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Sullying the reputation and career of the Spouse will be construed as ‘mental cruelty’, a valid ground for divorce: Supreme Court of India

Allegations leveled by a highly educated spouse do have the propensity to irreparably damage the character and reputation of the other spouse. 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. This auspicious judgment was passed by the Supreme Court of India in the matter of JOYDEEP MAJUMDAR V. BHARTI JAISWAL MAJUMDAR [Civil Appeal Nos. 3786-3787 Of 2020] by Honourable Justice Hrishikesh Roy.

The challenge in these appeals is to the analogous judgment and order whereby the High Court of Uttarakhand had allowed both appeals by reversing the common order of the Family Court, Dehradun.

The facts of the case are the appellant succeeded with his case for dissolution of marriage but the respondent failed to secure a favorable verdict in her petition for restitution of conjugal rights. The appellant here is an Army Officer whereas the respondent is holding a faculty position in the Government P.G. College, Tehri. They got married on 27.9.2006 and lived together for few months at Vishakhapatnam and at Ludhiana but differences cropped up since their initial days and hence the couple has been living apart since 15.9.2007.

In the divorce proceedings, the appellant pleaded that he was subjected to numerous malicious complaints which have affected his career and loss of reputation, resulting in mental cruelty whereas the respondent in her case for restitution of conjugal rights contended that the husband without any reasonable cause had deserted her and hence pleaded for a resumption of matrimonial life.

HC noted that cruelty is the core issue in the dispute but held that this cannot be construed as cruelty since no court has concluded that those allegations were false or fabricated. The conduct of the parties against each other would at best be squabbles of ordinary middle-class married life.

The Court observed that “The question which requires to be answered here is whether the conduct of the respondent would fall within the realm of mental cruelty.”

For this, the Court stated that “The explanation of the wife that she made those complaints 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 held that “High Court was in error in 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. The appellant is accordingly held entitled to dissolution of his marriage and consequently, the respondent’s application for restitution of conjugal rights stands dismissed. It is ordered accordingly.

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