Delhi High Court: Wife's Repeated Departures from Matrimonial Home Constitute Mental Cruelty, Grants Husband Divorce

Delhi High Court grants divorce citing wife's repeated departures as mental cruelty. Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Neena Bansal Krishna preside.

The Delhi High Court recently rendered a significant judgment, elucidating that a wife's recurrent departure from the matrimonial home or separation from her husband, devoid of any wrongdoing on his part, constitutes mental cruelty. Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Neena Bansal Krishna, presiding over the bench, arrived at this conclusion while adjudicating a divorce petition filed by a man under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, citing cruelty and desertion by his estranged wife.

"It is a clear case where the respondent-wife left the matrimonial home, from time to time, without there being any act or fault on the part of the appellant-husband. Such withdrawal by the respondent from time to time, are acts of mental cruelty to which the appellant was subjected, without any reason or justification," the Court emphasized.

The Court further expounded on the sanctity of marriage, asserting that a union thrives on mutual support, devotion, and allegiance. It likened repeated instances of separation to a relentless storm that erodes the foundation of trust and commitment, leaving indelible scars on the matrimonial bond.

Amidst the legal proceedings stood a couple united in matrimony in 1992. However, discord surfaced, prompting the man to seek redressal through a divorce plea before a family court in 2017. Despite his earnest plea, the family court rebuffed his entreaty in 2022, compelling him to escalate the matter to the High Court through an appeal.

In his plea before the High Court, the man delineated his wife's erratic behavior, accusing her of subjecting him to various forms of cruelty and deserting him on multiple occasions, amounting to six instances. The most recent occurrence in 2011 saw her allegedly proclaiming her husband as "dead to her" and symbolically tying a rakhi on his hand, denoting a sibling-like relationship, before departing.

While the wife did not contest the instances of separation, she countered with allegations of her husband's cold demeanor and the purported humiliation inflicted upon her by his family members. She contended that it was her husband who escorted her back to her parental home on numerous occasions, refuting the portrayal of herself as the one abandoning the matrimonial abode.

The Court discerned underlying dissatisfaction within the marital relationship, particularly stemming from the wife's discontent with her mother-in-law's conduct, which fostered feelings of confinement, lack of autonomy, and disrespect, contributing to her disillusionment with the matrimonial setup.

However, notwithstanding the wife's grievances, the Court underscored the absence of any wrongdoing on the husband's part throughout the various instances of separation. It critiqued the family court's approach, deeming it myopic for treating each episode of separation in isolation, rather than evaluating them holistically within the context of the marriage's trajectory.

"In fact, it is the journey of the parties through their matrimonial life, which is determinative of their compatibility, progressiveness, and growth. We find that there is overwhelming evidence to show that it is the respondent (wife), who subjected the appellant (husband) to a life of uncertainty with there being no settlement and mental peace in the matrimonial life, despite 20 years of being spent together," the Court asserted.

Moreover, the Court underscored the wife's lack of earnest efforts toward reconciliation and her husband's futile attempts, facilitated through family friends and relatives, to reconcile and restore harmony in the matrimonial relationship.

"It is, therefore, proved that the respondent (wife) has deserted the appellant without any reasonable cause and is entitled to divorce, on the ground of desertion," the Court decreed, thereby granting the husband's appeal.

Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra, alongside advocates Kamakshi Gupta and Manas Agrawal, represented the appellant, while Advocate Reena Jain Malhotra appeared for the respondent.