Uttarakhand HC: Mental cruelty is no less than physical cruelty

A Division Bench of Uttarakhand High Court, comprising Justice Ravi Vijaykumar Malimath and Justice Narayan Singh Dhanik  ruled that a woman who induces mental cruelty to the husband, is a legal ground for marriage divorce, because mental cruelty is no less than physical cruelty.

The marital dispute involves Rajesh Gaur and Anita Gaur who, according to Hindu customs and ceremonies, got married on 12 May 1999 and had two children. In June 2014 the husband filed a complaint against the wife seeking a divorce decree on the basis of cruelty under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act.

According to the husband, there was a sudden shift in his wife’s actions about five years ago and some precious objects, jewellery, currency, etc. from the house started missing. Few years later, he started receiving telephone calls of people asking him either to return the money or else he would be kidnapped. The husband alleged his wife also confessed that she had borrowed money on interest @10 percent a month and had bought on credit ornaments and clothing. After getting continuous threats he decided to go back to Dehradun with his wife. A Panchayat was then held in the village where his wife admitted her mistakes in writing.

When the husband filed for divorce, the wife refuted claims of the husband, saying that her husband was harassing her. She filed a complaint against him in the Woman Cell, and also brought a case against him under Section 494, Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The Court, based on the evidence passed a decree of divorce and held that the acts alleged by the husband against his wife qualified to come under the category of cruelty.

The High Court while upholding the order of the Family Court and dismissing the wife’s appeal against the decree of divorce, observed:“Defendant-appellant alleged that the plaintiff-respondent is a characterless person and he has illicit extra-marital relations with another woman and subsequently he married to yet another woman. All these are unfounded allegations against the plaintiff-respondent. Defendant-appellant also lodged case for the offence under Section 494 IPC and also made complaint against the plaintiff-respondent with the Women Cell. All these acts and conduct, in our considered view, constitute cruelty. Further, as is evident, it was not a solitary instance of cruelty on the part of the defendant-appellant. The defendant-appellant indulged in repeated acts of cruelty and misbehaviour with her husband. Moreover, the conduct of the defendant-appellant also caused danger to the life, limb or health of the plaintiff-respondent and there was reasonable apprehension in the mind of the plaintiff-respondent that it would be harmful or injurious for him to live with the defendant-appellant.

Marriage, like every other human relationship – perhaps more so than others – is based on mutual trust, confidence and mutual respect. While differences may exist – often times serious ones – as long as respect for each other remains, the marital bond will survive. The above acts on the part of the defendant-appellant (wife) and levelling unfounded allegations about her spouse constituted actionable mental cruelty under the Hindu Marriage Act.”

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