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Legal cruelty must be established, not just as a matter of fact, but also as the result of the other spouse’s actions: Kerala High Court

Legal cruelty must be established, not just as a matter of fact, but also as the result of the other spouse’s actions is upheld by the Kerala High Court in the case of Kiran Kumar v. Bini Marim Chandi through a division Bench of C.K. Abdul Rehim and R. Narayana Pisharadi, JJ.

FACTS OF THE CASE

In the current case, the husband is contesting the wife’s petition for divorce that was filed with the Family Court. Under the guidelines of the Special Marriage Act of 1954, the petitioner and respondent had legally wed.

The petitioner’s moral integrity was allegedly continually under suspicion by the respondent, who also frequently levelled accusations of immorality and infidelity against her. Accusations made about the petitioner’s character by the respondent included the claim that she had an improper relationship with several of her profession’s peers.

ISSUE RAISED

Whether the respondent’s actions constitute to inflicting mental cruelty by accusing the petitioner of being unfaithful and immoral?

JUDGEMENT

The Court opined that to get or not to get married, as well as with whom, may be a private matter. However, the option to end a marriage is not.

The Kerala High Court while considering the present case, said that when the marriage is solemnised or deemed to be solemnised in accordance with the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, 1954, may a petition for divorce under Section 27 of that Act be submitted.

According to Section 27(1)(d) of the Special Marriage Act of 1954, either the husband or the wife may file the petition in the District Court for a divorce on the grounds that the respondent has cruelly treated the petitioner, subject to the restrictions of the Act and the Rules promulgated thereunder.

According to V. Bhagat v. D. Bhagat (1994), mental cruelty is defined as conduct that causes the other party such mental agony and suffering that it would be impossible for that party to coexist with the other.

According to the evidence presented in the current instance, the respondent publicly humiliated the petitioner by telling two total strangers that his wife had been having an extramarital affair the night before. The respondent’s disclosure that she was having an affair with a different physician to the petitioner’s hospital colleagues was proven, the court noted. So, the respondent created a scandal surrounding the petitioner at the hospital where she worked. Because of this petitioner was forced to leave the hospital out of embarrassment.

The aforementioned instances showed that the respondent had a propensity of accusing his wife of immorality and cheating. When addressing the issue of cruelty, reputational harm is a crucial factor.

In Raj v. Kavita,2017, the Supreme Court ruled that it would be cruel of one spouse to make untrue accusations against the other spouse in a way that would damage that spouse’s reputation among other couples.

More suffering and sorrow might result from constant accusations and imputations than from physical punishment. Court said that one must consider the likelihood of the situation in a delicate human relationship like matrimony. The likelihood of a case must be determined, and legal cruelty must be established, not just as a matter of fact, but also as the result of the other spouse’s actions or inactions on the complainant spouse’s psyche.

The attorney for the appellant claimed that because the marriage was performed in a church, the Special Marriage Act of 1954’s provisions would not apply and that the petition for divorce filed under Section 27 of the same Act would not be viable.

The High Court stated that the personal law applicable must be used to determine the marriage’s legitimacy when it is not subject to any statutory laws. Furthermore, it concluded that the parties’ church-officiated marriage was invalid. In such case, the partners’ legal marriage was the one that was solemnised in accordance with the Special Marriage Act of 1954.

The court ruled that the petitioner and respondent’s church wedding was invalid, and that the Special Marriage Act of 1954’s provisions would govern any subsequent marriages. The solemnization of marriage under Chapter II of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 would have been a fruitless endeavour if only the marriage performed between the couples in a church was recognised as valid.

Accordingly, the divorce petition under Section 27 of the Special Marriage Act of was not upheld.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY NISHTHA GARHWAL

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