaterally ceased cohabitation in June 2008 and made false complaints before Army authorities, and levelled scandalous allegations against him.

The court said in its order that although the ground of desertion was not made out against the wife, it upheld the divorce on the ground of cruelty.

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