Cruelty as a matrimonial offence is the conduct in relation to or in respect of matrimonial duties and obligations. It is settled that physical violence is not absolutely essential to constitute cruelty; a cruelty complained of may be mental or physical. Mental cruelty is a state of mind and feeling with one of the spouses due to the behaviour or behavioural pattern by the other and inference can be drawn from the attending facts and circumstances taken cumulatively. The aforesaid has been relied upon by the Kerala High Court while adjudicating the case of Sabitha Unnikrishnan v. Vineet Das [MAT.APPEAL NO. 594 OF 2018] which was decided by the two-judge bench comprising Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Kauser Edappagath on 28th June 2021.
The facts of the case are as follows. This matrimonial appeal filed by wife is directed against the judgment of the Family Court, Mavelikkara dismissing the original petition filed by her against her husband for divorce on the ground of cruelty and desertion. The marriage between the appellant and the respondent was solemnized on 28/6/2009 as per the Hindu religious rites and ceremonies. In the wedlock, a child was born on 20/5/2011. According to the appellant, while they were living together in Sultanate of Oman, the respondent made false allegations of unchastity against her and the said allegations were spread among his relatives as well as the co-workers of her father. It is further alleged that while they were living together at Sultanate of Oman, the respondent used to pick up quarrels with her on the issue of unchastity and on 1/3/2012, he brutally assaulted her as well. It is also alleged that, from 1/3/2012 onwards, she has been living separately from the respondent who has deserted her with permanent intention to break the marital relationship between them. It was in these circumstances; the appellant preferred the Original Petition for dissolution of marriage on the ground of cruelty and desertion. The respondent has also filed a petition under the Guardian and Wards Act for the permanent custody of the child before the court below.
The court conducted an in-depth perusal of the facts and arguments at hand. It also heavily relied upon the facts that “The technicalities of the Evidence Act cannot be imported to a proceedings before the Family Court because Section 14 of the Family Courts Act authorizes a Family Court to receive as evidence any report, statement, document, information or matter that may, in its opinion assist it to deal effectually with a dispute irrespective of whether it is relevant or admissible under the Indian Evidence Act, 1972.” The court further stated that “Levelling disgusting accusation of unchastity and attributing aspersions of perfidiousness to the wife would undoubtedly amount to worst form of mental cruelty.” In its verdict, the court stated that “The impugned judgment is set aside. OP No.758/2014 on the file of Family Court, Mavelikkara is allowed. The marriage between the appellant and the respondent solemnized on 28/6/2009 stands dissolved..”