Facts of the case:
Matrimonial appeal has been filed by the appellant husband being aggrieved by the Family Court, which dismissed the suit for divorce preferred by the appellant husband.
After marriage, the Husband & Wife started their conjugal life in the matrimonial house of the appellant. After about a month into their marriage, the respondent wife demanded to reside separately with the appellant husband away from the husband’s relatives in a separate house.
Being unable to accede to the demands made by the respondent wife for separate accommodation, quarrels became frequent between the respondent wife and the appellant husband leading to unpleasantness in their matrimonial life.
Around the month of June, 2013, the respondent wife declared that she was not willing to continue her matrimonial life with the appellant. As a consequence, the respondent wife insisted on going back to her parental home after promising to return back to the matrimonial home thereafter.
However, contrary to her assurance, instead of returning back to the matrimonial house, she filed a case under Section 498(A) IPC against the appellant and his family members. However, later they were acquitted by the Trial Court.
The appellant husband further contended that the respondent wife compelled the appellant to execute a written agreement to the effect that the couple will stay in a separate rental house together away from the joint family of the husband and further that the appellant/husband’s family members will not visit them or maintain any relation with them. Under such circumstances, unable to bear the agony and the stress inflicted by the respondent wife, the appellant husband filed divorce case being before the Court of District Judge.
Wife has stated that she was subjected to cruelty to meet illegal demands of dowry in the form of cash and kind by the appellant husband, his step-mother, sister-in-law, brother and sisters from the very threshold of their marriage. Further, she contended that she was not provided with food and other medical treatment and that it was her brother who used to take care of the bare necessities of her life. Therefore, as a result she made a complaint under section 498A IPC.
The Gauhati High Court Decision:
The High Court said that:
Upon due consideration of the evidence, the Family court below came to the finding that there was no cruelty extended to the appellant husband and his family members or that they were neglected by the respondent wife and accordingly rejected the petition for divorce by the husband. And upon due perusal of the judgment it is seen that the discussion of the court below does not refer to certain pertinent evidences, which were brought before the Court by the contesting parties while adducing evidences.
Also, the High Court said that Husband also adduced in his evidence that the respondent had refused to wear ‘sakha and sindoor’ any more. Such statement was not confronted to the appellant during the cross-examination, and the same remained uncontroverted and is therefore an evidence material for the purpose of this proceedings.
The Court said that under the custom of Hindu Marriage, a lady who has entered into marriage according to Hindu rituals and customs, and which has not been denied by the respondent in her evidence, her refusal to wear ‘sakha and sindoor’ will project her to be unmarried and/or signify her refusal to accept the marriage with the appellant. Such categorical stand of the wife points to the clear intention of the wife that she is unwilling to continue her conjugal life with the appellant.
Further, the Court while referring to FIR filed by Wife against Husband & his family member said that Such acts of lodging criminal cases on unsubstantiated allegations against the husband and/or the husband’s family members amounts to cruelty as held by the Supreme Court in the case Rani Narasimha Sastri vs. Rani Suneela Rani, 2019 SCC Online SC 1595 in which SC has held that filing of criminal cases like case under Sections 498(A) IPC etc. against the husband and the family members and which are subsequently dismissed/rejected by the Family Court, is sufficient to be construed as an act of cruelty by the wife.
However, the High Court said that it is true that it is open for anyone to file complaint or lodge prosecution for redressal for his or her grievances and lodge a first information report for an offence also and mere lodging of complaint or FIR cannot ipso facto be treated as cruelty. But when a person undergoes a trial in which he is acquitted of the allegation of offence under Section 498-A of IPC, levelled by the wife against the husband, it cannot be accepted that no cruelty has meted on the husband.
On the basis of the above findings, the bench of Justice Mr. Ajai Lamba & Mr. Justice Soumitra Saikia of Gauhati HC concluded that the Family Court erred in evaluating the evidence in the proper manner. Therefore, the Bench held that the appellant has made a ground for grant of decree of dissolution of marriage on the ground as mentioned in Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Consequently, the Court set aside the judgment of Family Court and the allowed petition for divorce.
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