Published on: 25 August 2023 at 20:13 IST
The Delhi High Court has ruled that the insistence of a wife’s family on her husband abandoning his parents and becoming a “Ghar Jamai” (living with the wife’s family) amounts to cruelty.
A division bench comprising Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and Justice Neena Bansal Krishna granted a divorce to a couple who had been married in 2001 but started living apart after a year, citing cruelty and desertion under the Hindu Marriage Act.
The court opined that the denial of each other’s company signifies an unviable marriage and that such denial of a conjugal relationship is a form of extreme cruelty.
The husband in the case had alleged that he was subjected to cruelty and that no conjugal relationship existed between him and his wife. He claimed that his wife’s family insisted he should move to Delhi and become a “Ghar Jamai.“
The court upheld the appellant’s argument, stating, “The insistence of the family of the respondent for the appellant to abandon his parents and become a ‘Ghar Jamai’ and live in their house amounts to cruelty.”
The court drew from the Supreme Court’s decision in Narendra vs. K. Meena (2016), which affirmed that a son has a moral and legal duty to care for his parents in old age, and asking a son to separate from his family constitutes cruelty.
The court’s decision was made in the context of the husband’s appeal against a family court ruling that rejected his petition for divorce on the grounds of cruelty and desertion. He claimed that his wife expressed her unwillingness to stay with him just six months into their marriage and subsequently went to her parental home, where she gave birth to their daughter. The husband stated that he was denied access to his daughter when he attempted to visit her in April 2004.
The husband argued that his wife had filed a complaint against him in 2007 accusing him of cruelty, but he was acquitted in 2016.
The wife alleged that she suffered physical abuse and cruelty; however, she failed to substantiate her claims with specific incidents.
The court recognized that making false accusations itself amounts to cruelty. It emphasized that the wife needed to demonstrate that she endured cruelty or had valid reasons for living separately from her husband. The court concluded that the case involved “mental cruelty” against the husband.
While acknowledging that both parties had formed relationships with other individuals during the proceedings, the court noted that the wife had withdrawn from the company of the husband without providing any substantial reason.
The court emphasized that the husband and wife might have sought companionship elsewhere due to their prolonged separation.
As the wife and her daughter could not afford rent for the last three months, the court suggested that the woman apply for an EWS (Economically Weaker Section) category flat. A BPL (Below Poverty Line) card was required for this purpose, and the Food & Supply Officer assured that the card would be issued within 15 days upon receiving the application.
In a generous gesture, Senior Advocate Sunil Mittal agreed to pay three months’ rent amounting to Rs. 25,500 to the wife.
The court commended this act of support, stating, “We appreciate the magnanimous gesture of learned Senior Counsel for his support to a family who by the circumstances, have been pushed into a state of penury.”