Her cruel behaviour “has snuffed out the bright candle of feeling of the husband”

Crumpling the husband’s ironed clothes or hiding his motorcycle keys to prevent him from going to office may be childish acts, but would constitute ‘mental cruelty’ for grant of divorce, the Supreme Court has held.

A Bench of Justices Deepak Verma and Dipak Misra gave this ruling while granting divorce to Vishwanath Agrawal who sought to break with Sarla for causing him ‘mental cruelty’ — she used to crumple his ironed clothes and sometimes hide them and hide his motorcycle keys to prevent him from going to his factory; gave a false advertisement in a newspaper that he was a womaniser and addicted to liquor and also filed a criminal case against him.

Rejecting the findings of the trial court and the Bombay High Court that there was no direct evidence and that the grounds complained of by Mr. Agrawal were only childish acts on the part of Sarla, the Bench said: “It does not require Solomon’s wisdom to understand the embarrassment and harassment that might have been felt by the husband. The level of disappointment on his part can well be visualised like a moon in a cloudless sky.”

The Bench said: “That apart, in the application for grant of interim maintenance, she had pleaded that the husband was a womaniser and drunkard. This pleading was wholly unwarranted and, in fact, amounts to a deliberate assault on his character. Thus, we have no scintilla of doubt that the uncalled-for allegations are bound to create mental agony and anguish in the mind of the husband. The factual matrix would reveal that the husband comes from a respectable family engaged in business. At the time of publication of the notice, the sons were quite grown up. The respondent-wife did not bother to think what impact it would have on the reputation of the husband and what mental discomfort it would cause [him]. It is manifest from the material on record that the children were staying with the father. They were studying in school and the father was taking care of everything. Such a publication in the newspaper having good circulation can cause trauma, agony and anguish in the mind of any reasonable man. In fact, it can decidedly be said that it was mala fide and the motive was to demolish the reputation of the husband in society.”

The Bench said: “The cruel behaviour of the wife has frozen the emotions and snuffed out the bright candle of feeling of the husband because he has been treated as an unperson. Thus, analysed, it is abundantly clear that with this mental pain, agony and suffering, the husband cannot be asked to put up with the conduct of the wife and to continue to live with her.”

The Bench directed the appellant to pay her Rs. 50 lakh as permanent alimony and allowed his appeal.

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