``Wife's mental cruelty ground for divorce''

J. Venkatesan

In delicate human relationship like matrimony, one has to see the probabilities of the case: apex court

"Cruelty in matrimonial life may be of unfounded variety"Courts do not have to deal with ideal husbands and ideal wives

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has held that "mental cruelty," "continuous harassment" and "threat of prosecution" of a husband by his wife would be a ground to grant divorce to the husband.

The court said: "Cruelty can be physical or mental. If from the conduct of his spouse, the same is established and/or an inference can be legitimately drawn that the treatment of the spouse is such that it causes an apprehension in the mind of the other spouse, about his or her mental welfare then this conduct amounts to cruelty. In delicate human relationship like matrimony, one has to see the probabilities of the case."

Giving this ruling on Wednesday, a Bench, comprising Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice Dalveer Bhandari, said "the Court dealing with the petition for divorce on the ground of cruelty has to bear in mind that the problems before it are those of human beings and the psychological changes in a spouse's conduct have to be borne in mind before disposing of the petition for divorce."

Should be grave

Writing the judgment Justice Pasayat said "to constitute cruelty, the conduct complained of should be grave and weighty so as to come to the conclusion that the petitioner spouse cannot be reasonably expected to live with the other spouse. It must be something more serious than ordinary wear and tear of married life. It is difficult to lay down a precise definition or to give exhaustive description of the circumstances, which would constitute cruelty. It must be of the type as to satisfy the conscience of the Court that the relationship between the parties had deteriorated to such an extent due to the conduct of the other spouse that it would be impossible for them to live together without mental agony, torture or distress, to entitle the complaining spouse to secure divorce."

The Bench said "It has to be seen whether the conduct was such that no reasonable person would tolerate it. It has to be considered whether the complainant should be called upon to endure as a part of normal human life. Every matrimonial conduct, which may cause annoyance to the other, may not amount to cruelty. Mere trivial irritations, quarrels between spouses, which happen in day-to-day married life, may also not amount to cruelty. Cruelty in matrimonial life may be of unfounded variety, which can be subtle or brutal. It may be words, gestures or by mere silence, violent or non-violent."

Bearable extent

The Judges said "the foundation of a sound marriage is tolerance, adjustment and respecting one another. Tolerance to each other's fault to a certain bearable extent has to be inherent in every marriage. Petty quibbles, trifling differences should not be exaggerated and magnified to destroy what is said to have been made in heaven. A too technical and hypersensitive approach would be counter-productive to the institution of marriage. The Courts do not have to deal with ideal husbands and ideal wives. It has to deal with particular man and woman before it."

The Bench was dismissing an appeal filed by Mrs. Mayadevi against a judgment of the Rajasthan High Court confirming the divorce granted to her husband by the lower court.

She married Jagdish Prasad in April, 1993 and they had four children.

The husband sought divorce alleging that he was subjected to mental and physical cruelty.

He said that she did not even provide food to him or the children and used to threaten to falsely implicate him in a case of dowry demand and to kill the children and to put the blame on him and his family members. She was temperamentally very cruel and killed three children for which she was convicted.

The trial accepted the allegations and granted divorce.

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