Sunday 11 January 2015

Whether mere coldness or lack of affection can amount to cruelty to other spouse?

MUMBAI: A Wadala resident's bid to get divorce on grounds of cruelty by alleging that his wife, a businesswoman and resident of Pedder Road, liked to visit pubs and neglected their child and they had fights during their honeymoon failed in the Bombay high court. 

A division bench of Justices Vijaya Kapse Tahilramani and Anil Menon refused to end the 20-year-old marriage of Seema and Rahul Sharma, though the couple has been living apart for 16 years now. "At best, evidence shows insuperable incompatibility between the parties falling short of cruelty. Be that as it may, irretrievable breakdown of marriage owing to severe and/or insuperable incompatibility does not amount to cruelty and as such no relief can be granted," the judges said. The Sharmas had got married in 1994 and their son was born a couple of years later. In 1998, the couple began living separately, with the child opting to stay with his father. In 1999, Rahul filed for divorce alleging cruelty. The reasons he had listed included Seema being "rude, excessively socializing, going to pubs/discos, neglecting their son, throwing a vase and hot cup of tea and making false accusations". 

In 2012, a family court dismissed his plea for divorce, following which Rahul approached the high court. 

"As far as visits to discos and pubs are concerned, it has come in the cross-examination that they both visited discos and pubs even during the period of courtship," the judges said, pointing out that the man also admitted that he had not complained to anyone about the fights during their honeymoon. 

With regard to the other allegations, the HC said the few "incidents highlighted by Rahul over a period of four years of co-habitation do not, in our considered opinion, amount to mental cruelty". Referring to a Supreme Court judgment, the HC said, "Mere coldness or lack of affection cannot amount to cruelty and it's only when the petulant behaviour reaches such an extent that married life becomes intolerable that cruelty can be proved." 

The HC said Seema, who runs her family's business and owns properties, had refused to divulge her income, which led it to conclude that she had substantial income of her own. It partly set aside the family court's order asking Rahul to shell out Rs 50,000 as monthly maintenance from 2002. Instead, the judges ordered staggered amounts—Rs 30,000 per month till 2004, Rs 40,000 from 2005-09 and Rs 50,000 from 2009. (Names changed to protect identity)
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