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Delhi HC Rules Insistence of Separate Residence Without Justification by Wife Constitutes Cruelty

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Delhi High Court Law Insider

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Published on: 24 August 2023 at 16:35 IST

The Delhi High Court has underscored that a wife’s unwarranted demand to live apart from her husband’s family, lacking any substantial rationale, can be deemed an act of cruelty.

In a recent case involving the dissolution of a marriage on grounds of cruelty and desertion, a Bench consisting of Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Neena Bansal Krishna elucidated this perspective.

The wife, in this particular case, had also expressed her lack of objection to the divorce.

The verdict emphasized, “…the respondent has not been able to show any justifiable reason for her insistence to have separate residence, however, this is brought forth from an out-of-court settlement which the parties have entered into to live separately but thereafter, she went back to live in the matrimonial home with other family members. The only inference that can be drawn is that her insistence to live separately from the other family members was whimsical and had no justifiable reason. Such persistent insistence can only be termed as an act of cruelty,” the order stated.

To substantiate this stance, the Court referred to a 2016 Supreme Court judgment in Narendra v. K Meena. This judgment posits that the conventional practice for a Hindu son in India doesn’t involve separating from parents post-marriage based on the wife’s preference.

The apex court opinion highlighted, “In India, generally people do not subscribe to the western thought, where upon getting married or attaining majority; the son gets separated from the family. In normal circumstances, the wife is expected to be a part of the family of the husband after her marriage. She becomes integral to and forms part of the family and husband and normally without any justifiable strong reason, she should never insist that her husband should get separated from the family and live with her separately.”

The High Court’s involvement stemmed from an appeal challenging a family court’s rejection of the husband’s divorce plea. The husband contended that his wife had subjected him to cruelty and had deserted him.

The couple married in November 2000 and had two children together. Following her departure from the marital home in 2003, the wife returned but left again in July 2007.

While the family court concluded that there was no substantiated evidence supporting the wife’s departure or her lack of a valid reason, the High Court held that her persistence in seeking a separate living arrangement was baseless and arbitrary.

The High Court noted a prolonged absence of conjugal rights from 2007 onward and considered the wife’s statement that she intended neither to reconcile with her husband nor to oppose the divorce.

Citing this as indicative of mental cruelty and an absence of intent to restore the marital relationship, the Court granted the divorce, thereby terminating the marriage in favor of the husband’s appeal.