Saturday, October 9, 2010

Court: abuse on spur of moment not valid ground for divorce

Court: abuse on spur of moment not valid ground for divorce


Making certain statements or using abusive language on the spur of the moment and expressing certain displeasure about the behaviour of elders by the spouse may not be characterised as cruelty, warranting ground for grant of divorce, the Supreme Court has held.

A Bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice B.S. Chauhan said, “mere trivial irritations, quarrels, normal wear and tear of married life which happens in day-to-day life in all families would not be adequate for grant of divorce on the ground of cruelty. Sustained unjustifiable and reprehensible conduct affecting physical and mental health of the other spouse may lead to mental cruelty.”

Writing the judgment, Justice Sathasivam said: “The married life should be assessed as a whole and a few isolated instances over a certain period will not amount to cruelty. The ill-conduct must be precedent for a fairly lengthy period where the relationship has deteriorated to an extent that because of the acts and behaviour of a spouse, one party finds it extremely difficult to live with the other party no longer may amount to mental cruelty.”

The Bench said, a Hindu marriage solemnised under the Hindu Marriage Act could be dissolved only on any of the grounds specified therein. It said: “Cruelty has not been defined under the Act. It is quite possible that a particular conduct may amount to cruelty in one case but the same conduct necessarily may not amount to cruelty due to change of various factors, in a different set of circumstances. The aggrieved party has to make a specific case that the conduct of which exception is taken amounts to cruelty.”

In the instant case, appellant Gurbux Singh, principal of a college was married to Harminder Kaur, working as librarian in a government institute in November 1997 and a male child was born to them in May 1999. Irked by certain remarks made by his wife against his parents, the appellant moved the trial court seeking divorce on the ground of ‘cruelty.' The trial court rejected the petition and the Punjab and Haryana High Court dismissed his appeal. The present appeal is directed against that order.

The Bench said: “We are satisfied that on the basis of such instances, marriage cannot be dissolved. An isolated friction on some occasion like the festival of Lohri even in the presence of others cannot be a valid ground for dissolving the marriage.”

On the appellant's plea that there was irretrievable breakdown and that the marriage should be dissolved by the Supreme Court invoking its jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution, the Bench said: “Though, on a rare occasion, this court has granted the extraordinary relief de hors to the grounds mentioned in Section 13 of the HM Act in view of the fact that the issue has been referred to a larger Bench about permissibility of such course at present, we are not inclined to accede to the request of the appellant. If there is any change of law or additional ground [irretrievable breakdown of marriage] included in Section 13 by the Act of Parliament, the appellant is free to avail the same at the appropriate time.”

Maintenance for live-in woman: issue for larger Bench

Maintenance for live-in woman: issue for larger Bench

The Supreme Court has referred to a larger Bench a question of law whether a man and woman living together for long, without a valid marriage, would raise a presumption of valid marriage entitling her to maintenance under Section 125 Cr.PC.

A Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly, though prima facie held the view that women in live-in relationships would be entitled to maintenance, referred the issue to Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia for determination by a larger Bench having regard to the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, which provided for maintenance.

The Bench framed questions including “whether a marriage performed according to customary rites and ceremonies, without strictly fulfilling the requisites of Section 7(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, or any other personal law would entitle the woman to maintenance under Section 125 Cr.PC. We think the larger Bench may also consider the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act. This Act assigns a very broad and expansive definition to the term `domestic abuse' to include even economic abuse. Therefore, women in live-in relationships are also entitled to all reliefs given under the Act.” Writing the judgment, Justice Ganguly quoted from the rulings of the House of Lords and the Privy Council to hold that cohabitation, with the required repute, as husband and wife was proof that the parties between themselves had mutually contracted the matrimonial relationship. The Bench noted that in the instant case both appellant Chanmuniya and first respondent Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha were related and lived in the same house and by a social custom were treated as husband and wife. Their marriage was solemnised with ‘katha' and ‘sindur'. “Therefore, following the ratio of the decisions of the House of Lords, this court thinks there is a very strong presumption in favour of marriage.”