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Compelling a Discontented Husband and Wife to Coexist Constitutes Cruelty: Allahabad High Court

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Published on: October 19, 2023 at 10:47 IST

The Allahabad High Court held that forcing a separated husband and wife to cohabit, despite their vehement animosity towards each other, amounts to cruelty. The court made this determination while granting a divorce to a couple involved in the case of Ashok Jha v Pratibha Jha.

Justices Saumitra Dayal Singh and Arun Kumar Singh Deshwal opined that requiring the estranged parties to reside together is potentially more detrimental to public interest than allowing the dissolution of the marital bond.

The court took into consideration the fact that both parties had filed criminal cases against each other and were embroiled in serious property disputes. Furthermore, both spouses had accused each other of engaging in extramarital relationships. Consequently, the court concluded that compelling them to live together despite their intense mutual aversion would be a form of cruelty.

As part of the divorce decree, the court directed the husband to pay the wife a permanent alimony of ₹1 crore within a three-month period. In the event of any delay in payment, an annual interest rate of 6% would be imposed, calculated from the date of the judgment until the actual payment date.

The case that came before the court originated from an appeal filed by the husband, who contested the rejection of his divorce petition by a family court on November 7, 2019.

The couple had married in 2002, and an uncontested divorce decree was initially granted to the husband in 2016. However, the wife filed an application to have the divorce decree recalled, which was accepted.

Subsequently, the divorce petition was reinstated, and both parties presented their arguments before the family court.

The husband’s counsel argued that the wife had falsely accused him in criminal cases, which ultimately resulted in his acquittal. He further contended that these unfounded allegations, along with other legal conflicts, had caused emotional distress and constituted cruelty. The couple had been living separately since 2014, and the bitterness arising from these legal battles had made reconciliation impossible.

Upon careful consideration of the case’s circumstances, the High Court noted that while the husband had not provided explicit evidence of cruelty in their day-to-day life, the wife’s actions, including filing false criminal cases and persistent legal disputes, constituted cruelty.

The court referred to a Supreme Court judgment in Naveen Kohli v. Neelu Kohli (2006), which held that filing false complaints against a spouse constituted an act of cruelty.

Given the circumstances in the present case, with both parties making allegations against each other, living apart for over ten years, and filing numerous complaints, the court determined that the husband had suffered cruelty, and the marriage had irretrievably broken down.

Consequently, the court allowed the husband’s plea and dissolved the marriage.