While discussing over the matter, the bench laid down the distinction between the two judgements and said that the High Court didn’t pay much attention to the fact that the wife laid false accusations over the husband regarding his extramarital affair and the constant persuasion by the Respondent for getting separated from the family members of the Appellant and constraining the Appellant to live separately and only with her while they were taken very seriously by the Family Court.
The court disregarded the way the High Court re-appreciated the evidence on which the Family Court relied on and agreed with the findings of the Family Court. The bench while deciding over the matter evaluated the facts. The court landed to the conclusion over the act of doing suicide from the facts and arguments presented before the lower courts no reason could be cited for such a step. And if the wife had been successful in doing so, the husband and his family could have gone into serious troubles. The court, therefore, said that the repeated threats to commit could have led to serious mental cruelty while referring to the judgement in Pankaj Mahajan v. Dimple @ Kajal (2011) 12 SCC 1.
The court compared the current situation where the wife wanted the Appellant to get separated from his parents with the ideal situation in Indian culture. It is not a common practice or desirable culture for a Hindu son in India to get separated from the parents at the instance of the wife, especially when the son is the only earning member in the family. A person who is brought up and given education by his parents has a moral and legal obligation to take care of and maintain the parents. Upon the evidence produced in the trial court, it is evident that the wife wanted to get her husband separated from his family for monetary considerations. The argument of the respondent that some amount money was also to be spent for husband’s family and it is a legitimate expectation for her to see that the income of her husband is used for her is unjustified while the High Court thought it to be justified. The persistent effort of the Respondent wife to constrain the Appellant to be separated from the family would be torturous for the husband and the trial Court was right on coming to the conclusion that the act would constitute an act of ‘cruelty’.
The court also said that a false allegation with respect to an extra-marital affair could be a cause for mental cruelty while referring to the judgement in Vijaykumar Ramchandra Bhate v. Neela Vijaykumar Bhate, 2003 (6) SCC 334.
Para 11. The Respondent wife wanted the Appellant to get separated from his family. The evidence shows that the family was virtually maintained from the income of the Appellant husband. It is not a common practice or desirable culture for a Hindu son in India to get separated from the parents upon getting married at the instance of the wife, especially when the son is the only earning member in the family. A son, brought up and given education by his parents, has a moral and legal obligation to take care and maintain the parents, when they become old and when they have either no income or have a meagre income. In India, generally people do not subscribe to the western thought, where, upon getting married or attaining majority, the son gets separated from the family. In normal circumstances, a wife is expected to be with the family of the husband after the marriage. She becomes integral to and forms part of the family of the husband and normally without any justifiable strong reason, she would never insist that her husband should get separated from the family and live only with her. In the instant case, upon appreciation of the evidence, the trial Court came to the conclusion that merely for monetary considerations, the Respondent wife wanted to get her husband separated from his family. The averment of the Respondent was to the effect that the income of the Appellant was also spent for maintaining his family. The said grievance of the Respondent is absolutely unjustified. A son maintaining his parents is absolutely normal in Indian culture and ethos. There is no other reason for which the Respondent wanted the Appellant to be separated from the family – the sole reason was to enjoy the income of the Appellant. Unfortunately, the High Court considered this to be a justifiable reason. In the opinion of the High Court, the wife had a legitimate expectation to see that the income of her husband is used for her and not for the family members of the Respondent husband. We do not see any reason to justify the said view of the High Court. As stated hereinabove, in a Hindu society, it is a pious obligation of the son to maintain the parents. If a wife makes an attempt to deviate from the normal practice and normal custom of the society, she must have some justifiable reason for that and in this case, we do not find any justifiable reason, except monetary consideration of the Respondent wife. In our opinion, normally, no husband would tolerate this and no son would like to be separated from his old parents and other family members, who are also dependent upon his income. The persistent effort of the Respondent wife to constrain the Appellant to be separated from the family would be torturous for the husband and in our opinion, the trial Court was right when it came to the conclusion that this constitutes an act of ‘cruelty’.
Para 12. With regard to the allegations about an extra-marital affair with maid named Kamla, the re-appreciation of the evidence by the High Court does not appear to be correct. There is sufficient evidence to the effect that there was no maid named Kamla working at the residence of the Appellant. Some averment with regard to some relative has been relied upon by the High Court to come to a conclusion that there was a lady named Kamla but the High Court has ignored the fact that the Respondent wife had levelled allegations with regard to an extra-marital affair of the Appellant with the maid and not with someone else. Even if there was some relative named Kamla, who might have visited the Appellant, there is nothing to substantiate the allegations levelled by the Respondent with regard to an extra-marital affair. True, it is very difficult to establish such allegations but at the same time, it is equally true that to suffer an allegation pertaining to one’s character of having an extra-marital affair is quite torturous for any person – be it a husband or a wife. We have carefully gone through the evidence but we could not find any reliable evidence to show that the Appellant had an extra-marital affair with someone. Except for the baseless and reckless allegations, there is not even the slightest evidence that would suggest that there was something like an affair of the Appellant with the maid named by the Respondent. We consider levelling of absolutely false allegations and that too, with regard to an extra-marital life to be quite serious and that can surely be a cause for metal cruelty.
Para 14. Applying the said ratio to the facts of this case, we are inclined to hold that the unsubstantiated allegations levelled by the Respondent wife and the threats and attempt to commit suicide by her amounted to mental cruelty and therefore, the marriage deserves to be dissolved by a decree of divorce on the ground stated in Section 13(1)(ia) of the Act.
15. Taking an overall view of the entire evidence and the judgment delivered by the trial Court, we firmly believe that there was no need to take a different view than the one taken by the trial Court. The behaviour of the Respondent wife appears to be terrifying and horrible. One would find it difficult to live with such a person with tranquility and peace of mind. Such torture would adversely affect the life of the husband. It is also not in dispute that the Respondent wife had left the matrimonial house on 12th July, 1995 i.e. more than 20 years back. Though not on record, the learned counsel submitted that till today, the Respondent wife is not staying with the Appellant. The daughter of the Appellant and Respondent has also grown up and according to the learned counsel, she is working in an IT company. We have no reason to disbelieve the aforestated facts because with the passage of time, the daughter must have grown up and the separation of the Appellant and the wife must have also become normal for her and therefore, at this juncture it would not be proper to bring them together, especially when the Appellant husband was treated so cruelly by the Respondent wife.