News about this Supreme Court judgment have started appearing in many newspapers with the headlines which like “forcing husband to separate from his parents” or “forcing Hindu son to separate from parents” amounts to cruelty, and so on. As it happens, news headlines may a time don’t reflect the full picture of logic inside a judgment, and sometimes news reports may even highlight a secondary part of the judgment as the main reason when in fact the judgment was based mainly on other factors.
This site contains very few judgments on topic of divorce, and the reasons are explained in detail in this and this post. The reason of covering this judgment here are that people shouldn’t get complacent that one judgment (though important one given that it’s by SC) about separating-husband’s-parents-is-cruelty can get them divorce. That is so because wife trying to separate husband’s parents is almost a 100% phenomenon reported to men’s rights activists by ‘victim’ husbands, and more details can be read on this site’s comments by readers, as well as in this mega-post. If husbands could get divorce based on that fact, then many would have gotten it, rather than running around in courts handling multiple cases. In fact, all the so called counsellors at CAW cell, various mahila-thana and allied entities, and mediators in courts routinely consider the separating parents from husband to be a very reasonable and almost desirable demand on behalf of wife, and won’t bat an eyelid before asking husband: “Why can’t you take a separate house”, or “you have to satisfy your wife’s demands as part of compromise”. Once a husband agrees to living separately from parents, raising this issue as part of divorce petition won’t help or will be an uphill task to prove cruelty. This logic almost missed by many people, and lawyers don’t inform about it either. The problem is that any action in matrimonial case by either party can be taken to be an act of condoning or acceptance, and so once a husband starts living separately from his parents to satisfy wife, it may get taken to be a sign of acceptance that there were some problems in household because of everyone under the same roof. Whether it was wife’s fault or not has to be proven based on evidence, and evidence is another thing that most husbands don’t bother to collect or keep.
Rather than covering divorce judgments on this site, I instead wrote a whole book on topic of divorce (for men), because guiding on divorce has moral issues, turns out to be personalized baby-sitting rather than social work, and moreover I doubt there is any easy way to understand about this complex topic based on reading few news reports or even 1-2 judgments. Even if a husband has been going through extreme forms of cruelty at the hands of wife — not understanding basics of law, importance of evidence, importance of preparing detailed filings, the psychology of family court judges, lawyers, mediators etc makes the chance of getting a divorce by husband very remote. Lack of patience is another problem and because of these reasons most of the husbands are steered easily towards the C-word based settlement by the divorce lawyers and mediators.
In the divorce book, many judgments are there where divorce to husband has been granted based on any or combination of these: wife’s suicide threats, false criminal cases/complaints filed on husband (proven false and malicious), and false allegations of adultery on husband. There is already another judgment by Mumbai HC on this site which has allowed divorce to husband considering wife’s demand to live separately from husband’s parents to be cruelty. I have already covered important points in that post like duration of running divorce case, before divorce gets granted to any party. Same seems to be the case in this judgment too, grant of divorce after spending many years in courts.
Another thing seen in matrimonial cases is like this: family court makes one judgment, high court reverses it completely, and then supreme court reverses high court’s order and holds family court’s judgment to be right. Can’t say whether this is influenced by have-to-grant-relief-by-exercising-my-court’s-powers belief in mind of judges, but there is a suspicion that this is a subconscious reason behind such judgments.
Below are the 3 main reasons based on which both family court, Bangalore and SC deemed that it was mental cruelty on husband.
1. Suicide attempt by wife itself was seen as reason enough to be deemed mental cruelty on its own.
2. Wife asking husband not to spend any money on his parents and trying to separate him from parents was additional reason.
3. Wife’s false allegations on husband of extra-marital affair with maid was deemed as third reason.
To my knowledge, reasons 1 and 3 are often found in divorce decrees granted in favour of husbands, while reason 2 is not seen that often except in few like Mumbai HC judgment linked earlier.
Attempt to separate parents from husband deemed mental cruelty
Let’s consider a salient part of judgment which in fact is just the opposite of what is seen in CAW cell, mediations, counselling, panchayats, samaj ki baithak these days. In those instances, it’s almost always pressure is put on husband to take a separate house, if wife demands it and is able to make some allegations on his parents. No one knows the truth behind wife’s allegations, husband doesn’t have evidence in his favour (and doesn’t care to collect either most of the time), and so the decision is made to satisfy the wife’s demand and take a separate house. Maybe in this case, wife did not make those allegations and did not make use of ‘women-empowerment’ and divorce-negotiation laws like Domestic Violence Act which did not exist at the time the cases were filed.
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 the conclusion that this constitutes an act of ‘cruelty’.
In this case, most probably the husband did not flinch from his obligations to parents, and had he done so he would not have been able to use this as a ground.
1. Given this judgment is by a Supreme Court bench, deeming the act to separate husband from parents as cruelty should carry weight from now onwards and it sets a precedent in whole of India.
2. One should always have evidence (that wife tried to separate parents) to prove one’s assertion, and in my opinion, taking a separate residence even once as per a compromise with wife will dilute severely the potency of using wife-tried-to-separate-me-from-parents as a mental cruelty ground later in a divorce petition. Since most husbands indeed start living separately as a compromise, their divorce petition later won’t be able to get much benefit from this judgment.
3. The usual point of having to spend many years in courts still stays. Don’t file divorce unless that seems a better option than the worst of all other options.
This judgment will lead to more enquiries by hopeful husbands (and their parents) from divorce lawyers, but in the end proving mental cruelty is an uphill task.
Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, and your divorce, just like your marriage, should be your own affair. Don’t enquire or call about how to get divorce.
Full judgment text below
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO.3253 OF 2008
NARENDRA … APPELLANT
K. MEENA … RESPONDENT
J U D G M E N T
ANIL R. DAVE, J.
1. This appeal has been filed by the Appellant husband, whose
decree for divorce passed by the trial Court has been set aside by the
impugned judgment dated 8th March, 2006 passed by the High Court
of Karnataka at Bangalore in Miscellaneous First Appeal No.171 of
2. The facts giving rise to the present appeal, in a nutshell, are as
The Respondent wife filed Miscellaneous First Appeal under
Section 28(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (hereinafter referred to
as “the Act”) before the High Court as she was aggrieved by the
judgment and decree dated 17th November, 2001, passed by the
Principal Judge, Family Court, Bangalore in M.C. No.603 of 1995
under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Act filed by the Appellant husband
3. The Appellant husband had married the Respondent wife on 26th
February, 1992. Out of the wedlock, a female child named Ranjitha
was born on 13th November, 1993. The case of the Appellant was that
the Respondent did not live happily with the Appellant even for a
month after the marriage. The reason for filing the divorce petition
was that the Respondent wife had become cruel because of her highly
suspicious nature and she used to level absolutely frivolous but
serious allegations against him regarding his character and more
particularly about his extra-marital relationship. Behaviour of the
Respondent wife made life of the Appellant husband miserable and it
became impossible for the Appellant to stay with the Respondent for
the aforestated reasons. Moreover, the Respondent wanted the
Appellant to leave his parents and other family members and to get
separated from them so that the Respondent can live independently;
and in that event it would become more torturous for the Appellant to
stay only with the Respondent wife with her such nature and
behaviour. The main ground was cruelty, as serious allegations were
levelled about the moral character of the Appellant to the effect that he
was having an extra-marital affair with a maid, named Kamla.
Another important allegation was that the Respondent would very
often threaten the Appellant that she would commit suicide. In fact,
on 2th July, 1995, she picked up a quarrel with the Appellant, went to
the bathroom, locked the door from inside and poured kerosene on her
body and attempted to commit suicide. On getting smell of kerosene
coming from the bathroom, the Appellant, his elder brother and some
of the neighbours broke open the door of the bathroom and prevented
the Respondent wife from committing suicide. The aforestated facts
were found to be sufficient by the learned Family Court for granting
the Appellant a decree of divorce dated 17th November, 2001, after
considering the evidence adduced by both the parties.
4. Being aggrieved by the judgment and decree of divorce dated 17th
November, 2001, the Respondent wife had filed Miscellaneous First
Appeal No.171 of 2002 (FC), which has been allowed by the High
Court on 8th March, 2006, whereby the decree of divorce dated 17th
November, 2001 has been set aside. Being aggrieved by the judgment
and order passed by the High Court, the Appellant has filed this
5. The learned counsel appearing for the Respondent was not
present when the appeal was called out for hearing. The matter was
kept back but for the whole day, the learned counsel for the
Respondent did not appear. Even on an earlier occasion on 31st
March, 2016, when the appeal was called out, the learned counsel
appearing for the Respondent wife was not present and therefore, the
Court had heard the learned counsel appearing for the Appellant.
6. The learned counsel appearing for the Appellant submitted that
the High Court had committed a grave error in the process of
re-appreciating the evidence and by setting aside the decree of divorce
granted in favour of the Appellant. He submitted that there was no
reason to believe that there was no cruelty on the part of the
Respondent wife. He highlighted the observations made by the Family
Court and took us through the evidence, which was recorded before
the Family Court. He drew our attention to the depositions made by
independent witnesses, neighbours of the Appellant, who had rescued
the Respondent wife from committing suicide by breaking open the
door of the bathroom when the Respondent was on the verge of
committing suicide by pouring kerosene on herself and by lighting a
match stick. Our attention was also drawn to the fact that serious
allegations levelled against the character of the Appellant in relation to
an extra-marital affair with a maid were absolutely baseless as no
maid named Kamla had ever worked in the house of the Appellant. It
was also stated that the Respondent wife was insisting the Appellant
to get separated from his family members and on 12th July, 1995 i.e.
the date of the attempt to commit suicide, the Respondent wife
deserted the Appellant husband. According to the learned counsel,
the facts recorded by the learned Family Court after appreciating the
evidence were sufficient to show that the Appellant was entitled to a
decree of divorce as per the provisions of Section 13(1)(ia) of the Act.
7. We have carefully gone through the evidence adduced by the
parties before the trial Court and we tried to find out as to why the
appellate Court had taken a different view than the one taken by the
Family Court i.e. the trial Court.
8. The High Court came to the conclusion that there was no cruelty
meted out to the Appellant, which would enable him to get a decree of
divorce, as per the provisions of the Act. The allegations with regard
to the character of the Appellant and the extra-marital affair with a
maid were taken very seriously by the Family Court, but the High
Court did not give much importance to the false allegations made.
The constant persuasion by the Respondent for getting separated from
the family members of the Appellant and constraining the Appellant to
live separately and only with her was also not considered to be of any
importance by the High Court. No importance was given to the
incident with regard to an attempt to commit suicide made by the
Respondent wife. On the contrary, it appears that the High Court
found some justification in the request made by the Respondent to live
separately from the family of the Appellant husband. According to the
High Court, the trial Court did not appreciate the evidence properly.
For the aforestated reasons, the High Court reversed the findings
arrived at by the learned Family Court and set aside the decree of
9. We do not agree with the manner in which the High Court has
re-appreciated the evidence and has come to a different conclusion.
10. With regard to the allegations of cruelty levelled by the Appellant,
we are in agreement with the findings of the trial Court. First of all, let
us look at the incident with regard to an attempt to commit suicide by
the Respondent. Upon perusal of the evidence of the witnesses, the
findings arrived at by the trial Court to the effect that the Respondent
wife had locked herself in the bathroom and had poured kerosene on
herself so as to commit suicide, are not in dispute. Fortunately for the
Appellant, because of the noise and disturbance, even the neighbours
of the Appellant rushed to help and the door of the bathroom was
broken open and the Respondent was saved. Had she been successful
in her attempt to commit suicide, then one can foresee the
consequences and the plight of the Appellant because in that event the
Appellant would have been put to immense difficulties because of the
legal provisions. We feel that there was no fault on the part of the
Appellant nor was there any reason for the Respondent wife to make
an attempt to commit suicide. No husband would ever be comfortable
with or tolerate such an act by his wife and if the wife succeeds in
committing suicide, then one can imagine how a poor husband would
get entangled into the clutches of law, which would virtually ruin his
sanity, peace of mind, career and probably his entire life. The mere
idea with regard to facing legal consequences would put a husband
under tremendous stress. The thought itself is distressing. Such a
mental cruelty could not have been taken lightly by the High Court. In
our opinion, only this one event was sufficient for the Appellant
husband to get a decree of divorce on the ground of cruelty. It is
needless to add that such threats or acts constitute cruelty. Our
aforesaid view is fortified by a decision of this Court in the case of
Pankaj Mahajan v. Dimple @ Kajal (2011) 12 SCC 1, wherein it has
been held that giving repeated threats to commit suicide amounts to
11. The Respondent wife wanted the Appellant to get separated from
his family. The evidence shows that the family was virtually
maintained from the income of the Appellant husband. It is not a
common practice or desirable culture for a Hindu son in India to get
separated from the parents upon getting married at the instance of the
wife, especially when the son is the only earning member in the family.
A son, brought up and given education by his parents, has a moral
and legal obligation to take care and maintain the parents, when they
become old and when they have either no income or have a meagre
income. 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, a wife is
expected to be with the family of the husband after the marriage. She
becomes integral to and forms part of the family of the husband and
normally without any justifiable strong reason, she would never insist
that her husband should get separated from the family and live only
with her. In the instant case, upon appreciation of the evidence, the
trial Court came to the conclusion that merely for monetary
considerations, the Respondent wife wanted to get her husband
separated from his family. The averment of the Respondent was to the
effect that the income of the Appellant was also spent for maintaining
his family. The said grievance of the Respondent is absolutely
unjustified. A son maintaining his parents is absolutely normal in
Indian culture and ethos. There is no other reason for which the
Respondent wanted the Appellant to be separated from the family – the
sole reason was to enjoy the income of the Appellant. Unfortunately,
the High Court considered this to be a justifiable reason. In the
opinion of the High Court, the wife had a legitimate expectation to see
that the income of her husband is used for her and not for the family
members of the Respondent husband. We do not see any reason to
justify the said view of the High Court. 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 the conclusion
that this constitutes an act of ‘cruelty’.
12. With regard to the allegations about an extra-marital affair with
maid named Kamla, the re-appreciation of the evidence by the High
Court does not appear to be correct. There is sufficient evidence to the
effect that there was no maid named Kamla working at the residence
of the Appellant. Some averment with regard to some relative has
been relied upon by the High Court to come to a conclusion that there
was a lady named Kamla but the High Court has ignored the fact that
the Respondent wife had levelled allegations with regard to an
extra-marital affair of the Appellant with the maid and not with
someone else. Even if there was some relative named Kamla, who
might have visited the Appellant, there is nothing to substantiate the
allegations levelled by the Respondent with regard to an extra-marital
affair. True, it is very difficult to establish such allegations but at the
same time, it is equally true that to suffer an allegation pertaining to
one’s character of having an extra-marital affair is quite torturous for
any person – be it a husband or a wife. We have carefully gone
through the evidence but we could not find any reliable evidence to
show that the Appellant had an extra-marital affair with someone.
Except for the baseless and reckless allegations, there is not even the
slightest evidence that would suggest that there was something like an
affair of the Appellant with the maid named by the Respondent. We
consider levelling of absolutely false allegations and that too, with
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regard to an extra-marital life to be quite serious and that can surely
be a cause for metal cruelty.
13. This Court, in the case of Vijaykumar Ramchandra Bhate v.
Neela Vijaykumar Bhate, 2003 (6) SCC 334 has held as under:-
“7. The question that requires to be answered first is as to
whether the averments, accusations and character
assassination of the wife by the appellant husband in the
written statement constitutes mental cruelty for sustaining
the claim for divorce under Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Act. The
position of law in this regard has come to be well settled
and declared that levelling disgusting accusations of
unchastity and indecent familiarity with a person outside
wedlock and allegations of extramarital relationship is a
grave assault on the character, honour, reputation, status
as well as the health of the wife. Such aspersions of
perfidiousness attributed to the wife, viewed in the context
of an educated Indian wife and judged by Indian conditions
and standards would amount to worst form of insult and
cruelty, sufficient by itself to substantiate cruelty in law,
warranting the claim of the wife being allowed. 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. On going through the relevant
portions of such allegations, we find that no exception could
be taken to the findings recorded by the Family Court as
well as the High Court. We find that they are of such
quality, magnitude and consequence as to cause mental
pain, agony and suffering amounting to the reformulated
concept of cruelty in matrimonial law causing profound and
lasting disruption and driving the wife to feel deeply hurt
and reasonably apprehend that it would be dangerous for
her to live with a husband who was taunting her like that
and rendered the maintenance of matrimonial home
14. Applying the said ratio to the facts of this case, we are inclined to
hold that the unsubstantiated allegations levelled by the Respondent
wife and the threats and attempt to commit suicide by her amounted
to mental cruelty and therefore, the marriage deserves to be dissolved
by a decree of divorce on the ground stated in Section 13(1)(ia) of the
15. Taking an overall view of the entire evidence and the judgment
delivered by the trial Court, we firmly believe that there was no need to
take a different view than the one taken by the trial Court. The
behaviour of the Respondent wife appears to be terrifying and horrible.
One would find it difficult to live with such a person with tranquility
and peace of mind. Such torture would adversely affect the life of the
husband. It is also not in dispute that the Respondent wife had left
the matrimonial house on 12th July, 1995 i.e. more than 20 years
back. Though not on record, the learned counsel submitted that till
today, the Respondent wife is not staying with the Appellant. The
daughter of the Appellant and Respondent has also grown up and
according to the learned counsel, she is working in an IT company.
We have no reason to disbelieve the aforestated facts because with the
passage of time, the daughter must have grown up and the separation
of the Appellant and the wife must have also become normal for her
and therefore, at this juncture it would not be proper to bring them
together, especially when the Appellant husband was treated so
cruelly by the Respondent wife.
16. We, therefore, quash and set aside the impugned judgment
delivered by the High Court. The decree of divorce dated 17th
November, 2001 passed by the Principal Judge, Family Court,
Bangalore in M.C. No.603 of 1995 is hereby restored.
17. The appeal is, accordingly, allowed with no order as to costs.
(ANIL R. DAVE)
(L. NAGESWARA RAO)
OCTOBER 06, 2016.
ITEM NO.1A COURT NO.2 SECTION IVA
S U P R E M E C O U R T O F I N D I A
RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS
Civil Appeal No(s). 3253/2008
Date : 06/10/2016 This appeal was called on for
pronouncement of judgment.
For Appellant(s) Mr. H.K. Naik,Adv.
Mr. B. Vishwanath Bhandarkar,Adv.
Mr. V.N. Raghupathy,AOR
For Respondent(s) Ms. Kamakshi S. Mehlwal,AOR
Hon’ble Mr. Justice Anil R. Dave pronounced the judgment
of the Bench comprising His Lordship and Hon’ble Mr. Justice
L. Nageswara Rao.
The appeal is allowed in terms of the signed judgment.
(NARENDRA PRASAD) (SNEH BALA MEHRA)
COURT MASTER ASSISTANT REGISTRAR
(Signed ‘Reportable’ Judgment is placed on the file)