Allegation By A Well-Educated Spouse Damaging Career And Reputation Amounts To Mental Cruelty: SC

KEY TAKEAWAYS

The Supreme Court on Friday observed that defamatory complaints against spouse leading to irreparable damage to his career and reputation would amount to mental cruelty against him for the purpose of seeking divorce.The three-judge bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Hrishikesh Roy address the plea by an army officer in the case of Joydeep Majumdar v. Bharti Jaiswal Majumdar, claiming that his wife wrote letters to his superiors to lead an enquiry against him, thus tarnishing his reputation, for the purpose of seeking restitution of conjugal rights.

The couple had got married in 2006 and resided together for a few months, until differences cropped up between them and they started living apart since 2007.The respondent had also filed a petition against the appellant for the restitution of conjugal right and resumption of matrimonial life in the Uttarakhand High Court. Once the family court granted divorce, the High Court, on appeal, ordered the restitution of conjugal rights laying aside the decree set previously. The husband then appealed before the Apex Court and submitted that his wife filed a series of complaints to his superiors, setting aside the High Court judgement, stating the following,

'We are of the considered opinion that the High Court was in error un describing the broken relationship as normal wear and tear of middle class married life. It is a definite case of cruelty inflicted by the respondent against the appellant and as such enough justification is found to set aside the impugned judgment of the High Court and to restore the order passed by the Family Court."

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

The husband, represented by Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayana, submitted in the Apex Court that his wife had allegedly filed a list of complaints against him before his superior officers in the army, including the Chief of Army Staff among other authorities, thus leading to irreparable damage to his reputation and mental peace. Advocate Ahmad Ibrahim, representing the respondent, however, contended that the wife made those complaints in order to protect her matrimonial ties. The Supreme Court noted that the appellant"s career progress was affected, while his wife continued to make complaints to other authorities like the State Commission for Women. On observing that the appellant had undergone adverse consequences in his life and career due to the allegations made by the respondent, the top court held that legal consequences must follow as no court has ruled that the allegations were false.

'For considering dissolution of marriage at the instance of a spouse who allege mental cruelty, the result of such mental cruelty must be such that it is not possible to continue with the matrimonial relationship. In other words, the wronged party cannot be expected to condone such conduct and continue to live with his/her spouse. The degree of tolerance will vary from one couple to another and the Court will have to bear in mind the background, the level of education and also the status of the parties, in order to determine whether the cruelty alleged is sufficient to justify dissolution of marriage, at the instance of the wronged party."

The bench also observed that since the allegations were made by a highly educated spouse, they do hold the gravity to 'irreparably damage the character and reputation of the appellant."The Court noted that to consider dissolution of marriage based on a spouse alleging mental cruelty, the level of mental disturbance must be that it is not feasible to continue the matrimonial relationship.

'When the reputation of the spouse is sullied amongst his colleagues, his superiors and the society at large, it would be difficult to expect condonation of such conduct by the affected party. The explanation of the wife that she made those complaint in order to protect the matrimonial ties would not in our view, justify the persistent effort made by her to undermine the dignity and reputation of the appellant. In circumstances like this, the wronged party cannot be expected to continue with the matrimonial relationship and there is enough justification for him to seek separation."

The Court thus held that the contentions held by the wife do not justify the consistent actions taken by her to undermine the dignity and reputation of the appellant.

'When the appellant has suffered adverse consequences in his life and career on account of the allegations made by the respondent, the legal consequences must follow and those cannot be prevented only because, no Court has determined that the allegations were false."

CONCLUSION

The Supreme Court thus held that under such circumstances, the wronged party should not be expected to go along with the matrimonial relationship, when enough evidence is present for them to seek separation.

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