Undermining dignity and reputation to protect matrimonial rights cannot be justified: Supreme Court of India

In cases of 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. This was held in the case of Joydeep Majundhar v. Bharti Jaiswal Majundhar, [Civil Appeal Nos. 3786-3787 OF 2020], by Hon’ble Justice Hrishikesh Roy.

The appellant who is an army officer applied for divorce from the Family Court at Vishakhapatnam. The respondent then filed a petition against the respondent in the Dehradun Court for restitution of conjugal rights. The appellant pleaded that he was subjected to numerous malicious complaints by the respondent which have affected his career and loss of reputation, resulting in mental cruelty. The respondents submitted that the appellant deserted her without any reasonable cause and pleaded for resumption of matrimonial rights. The Family Court at Dehradun allowed the appellant’s suit for dissolution of marriage and simultaneously dismissed the respondent’s petition for restitution of conjugal rights.

Respondents who were aggrieved by the order of the lower court approached the High Court of Uttarakhand which set aside the decree for dissolution of marriage and allowed the respondent’s suit for restitution of conjugal rights, under the impugned judgment. The High Court opinioned that the conduct of the parties against each other would at best be squabbles of ordinary middle class married life. The appellants challenged this decision an appeal in the Supreme Court of India.

The counsel for the appellant submitted that the learned Senior Counsel highlights that the respondent had filed a series of complaints against the appellant before the superior officers in the Army upto the level of the Chief of Army Staff and to other authorities and these complaints have irreparably damaged the reputation and mental peace of the appellant. Reliance was placed on the case of Samar Ghosh Vs. Jaya Ghosh, 1 (2007) 4 SCC 511, where it was held that no uniform standard can be laid down in cases of mental cruelty and each case will have to be decided on its own facts. The net outcome of the respondents conduct is that the appellant’s career and reputation had suffered. 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 court opinioned that “the complaints made by the respondent 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”. “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”. The appeal was dismissed.

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