The Delhi High Court, in Harjit Kaur vs. Surinder Singh, has held irrational conduct of the a spouse, even if correct as stated by the opposing spouse, must be seen in the light of the fact that the opposing spouse was in an open adulterous relationship.
The appeal filed by Harjit Kaur challenged the grant of decree of divorce under Section 13(1)(i)(a) of the Hindu Marriage Act by the Family Court, 1955 Central District, Tis Hazari, to her husband Surinder Singh.
During the subsistence of the marriage, Surinder had an extra-marital relationship with one lady Ms. IK (name withheld). The decree for divorce was filed in 2004 and granted in 2015, but a child was born to Surinder and the lady in 2008 i.e., during the pendency of his divorce proceedings.
A bench comprising Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Yogesh Khanna held the view that if the cause for the behaviour of a spouse is the result of breach of faith by the other spouse, and especially where the trust of fidelity is breached, it becomes the duty of the court to be more vigilant and appraise the evidence led at the trial with a hawk’s eye.
Surinder, in his divorce petition, alleged that his wife’s behaviour was cruel, she was quarrelsome and that she consumed sleeping pills on the first night. He also claimed that she demanded a share in his ancestral property.
Harjit denied all allegations against her and submitted that Surinder and his family members used to treat her cruelly by beating her almost daily and demanding for more dowry etc. She further claimed that her husband was hell-bound to get a divorce from her as he wanted to marry one Ms. IK, an employee in his office with whom he had an affair.
The family court granted divorce to Surinder based on the grant of discharge of Surinder’s mother under charges of Section 498A and 406 IPC and her demand for a partition of ancestral house or to live in separate accommodation and to deny sex to her husband. The Court held denial of sex to the husband on the false allegation that the Surinder was having illicit relationship with Ms. IK was nothing but cruelty, coupled with unproved allegations of alleged forced abortion, beatings etc.
The high court held that though the family court held that the allegations against Surinder were not proved, it brushed aside Harjit’s efforts to bring on record facts that substantiated her stand.
The court observed that Surinder’s testimony as prosecution witness showed that he visited house of Ms. IK 10-20 times before his separation from his wife, which showed his inclination towards the said lady. This gave credence that Harjit never denied sex to Surinder and it was he who did not come to her because of him being in relationship with the lady. The court held that “having an affair during the subsistence of marriage by either of the spouse amounts to cruelty to the other”.
The totality of evidence established the mental cruelty upon Harjit rather than upon Surinder, who was presently blissfully married with Ms. IK, with whom he has a son (during subsistence of marriage with Harjit).
Regarding the conduct of Harjit as claimed by Surinder, the court held that it was to be seen in the light of the fact that Surinder was in an open adulterous relationship with Ms. IK. Thus the division bench held:
“The appellant would naturally be feeling insecure for herself and her daughter and thus even if she made a demand for an immovable property in her name, it would not be an act of cruelty but the helpless cry by a wife who was cheated to ensure that she and her daughter had a roof above their head. Her irrational behaviour, the intemperate language would be the result of the cruelty caused by the respondent. Her words spoken and deeds done cannot be attributed as conscious words and deeds intended to inflict mental torture on her husband. They would be a cry of anguish and acts of desperation.”
Finally, upon appreciation of the evidence, Harjit’s appeal was allowed in the court.
Read the Judgment here.