Allegations of an estranged spouse which has the effect of sullying the other’s reputation and career amounts to ‘mental cruelty’ and forms a ground for divorce, the Supreme Court said in a recent judgment.
The result of this ‘mental cruelty’ must be such that continuation of marital relationship would be impossible. In other words, the wronged person can hardly be expected to condone the other.
“The degree of tolerance will vary from one couple to another and the court will have to bear in mind the background, the level of education and also the status of the parties, in order to determine whether the cruelty alleged is sufficient to justify dissolution of marriage,” a three-judge Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul observed in a judgment on February 26.
The judgment came in an appeal filed by an Army officer whose estranged wife had filed a series of complaints against him with his superiors and even the Army Chief.
A Family Court had accepted his plea for dissolution of marriage on the ground of mental cruelty on her part. The court had rubbished her claim of adultery against him. The court refused to accept her plea for restitution of conjugal rights.
However, the Uttarakhand High Court, on her appeal, dismissed the trouble between the couple as “squabbles in an ordinary middle-class marriage.” It set aside the lower court’s finding of mental cruelty. This time, the husband appealed to the apex court.
The Supreme Court upheld the family court’s finding of mental cruelty.
“The allegations are levelled by a highly educated spouse and they do have the propensity to irreparably damage the character and reputation of the appellant [husband]. When the reputation of the spouse is sullied amongst his colleagues, his superiors and the society at large, it would be difficult to expect condonation of such conduct by the affected party,” the apex court concluded.