On May 20, 2020, A Division Bench of Justices A. M. Shaffique and Mary Joseph of the Kerala High Court had in the matter of Ranjith P. C. v. Asha Nair P has held that repeated attempts of wife to separate husband from his mother amounts to cruelty on him and can be a reason to grant a divorce. The Court also remarked that “no family is totally devoid of clashes among members constituting it. It is common for elders to scold and sometimes abuse youngsters. Making a daughter in law to do the household/domestic work is also not something unusual.”
Background of the Case:
The appellant-husband had filed for a decree for dissolution of marriage before the Family Court and it was declined by the Family Court and the Original Petition was dismissed for his failure to establish the ground cruelty alleged as the basis. The respondent is none other than the wife of the appellant.
Ranjith and Asha had got married on April 14, 2003, and a female child was born in wedlock. The marital relationship did not last long in the way it commenced due to the quarrelsome nature of Asha. Gradually she started declaring that she would commit suicide after creating cogent materials to trap himself and his mother. She used to call Ranjith 'dog' and 'shameless creature'. She used to undermine his person stating that he is not a fit person to be her husband and insult him by beating him in front of his relatives. She also denied him a sexual relationship. She refused to live at the matrimonial home. Several attempts to commit suicide had been made by her. She left the matrimonial home on February 10, 2011, and ever since then she was there and therefore, the expectation of Ranjith to maintain a smooth marital life was lost. Thereafter Ranjith filed suit for the dissolution of marriage. The dissolution of marriage was sought on the ground of cruelty.
Asha had in her written statement mentioned that she was ready to join the petitioner provided, he stops the consumption of alcohol and changes his attitude towards her. She also mentioned that she didn’t leave the matrimonial home voluntarily but was constrained to leave due to the threat of his mother. She had also mentioned that she never desired a separate life or a dissolution of marriage. She also alleged that his mother was so cruel to her and she had made her do all domestic works even during the convalescent period after a surgical operation and she was abused and ill-treated physically and mentally by her. She had submitted that she would like to have a joint happy life with her husband/petitioner and the child.
For lack of independent evidence, the contention of the Ranjith that Asha frequently used to threaten him that she would commit suicide and make them responsible for that by creating materials against them had remained unestablished and hence ground for dissolution of marriage i.e. cruelty by Asha on Ranjith could not be proved before Family Court.
After pursuing the rival submissions made by parties before the Family Court, it was clear to the HC that Asha used to make necessary efforts to separate Ranjith from his mother and those tantamount to torturing the husband. The counsel of the petitioner had also contended that the attempts in that regard were nothing short of cruelty and the Family Court was highly unjustified and erred in viewing the version of the wife as a comment of a wife out of the absence of maturity or comment of a fickle-minded woman.
On the findings of the Family Court, the HC made a strong remark,
“We have no hesitation to hold that the Family Court was highly unjustified in making the above observations. The Family Court has taken the role of a counselor rather than an adjudicator while doing so. It is after much effort and counseling that a case comes up before the court for adjudication. Then the role of the court is to adjudicate the issue involved in the case based on the evidence after duly appreciating it. The Family Court is not supposed to advise the remedies to the parties and issuing directions. We are not satisfied with the way in which the Family Court had dealt with the case on hand.”
Finding the evidence submitted before the Family Court, the HC held that wife had treated her husband with cruelty sufficient enough to grant a decree for dissolution of marriage in his favor. Also observing the conduct of the couple since they got separated, the HC held that relationship was unfit for resuming the matrimonial life. This was so because, even though Asha had said multiple times that she was willing to stay with Ranjith (but not with her mother-in-law in the same house), not even a single attempt was made from her side to join him to continue the marital life. The Court also held that the case in its hand was also one, wherein the marital relationship among the parties had become irretrievably broken.