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Staying Together is not a Precondition for Mental Cruelty

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Staying Together is not a Precondition for Mental Cruelty

K. Srinivas Rao v. D.A. Deepa [(2013) 5 SCC 226]
The facts of the case are as such that an appeal was made by the appellant namely K. Srinivas Rao to the Hon’ble Supreme Court against the order passed by the High Court setting aside the decree of divorce granted to him. The marriage between the appellant husband and respondent wife namely D.A. Deepa was solemnized on 25 April, 1994 but on the very next day of their marriage, the dispute arose between the elders of both families. That led to separation of the newlywed couple and they started living separately. After some months the respondent wife lodged an FIR making a statement that her husband is harassing her for more dowry. The appellant husband approached Family Court seeking divorce on the ground of cruelty and was granted the decree of divorce. The respondent wife filed an appeal to the high court and that results in setting aside the decree of divorce granted to the appellant. The High Court stated that since husband and wife were not living together. So, there is no question of treating each other with cruelty. The issue of the case is that if staying together under the same roof is precondition for mental cruelty?

The appellant stated that the dispute initially started with a quarrel between the elders and him (the appellant) and respondent wife were not involved but filing of repeated false complaints against him and his family caused mental cruelty to the appellant and therefore it is not possible to take the respondent back in his life. The High Court is of the view that the appellant and respondent were not staying together so it is not possible for the wife to treat the appellant with cruelty and the decision taken by the Family Court is erroneous. The Hon’ble Supreme Court stated that they disagree with this view of the High Court as Cruelty is evident where one spouse has so treated the other that the other has such feelings towards him/her that it will be harmful to live with the other spouse.

The complaint filed by the respondent wife against the appellant, in this complaint, the wife alleged that her In-Laws are harassing her for dowry and not only this but the mother-in -law is also forcing her to have physical relationship with the father of appellant husband. The respondent wife failed to prove this and there was no evidence proving the allegations. The Hon’ble Court stated that this act of the wife amounts to mental cruelty as such a vulgar and defamatory statement made by the respondent wife is unacceptable and amounts to cruelty. The statement that the mother of appellant husband forced the respondent wife to have physical relationship with the father of appellant is bound to anger the appellant and cause great anguish to him. It is well settled that such a statement is an act of mental cruelty and hence it is proved that the act of the wife has caused mental cruelty to the husband.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India held in this case that staying under the same roof is not a precondition for mental cruelty. Even if the husband and wife are not staying together, the spouse can cause mental cruelty to others by his or her conduct. In the present case the spouse has caused mental cruelty by making false complaints and making vulgar and defamatory statements against the appellant and his family. It does not matter if they are staying together or not. The Hon’ble High Court wrongly held that there arose no question of treating each other with cruelty when the spouses are not even living together.
Authored By: Adv. Anant Sharma & Anjali Swami

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