Friday, 5 June 2020

Whether Mother in law asking daughter in law to do household/domestic work amounts to cruelty?

 No family is totally devoid of clashes among members
constituting it. It is common for elders to scold and sometimes abuse
youngsters. Making a daughter in law to do the house hold/domestic
work is also not something unusual. From the evidence tendered by
the respondent, it is all the more clear that the aforestated factors
formed the basis for her ill-will to petitioner's mother.

 20TH DAY OF MAY 2020 
Mat.Appeal.No.137 OF 2014



Judgment dated 21.01.2014 of Family Court, Thalassery in
O.P. No.805 of 2011 is assailed in this appeal. The appellant is the
petitioner in the Original Petition. Decree for dissolution of
marriage sought for by him was declined by the Family Court and
the Original Petition was dismissed for his failure to establish the
ground cruelty alleged as basis. The respondent is the respondent
before the Family Court, who is none other than the wife of the
2. Before adverting to the legality, propriety and correctness
of the judgment under challenge, an understanding of the facts led
to the filing of the Original Petition seeking the decree being
relevant, a summary description is made hereunder. For a smooth
understanding of the matter, the parties to the appeal are referred
to hereinafter as the petitioner and the respondent.

3. The petitioner and respondent got married on 17.04.2003
and a female child was born in the wedlock. The marital
relationship did not last long in the way it commenced due to the
quarrelsome nature of the respondent who finds pleasure in
quarrelling with the petitioner and his mother. She started
declaring that she would commit suicide after creating cogent
materials to trap himself and his mother. She used to call the
petitioner 'dog' and 'shameless creature'. She used to undermine
his person stating that he is not a fit person to be her husband
and insult him by beating him in front of his relatives. She also
denied the petitioner sex. She refused to live at the matrimonial
home. Several attempts to commit suicide had been made by her
which takes in an incident of rushing towards the railway line
passing near the petitioner's house. She left the matrimonial
home on 10.02.2011 and ever since then she was there and
therefore, the expectation of the petitioner to maintain a smooth
marital life was lost. When the hope for reunion was lost, the
petitioner caused to issue a lawyer notice to the respondent on
30.06.2011 demanding dissolution of marriage. The respondent
received the same and issued a reply to it on 08.07.2011. The
Original Petition was filed thereafter seeking for a decree for
dissolution of marriage.

4. The respondent entered appearance and a counter
statement was filed admitting the marriage and birth of a girl child
in the marriage. The allegations of cruelty are denied. It is urged
that due to the under influence of the mother of the petitioner and
her ill advise, the petitioner started to ill treat her. The petitioner
was a drunkard, who is in the habit of coming home late in the
house in intoxicated state, he used to assault her and the child and
also destroyed the tea-poy. The respondent had nursed
petitioner's mother well for no returns from her. She is ready to
join the petitioner provided, he stops consumption of alcohol and
changes his attitude towards her. She left the matrimonial home
not voluntarily but was constrained to leave due to threat of
petitioner's mother. The petitioner had sent her and child to the
parental home and did not contact her and maintain them. 10
sovereigns of gold was in the custody of the petitioner and those
were misused by him. Circumstances did not exist warranting
dissolution of marriage and there is no basis for the petitioner to
contend that reunion is impracticable due to irrecoverable break
down of marriage. The Original Petition is liable to be dismissed
with costs.

5. During trial, the petitioner had let in oral evidence as PW1
and marked Exts.A1 to A4. The evidence of respondent is confined
to her own testimony. The Family Court's appreciation of the
aforesaid evidence culminated in dismissal of the Original Petition
and that paved the way for preferring this appeal. Dissolution of
marriage was sought on the ground of cruelty. Several allegations
have been taken in the Original Petition to impress the court that
the respondent has behaved cruelly to the petitioner. The
allegations include threats extended by the respondent to him that
she would commit suicide, after leaving evidence of torture against
himself and his mother to drive her to do so. Attempt of the
respondent to commit suicide in the railway track, insulting the
petitioner, abusing him and assaulting him in front of his relatives
and pressurising the petitioner to avoid his mother. Apart from the
above, it was also contended that the marital tie has become
irretrievably broken and reunion is impracticable.
6. Petitioner as PW1, has testified in tune with his pleadings,
but during cross examination he denied the attempt of the
respondent to commit suicide. PW1 has deposed categorically
about the frequent declarations made by the petitioner that she
would commit suicide after leaving evidence against the petitioner
and his mother that they would be responsible for her act. PW1

has also deposed to convince the court that the respondent has
insulted, abused and scolded him and his mother. The respondent
while being examined as RW1 had denied the contentions of the
petitioner as above. Despite the denial of RW1, the petitioner failed
to discharge the burden to establish the contentions raised against
the respondent by adducing independent evidence. The interested
testimony of the petitioner alone is available and in the absence of
any independent supportive evidence to establish the attempt of the
respondent to commit suicide, he cannot be taken to have proved the
same. For lack of independent evidence, the contention of the
petitioner that the respondent frequents to threaten him that she
would commit suicide and make them responsible for that by creating
materials against them has also remained unestablished. The Family
Court has also found those as not proved and we cannot find fault in
7. What remains then is whether contention taken by the
learned counsel for the petitioner that the respondent has dislike
about his mother staying with them and her persuasion on the
petitioner to stay away from his mother was a reason for causing
mental agony in him and that amounts to mental cruelty.
According to the learned counsel, the dislike of the respondent
towards his mother often results in quarrels, which impacted loss

of peace and tranquility in their life. According to him, the
respondent's in-cordial attitude to his mother is revealed from her
version during cross examination as RW1 and the Family Court
went wrong in appreciating those as something short of mental
cruelty. The learned counsel has also invited attention of us to the
ratio in Narendra v. K. Meena [2016 (5) KHC 180] to rest his
contention that the effort of wife to constrain husband to be
separated from the family would be tortuous for the husband and
it continues as an act of 'cruelty'.
8. Sri.Sasindran, the learned counsel on behalf of the
respondent has urged that without specific pleadings being raised
in the original petition on cruel treatment of the spouse, 'cruelty'
as a ground cannot be taken to have established to grant a decree
for dissolution of marriage. The learned counsel has also relied on
ratio of the Division Bench of this Court in Beena S.S. v.
Sundaresan and others [2016 (1) KHC 355 (DB)] and
Rajkumar T. v. Moljimol K.S. [2017 (2) KHC 226(DB)] to fortify
his argument.
9. There cannot be any dispute on the aspect that evidence
to be relevant must have basis in the pleadings raised by the
parties to the litigation.

10. The Division Bench of this Court in cases cited supra have
found in accordance with the dictum in Beena S.S. Supra is
extracted hereunder for convenient reference :
“Bond created by a marriage cannot be dissolved by relying
on flimsy, shallow and baseless allegations. In order to establish
the ground of mental cruelty, there should be sufficient pleading
and evidence which is substantial and material in nature to the
extent of creating a permanent mental distress and everlasting
disturbance to the mind of the person alleging cruelty. Such an
injury also should bear a deep rooted feeling and impression in the
mind of the recipient of the injury that the wedlock will not be able
to be carried on any further smoothly and successfully. That apart,
stray and inconsequential allegations made, even if proved, will not
by itself contribute to the factum of cruelty.”
The dictum laid down in Rajkumar T supra, by one among
us (myself) is also extracted hereunder for reference :
“When cruelty is alleged as a ground for divorce, the
petitioner must have specific pleadings with reference to the
instances of cruelty meted out by the respondent and those have
to be established by cogent and reliable evidence.”
It is the basic principle that the evidence adduced by a party
to a litigation to establish his case must have basis in pleadings
raised by him in the petition seeking the relief.
11. Sri.Sasindran was constrained to cite the above decisions
in the wake of the argument of Sri.P.N. Sukumaran to consider the
effort of the respondent in the case on hand to constrain the
petitioner to be separated from his mother as cruelty and to grand

a decree for dissolution of marriage based on that ground after
reversing the judgment appealed against.
12. Sri.P.N. Sukumaran has invited our attention to the
version of RW1 while tendering evidence and that is extracted
hereunder :

                          {Vernacular omitted}
13. On the basis of the evidence as above, it is urged by the
learned counsel that the respondent virtually wanted to abandon
his mother. According to him, on the strength of the dictum of the
Apex Court in Narendra supra the Family Court ought to have
found in the case on hand that the respondent has made
necessary efforts to separate the petitioner from his mother and
those tantamount to torturing the husband. According to him, the
attempts in that regard is nothing short of cruelty and the Family
Court is highly unjustified and erred in viewing the version of the
respondent extracted above as a comment of a wife out of absence

of maturity or comment of a fickle minded woman.
14. In the backdrop of the argument advanced as above, it is
relevant to have a look at the Original Petition to see whether it
incorporates pleadings forming basis for the testimony of RW1
extracted supra. It is alleged by the petitioner in the Original
Petition that the respondent used to insult him continuously in the
presence of his friends and relatives. The respondent would
declare that she would commit suicide by writing a letter that the
husband and his mother are responsible for her death. The
respondent also abused the petitioner and his mother. The
pleadings of the petitioner to the above effect unveils the fact that
the respondent was in-cordial to the petitioner's mother.
15. In the counter statement filed, the respondent though
denied the above pleadings of the petitioner, has contended that
during the earlier period, her life with the petitioner was happy.
According to her, her husband was very smooth and lovable and
due to the undue influence of his mother and ill advise, the
character of her husband changed and he started to ill treat her.
He started to consume alcohol and coming home late. He also
started to abuse her and scold herself and the child.
16. The respondent has also contended that she was lovable
and affectionate to petitioner's mother, without any return from

her. Admittedly, she left the matrimonial home on 10.02.2011
involuntarily, out of constraints of abuse and threat extended by
her mother in law that she shall not continue to live there even for
a single day. According to her, the petitioner took herself and the
child to the parental home on that day and did not visit them
further. According to her, she never desired for a separate life or
a dissolution of marriage. According to her, petitioner's mother
was so cruel to her and she made her to do all domestic works
even during the convalescent period after a surgical operation.
She was abused and ill-treated physically and mentally by the
mother in law. Still she would like to have a joint happy life with
her husband/petitioner and the child.
17. The above contentions raised by the respondent in her
counter statement more particularly disclose her dislike to the
mother in law and her desire to maintain a family life to her
exclusion. It is also discernible from her contentions that initially
the petitioner was very loving and life with him was comfortable
and the mother in law caused changes in his attitude towards
herself and the child.
18. The factum that the respondent was desirous of getting
rid of the mother in law from their family life is more evident from
her testimony during cross examination which is extracted

hereunder :
{ Vernaculars omitted}
Therefore, the respondent was very particular to have a
more comfortable and happy life to the exclusion of petitioner's
mother who according to her, was the root cause for problems to
originate in her matrimonial life.
19. From the above discussion of the pleadings and evidence,
it cannot be said that the oral evidence tendered is totally devoid
of support of necessary pleadings. Moreover, the respondent has
no case that the petitioner was a drunkard at the time when he
married her. On the contrary her specific case was that he was
lovable and affectionate and their life was smooth, happy and
comfortable. Evidence indicates that the respondent and the

petitioner's mother were not cordial and clashes were frequent.
Therefore, it is natural for the petitioner to be a scapegoat of the
in-differences. It is also natural for a wife in that scenario to make
persistent effort to constrain her husband to be separated from the
family life and that would undoubtedly be tortuous for him. In the
case on hand the petitioner's turning to be a drunkard can only be
taken as the natural outcome of the pressure exerted on him by
the respondent to have a separate residence to the exclusion of
petitioner's mother. The persistence of the respondent was
unbearable for the petitioner, could be seen from his conduct of
avoidance of the company of the respondent after leaving her at
the parental home on 10.02.2011.
20. Petitioner has pleaded specifically about the displeasure
of the respondent towards his mother. He has deposed in tune
with that when examined as PW1. In the counter statement the
respondent has also raised pleading to endorse the same. During
cross examination the respondent has openly stated that she
doesn't want to continue a family life in the company of
petitioner's mother. Respondent as RW1 has stated that the
petitioner after dropping her at the parental home has not turned
up to take her back. From the above conduct of the petitioner
admitted by the respondent, it is evidenced that the torture

suffered by him amidst the respondent and his mother was of
much gravity and something unbearable for him.
21. The dictum of the Apex Court in Vijayakumar
Ramachandra Bhate v. Neela Vijayakumar Bhate [2003 (6)
SCC 334] being apposite in the context is extracted hereunder :
“That such allegations made in the written statement or
suggested in the course of examination and by way of cross
examination satisfy the requirement of law has also come to be
firmly laid down by this Court.”
22. No family is totally devoid of clashes among members
constituting it. It is common for elders to scold and sometimes abuse
youngsters. Making a daughter in law to do the house hold/domestic
work is also not something unusual. From the evidence tendered by
the respondent, it is all the more clear that the aforestated factors
formed the basis for her ill-will to petitioner's mother.
23. We do not find any other justifiable reason for her to get
the petitioner's mother excluded from the family or to be desirous of
having a separate residence to the exclusion of her.
In the above context that the Apex Court held in Narendra
supra :
“As stated hereinabove, in a Hindu society, it is a pious
obligation of the son to maintain the parents. If a wife makes an
attempt to deviate from the normal practice and normal custom of
the society, she must have some justifiable reason for that and in

this case, we do not find any justifiable reason, except monetary
consideration of the respondent wife. In our opinion, normally, no
husband would tolerate this and no son would like to be separated
from his old parents and other family members, who are also
dependent upon his income. The persistent effort of the respondent
wife to constrain the appellant to be separated from the family
would be torturous for the husband and in our opinion, the trial
court was right when it came to be conclusion that this constitutes
an act of 'cruelty'.”
The dictum aforesaid is squarely applicable in the case on
hand. But, the Family Court has observed in the context that :
“The wife is ready to come with him to live a happy life as she
is even desiring to rectify his husband. That is the only desire of a
poor woman. On the other hand, it is also pertinent to note that no
woman who loves her husband and prefer to have a family life with
husband will create any difficulties by injuring the sentimental
feelings of her husband towards his beloved mother. Here is a case
in which the petitioner has strong sentiments to his beloved mother.
Though the mother may not be one acceptable to the wife or though
the mother may not be fully right in her capacity as the mother in
law, I feel that those matters are secondary instances rather than
dealing the mother in law or considering her as a villain as deposed
by RW1. I feel that when RW1 preferring for a marital life and
resisting the divorce certainly and naturally she shall prefer the
company of the respondent in his matrimonial home. No attempt to
abandon the mother in law can be permitted. It is fair and
necessary to harmonize them through the process of love, affection
and mutual respect. If the wife is not ready for that naturally she
will not be permitted to resist the case of divorce of the husband.
However, I feel that situations are such that the respondent/wife
can accompany the husband in his matrimonial home and to build
up a good happy life. Naturally if the respondent is not responding
to that suggestion petitioner can choose one of the method of

restitution of conjugal rights. With these observations, I am
inclined to hold that there are no sufficient circumstances herein to
dissolve the marriage between the petitioner and respondent.”
24. We have no hesitation to hold that the Family Court was
highly unjustified in making the above observations. The Family
Court has taken the role of a councilor rather than an adjudicator
while doing so. It is after much efforts and counseling that a case
comes up before the court for adjudication. Then the role of the
court is to adjudicate the issue involved in the case based on the
evidence after duly appreciating it. The Family Court is not
supposed to advice the remedies to the parties and issuing
directions. We are not satisfied with the way in which the Family
Court had dealt with the case on hand.
25. Evidence as discussed above is satisfactory for us to take
a view that the respondent has treated the petitioner with cruelty
sufficient enough to grant a decree for dissolution of marriage in
his favour. The Family Court undoubtedly has gone wrong in
declining the relief to the petitioner. The judgment of the Family
Court under challenge deserves to be reversed.
26. Apart from all the above, the parties by their conduct
after their separated life have proved themselves to be unfit for
resuming the matrimonial relationship. Not even a single attempt

was made from the side of the respondent to join the petitioner to
continue the marital life. Therefore, the case on hand is also one,
wherein the marital relationship among the parties have become
irretrievably broken. Pursuit of any nature will not help
resumption of matrimonial life. The cruelty having been
established and the parties by their life have made it clear that
joining in matrimonial relationship is something impracticable, the
grant of a decree for dissolution of marriage is appropriate in the
In the result, the appeal stands allowed. The judgment
under challenge is reversed. A decree for dissolution of marriage
on the ground of cruelty is passed in favour of the petitioner. No
order as to costs.
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