News Details

Verbal abuse of spouse is a ground of cruelty

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
                     CIVIL APPEAL Nos. 5511-5512 OF 2014
VINOD                             KUMAR                              SUBBIAH
SARASWATHI  PALANIAPPAN                                     …..RESPONDENTS
                           J  U  D  G  M  E  N  T
1     These Appeals assail the Judgment of the learned Single Judge  of  the High  Court  of  Judicature  at  Madras,  Bench  at  Madurai,  delivered  on 13.3.2013, setting aside the Judgment dated 25.8.2011 of  the  Trial  Court. The  Impugned  Judgment  dismissed  the  divorce  petition  filed   by   the Appellant.
2     The Appellant and the Respondent were married on 28.6.2004  and  moved to the U.S. on 9.7.2004. They visited  Chennai  in  October  2005  and  June 2006. During the latter visit, the Respondent was three months pregnant  and left for her parental home in Madurai on 10.6.2006 where she gave  birth  to a male child on 5.12.2006. The Appellant  subsequently  filed  for  divorce under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act on 30.4.2007.
3     The case put forward by the  Appellant  is  that  the  Respondent  was verbally abusive; she would insult his family; she would threaten  to  lodge false police complaints; and she would threaten to  commit  suicide  placing the blame on the Appellant and his family. After she left for  her  parental home in June 2006,  the  Appellant  attempted  to  bring  her  back  to  her matrimonial home but she refused. The Appellant claims that he has been  put through intolerable mental agony and can no longer continue  to  be  married to the Respondent.
4     The Respondent denied these allegations and claimed that she  and  the Appellant lived happily in the U.S., and she only went to her parental  home in June 2006 for her child to be  born  there.  She  has  pleaded  that  she returned to Chennai with her child  from  March  to  April  2007,  that  the divorce  petition  was  completely  unexpected  and  was  the  result  of  a misunderstanding  between  her  family  and  that  of  the  Appellant.   She subsequently filed a petition seeking restitution of conjugal  rights  under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, praying that the Appellant be  directed
to take her back to her conjugal home, which she  pleaded  is  in  the  U.S. She alleged that her husband is living a wayward life, that  her  father-in- law misbehaved with her, and that her  parents-in-law  were  negligent  with her infant child and asked her to leave the house when she  questioned  them about this. She also filed a maintenance petition seeking Rs.  2  lakhs  per month as maintenance.
5     The Trial Court heard all three petitions together  and  examined  the evidence submitted by the parties at length. The Appellant has deposed  that when his sister came to the U.S., she initially  stayed  with  him  and  the Respondent. However, the Respondent did not like having her  in  the  house, so she locked the Respondent and his sister out of the  house,  was  abusive towards them and told them that they  belonged  to  a  “prostitute  family”. Eventually the Appellant’s sister was constrained to stay at  a  Lodge.  The Respondent claimed that the dispute was because her sister-in-law  tried  to make her join her diamond business, which she did not want to do. The  Trial Court found no truth in the argument of the  Respondent,  in  light  of  the
fact that she has no  background  or  knowledge  of  the  diamond  business. Furthermore, the Appellant has deposed that when his  brother  came  to  the U.S. to study, he also initially stayed at the Appellant’s  house.  However, it is in evidence that the Respondent called the Appellant at work  alleging that his brother was knocking  on  her  door,  thus  implying  that  he  was behaving in an untoward manner. She abused the Appellant and his  family  in the presence of his brother and threatened to file a police  complaint.  The Appellant  has  deposed  that  he  was  forced  to  make  his  brother  stay elsewhere. In a subsequent event,  the  Appellant  informed  the  Respondent that his parents would be coming to the U.S.  The  Respondent  was  verbally and physically abusive, and called the police  alleging  domestic  violence.
The Appellant was given a warning by  the  Police.  The  Respondent  claimed that the incident took place because the  Appellant  was  having  an  affair with a woman named Solai. She claimed that he  took  her  to  Solai’s  house that evening and then wanted to go back at night, which is  why  she  called the police. The Trial Court has justifiably highlighted that  summoning  the police was serious because the  Appellant  was  in  a  foreign  country  and didn’t know the laws and procedure. Further,  the  allegation  that  he  was having an  affair  was  not  accepted,  as  it  was  unbelievable  that  the
Respondent had previously not told anyone about Solai and  further  that  it never came up du ring the attempted compromise between the families  of  the two parties. The Respondent claimed that after having the  child,  she  came to live with the Appellant, which the Appellant denied. The Respondent  also alleged that while she was living with the Appellant’s family,  his  parents took the child who was only three months old away  for  six  hours.  By  the time they brought him back, he was unconscious due to starvation.  When  the Respondent questioned them about this, they asked her  to  leave  the  house with the child, even though it was late in the night. The Trial Court  found
this allegation entirely unbelievable. Her allegation  that  the  father  of the Appellant started misbehaving  with  her  and  went  to  the  extent  of pulling her hands was also found to be false.  The  Trial  Court  also  took into consideration the voice mails and emails from  the  Respondent  to  the Appellant, which were not treated as  the  main  evidence  but  as  evidence intended to substantiate the oral evidence. It was held  that  the  evidence and the submissions of the Respondent indicate that  she  was  unwilling  to live in the Appellant’s house in Chennai, and that she wanted him  to  leave
his family in India and live in the U.S. with her. It is pertinent  to  note that the Appellant had lost his job in  the  U.S.  and  was  unemployed  and consequently had to  set  up  residence  in  Chennai.   In  light  of  these circumstances, it was found that the Respondent is not entitled to  conjugal rights. An order of dissolution of marriage was passed and  maintenance  was fixed at Rs. 25,000 per month.
6     The High Court, however, held that the Appellant’s allegations in  his divorce petition were no more than “the ordinary wear and tear”  that  takes place in a marriage. It observed that the Appellant did not give details  of the events of abuse by the Respondent towards  his  family  or  the  cruelty that was meted out  to  him  in  the  U.S.  in  his  main  petition  or  his subsequent counter affidavits. It was only after filing  the  petition  that the Appellant had produced copies of the abusive voicemails  and  emails  he received from the Respondent. The High Court noted that the Trial Court  did not need to strictly adhere  to  hard  and  fast  rules  while  entertaining
evidence, but nevertheless held that the Trial Court had acted in  haste  in allowing the Appellant’s allegations. The High Court found  that  the  Trial Court, instead of considering whether the Appellant had established  cruelty by adducing evidence, took  certain  answers  from  the  Respondent’s  Chief examination and cross-examination out of context and held  that  a  case  of cruelty  was  made  out.  The  High  Court  stated  that  in  a  matrimonial relationship, parties must be prepared to subject themselves to  the  normal wear and tear of life, and that the situation  at  hand  was  no  more  than that.  The  divorce  petition  was  thus  dismissed  and  the  petition  for
restitution of conjugal rights was allowed.
7     We have carefully considered the matter, and find that we  are  unable to uphold the conclusions of the High Court. The Appellant had duly  pleaded instances of mental cruelty which he proved in evidence  and  documents.  An examination of the divorce petition makes it abundantly clear  that  various allegations of cruelty  were  made  out  and  a  number  of  incidents  were mentioned therein. Further evidence was submitted during the course  of  theTrial to substantiate these allegations, which is in keeping with  Order  VI Rule 2 of the CPC.  Furthermore, we find that the Trial Court  examined  the
evidence at great length and  came  to  the  reasoned  conclusion  that  the actions of the Respondent amounted to cruelty. If a spouse abuses the  other as being born from a prostitute, this cannot be termed as  “wear  and  tear” of family life.  Summoning the police on  false  or  flimsy  grounds  cannot also be similarly viewed.  Making it impossible for any close  relatives  to visit or reside in the matrimonial home would  also  indubitably  result  in cruelty to the other spouse.  After a cursory  discussion  of  the  evidence which the Trial Court had discussed  threadbare,  the  High  Court  was  not justified to set aside  the  conclusions  arrived  at  by  the  Trial  Court without giving substantiated reasons.
8     We thus allow these Appeals and set  aside  the  Impugned  Order,  but desist  from  imposing  costs.   The   Trial   Court’s   decision   granting dissolution of the marriage between the parties is hereby restored.
9     We allow the Respondent’s Application for disbursement of  the  amount deposited by the Appellant towards her legal expenses in  pursuance  of  the
Order dated 4.7.2013.
                                      [VIKRAMAJIT SEN]
                                    [ABHAY MANOHAR SAPRE]
New Delhi;
April 24,   2015.