Pestering a son-in-law to abandon his parents and start living with his in-laws as ‘ghar jamai’ amounts to cruelty, the Delhi High Court has held while granting a divorce decree in favour of a man.
A bench of Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Neena Bansal Krishna set aside an order of a family court, which had dismissed the husband’s divorce petition, and granted divorce to the couple on the ground of cruelty and desertion by the wife.
The man said in his plea that he got married in May 2001 and, within a few months of the marriage, his wife left her matrimonial home and went back to her parents in Delhi during pregnancy.
He said he made sincere efforts to convince her to return to the matrimonial home but she refused, while she and her family members insisted that he shift from Gujarat to Delhi and stay in their house as ghar jamai’ (resident son-in-law), a proposal to which he did not agree as he had aged parents to take care of.
The woman, however, claimed she was harassed for dowry and that the man was a drunkard and used to beat her up and treat her with cruelty after which she left her matrimonial home in March 2002.
The high court referred to a judgment of the Supreme Court wherein it had observed that asking a son to separate from his family amounts to cruelty. The judgement said for a Hindu son in India, it is not a common practice or desirable culture to get separated from his family after marriage and that he has a moral and legal obligation to take care of his parents when they become old and have negligible or no income.
“Thus, the insistence of the family of respondent (wife) for the appellant (husband) to abandon his parents and become a ‘Ghar Jamai’ and live in their house amounts to cruelty,” the high court held.
The bench said it needs no reiteration that the bedrock of any matrimonial relationship is cohabitation and conjugal relationship, and the gravamen (the most essential part) of any marriage is the succour and peace that the couple derive from the company of each other.
“The very fact that the parties were able to live together barely for six months and since February 2002, they have been living separately proves that the parties were unable to sustain their matrimonial relationship. For a couple to be deprived of each other’s company, proves that the marriage cannot survive, and such deprivation of conjugal relationship is an act of extreme cruelty,” it said.
The high court noted that the man was acquitted in the criminal case lodged by his wife for allegedly treating her cruelly and breaching her trust.
It said the woman claimed she was beaten and subjected to cruelty but she was not been able to substantiate any of her allegations.
“The making of false complaints in itself is an act of cruelty. Though the acquittal under Section 498A/406 IPC in itself may not be an act of cruelty, the onus was on the respondent to establish that she was subjected to cruelty or had any cogent reason to live separately from the appellant/ husband,” it said, adding that the the false complaints filed by the wife against the husband constituted mental cruelty against him.
While the man alleged the woman was in a live-in relationship with someone else, the high court noted she has alleged that her husband had re-married during the subsistence of their marriage in 2015, and also has a child from his second marriage.
The court said the husband admitted to having a child outside marriage from a live-in relationship, while the woman claimed the man she was accused of having an affair with was her “muhbola bhai”, a person who she treated as brother though he was not a blood relation.
“Here is the case where long separation has forced both the appellant and respondent to apparently find companionship in a third person. Be that as it may, it is evident that the evidence on record sufficiently proves that the respondent had withdrawn from the company of the appellant for which she has not been able to give any cogent reason,” the high court said.
The high court said the woman had withdrawn herself from the company of her husband without any cogent reason.
“Considering the entire evidence, it is proved that the parties had drifted away and that respondent has deserted the petitioner/ appellant without any reasonable cause,” it said, and passed the decree for dissolution of the marriage.