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Suman Singh v. Sanjay Singh - (Supreme Court) (08 Mar 2017)

Few isolated incidents of long past; that too condoned due to compromising behavior of parties cannot constitute act of cruelty



Instant appeals are filed by Appellant (wife) against judgment passed by High Court of Delhi by which the High Court dismissed appeals filed by Appellant and confirmed judgment of Principal Judge, which had granted decree for dissolution of marriage in favour of Respondent (husband) and, in consequence, also affirmed order dismissing the petition filed by Appellant (wife) for restitution of conjugal rights.

Word "cruelty” used in Section 13(1)(ia) of Hindu Marriage Act,1955/Act is not defined under the Act. However, this expression was subject matter of interpretation in several cases of this Court. What amounts to “mental cruelty” was succinctly explained by this Court in Samar Ghosh vs. Jaya Ghosh. It was observed that no uniform standard can ever be laid down for guidance, yet it is appropriate to enumerate some instances of human behaviour which may be considered relevant in dealing with the cases of “mental cruelty”.

In facts of present case, almost all grounds taken by Respondent in his petition were stale or/and isolated and did not subsist to enable Respondent to seek a decree for dissolution of marriage. Incidents of cruelty alleged had taken place even, according to Respondent, immediately after marriage. They were solitary incidents relating to behavior of Appellant. Assuming that one or more grounds constituted an act of cruelty, yet it was found that, acts complained of were condoned by parties due to their subsequent conduct as admittedly both lived together till 2006 and Appellant gave birth to their second daughter in 2006. Most of incidents of alleged cruelty pertained to the period prior to 2006 and some were alleged to have occurred after 2006. Those pertained to period after 2006 were founded on general allegations with no details pleaded.

A petition seeking divorce on some isolated incidents alleged to have occurred 8-10 years prior to filing of the date of petition cannot furnish a subsisting cause of action to seek divorce after 10 years or so of occurrence of such incidents. Incidents alleged should be of recurring nature or continuing one and should be in near proximity with filing of the petition. Few isolated incidents of long past and that too found to have been condoned due to compromising behavior of the parties cannot constitute an act of cruelty within meaning of Section 13 (1)(ia)of Act. Courts below failed to take note of this material aspect of case and thus committed jurisdictional error in passing a decree for dissolution of marriage.

An incident which occurred somewhere in 2010 when the Appellant visited the office of the Respondent and alleged to have misbehaved with the Respondent in front of other officers would constitute an act of cruelty on the part of the Appellant so as to enable Respondent to claim divorce. In the first place, no decree for divorce on one isolated incident can be passed. Secondly, there could be myriad reasons for causing such isolated incident. Merely because both exchanged some verbal conversation in presence of others would not be enough to constitute an act of cruelty unless it is further supported by some incidents of alike nature.

Appellant is entitled for a decree for restitution of conjugal rights against Respondent. It appeared from perusal of the evidence that it is the Respondent who withdrew from Appellant's company without there being any reasonable cause to do so. It is held on facts that, Respondent failed to make out any case of cruelty against Appellant.


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