No fruitful purpose served in flogging dead horse, says HC; grants divorce to husband from non-adjusting wife

 The Delhi High Court has granted divorce to a man over mental cruelty he suffered due to his wife’s “non-adjusting attitude”, saying no fruitful purpose would be served in flogging a dead horse.

In a judgement released on Tuesday, a bench headed by Justice Suresh Kumar Kait set aside a family court order refusing divorce on a plea by the husband and allowed his appeal, asserting that “subsisting unjustifiable and reprehensible conduct” that affects the physical and mental health of the other spouse may result in mental cruelty.

The couple married in 2001 and separated after living together for 16 years. While the husband, represented by advocate Raavi Birbal, alleged cruelty by wife, the wife claimed he and his family demanded dowry.

The bench, also comprising Justice Neena Bansal Krishna, observed that the discord between the parties was not mere normal wear and tear of marriage, and when viewed comprehensively, were acts of cruelty towards the husband, making the continuation of their matrimonial relationship an act of “perpetuation of cruelty”.

It also said mere non-existence of legal disputes between the parties for the first 14 years of their marriage did not imply a “smooth sailing relationship” but only demonstrated the efforts of the husband to somehow make their relationship work.

“It can be concluded that though an endeavour was made by the parties to reside together but despite their efforts which spanned over 16 years, there was constant bickering and disquiet in their relationship, which did not allow their relations to flourish,” said the court.

“The incidents, though may not be of much significance when viewed in isolation, but when viewed together clearly depict a non adjusting attitude of the respondent/wife who had no maturity to sort out the differences with the husband without his public humiliation due to which the appellant suffered mental cruelty,” it said.

The court said the wife’s allegations of dowry demands were not substantiated by any cogent evidence and were a source of great mental pain constituting grave cruelty.

Even the “irresponsible and serious allegations” of sexual harassment against the father-in-law without any basis can be termed as nothing but an act of extreme mental cruelty, added the court.

“The consistent and completely unsubstantiated allegations of dowry harassment as made by the respondent in her Written Statement against the appellant and his family members, that too after sixteen years of marriage, are without any basis and can only be termed as source of great mental pain constituting grave cruelty,” the court said.

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“Complaints, if frivolously made, expose the person against whom the complaint is made, to embarrassment in the eyes of the society causing mental agony.. The respondent, from her conduct, demonstrates that she has been persistent and insistent on making allegations against the appellant, without any basis,” it said.

The court added that the wife’s baseless allegations of husband having illicit relationship with his colleagues and friends impact the mind, and if such conduct persists, it is a source of mental cruelty.

“We, therefore, conclude that the appellant (husband) has been subjected to cruelty during his matrimonial life and no fruitful purpose would be served in flogging a dead horse. We, therefore, set aside the impugned judgment and grant divorce on the ground of cruelty under Section 13(1)(ia) of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955,” the court ordered.

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