"Making a daughter in law to do the house hold/domestic work is also not something unusual", remarked the Kerala High Court recently, allowing a husband's plea for dissolution of marriage on the ground of cruelty.
A division bench comprising Justices A M Shaffique and Mary Joseph made these observations while allowing the husband's matrimonial appeal holding that the wife's conduct amounted to cruelty.
According to the wife, the husband's mother was so cruel to her and she made her to do all domestic works even during the convalescent period after a surgical operation.
She was abused and ill-treated physically and mentally by the mother in law.
Responding to this argument, the judgment authored by Justice Mary Joseph observed :
"No family is totally devoid of clashes among members constituting it. It is common for elders to scold and sometimes abuse youngsters... From the evidence tendered by the respondent, it is all the more clear that the aforestated factors formed the basis for her ill-will to petitioner's mother", the bench proceeded to observed.
The Court stated that it could find no justifiable reason for her to get the husband's mother excluded from the family or to be desirous of having a separate residence to the exclusion of her.
"The above contentions raised by the respondent in her counter statement more particularly disclose her dislike to the mother in law and her desire to maintain a family life to her exclusion. It is also discernible from her contentions that initially the petitioner was very loving and life with him was comfortable and the mother in law caused changes in his attitude towards herself and the child", noted the bench.
The judgment further records that the factum that the wife was desirous of getting rid of the mother in law from their family life is more evident from her testimony during cross examination
"Therefore, the respondent was very particular to have a more comfortable and happy life to the exclusion of petitioner's mother who according to her, was the root cause for problems to originate in her matrimonial life", inferred the bench.
Moreover, the Court observed that the respondent has no case that the petitioner was a drunkard at the time when he married her, though she has claimed that subsequently, on account of the undue influence and ill-advice of his mother, he had begun returning home late into the night in an intoxicated state and had taken to assaulting her and their child. On the contrary her specific case was that he was lovable and affectionate and their life was smooth, happy and comfortable.
"Evidence indicates that the respondent and the petitioner's mother were not cordial and clashes were frequent. Therefore, it is natural for the petitioner to be a scapegoat of the in-differences. It is also natural for a wife in that scenario to make persistent effort to constrain her husband to be separated from the family life and that would undoubtedly be tortuous for him", reads a portion the decision.
The bench was of the view that the petitioner's turning to be a drunkard can only be taken as the natural outcome of the pressure exerted on him by the respondent to have a separate residence to the exclusion of petitioner's mother-
"The persistence of the respondent was unbearable for the petitioner, could be seen from his conduct of avoidance of the company of the respondent after leaving her at the parental home"
Besides, the High Court noted that the Petitioner has consistently pleaded specifically about the displeasure of the respondent towards his mother, when examined as PW1, and the respondent has also endorse the same in her counter-statement and her cross-examination. "Respondent as RW1 has stated that the petitioner after dropping her at the parental home has not turned up to take her back. From the above conduct of the petitioner admitted by the respondent, it is evidenced that the torture suffered by him amidst the respondent and his mother was of much gravity and something unbearable for him", concluded the bench.
Finally, the court opined that this evidence is satisfactory for it to take a view that the respondent has treated the petitioner with cruelty sufficient enough to grant a decree for dissolution of marriage in his favour, thereby reversing the judgment of the Family Court.
Apart from all the above, the bench attached weight to conduct of the parties after their separated life, commenting that they have proved themselves to be unfit for resuming the matrimonial relationship. "Not even a single attempt was made from the side of the respondent to join the petitioner to continue the marital life. Therefore, the case on hand is also one, wherein the marital relationship among the parties have become irretrievably broken. Pursuit of any nature will not help resumption of matrimonial life. The cruelty having been established and the parties by their life have made it clear that joining in matrimonial relationship is something impracticable, the grant of a decree for dissolution of marriage is appropriate in the case", the bench held.
Family Court Is An Adjudicator, Not A Counsellor
In so far as the Family Court had, in refusing the plea for dissolution, observed that "It is fair and necessary to harmonise them through the process of love, affection and mutual respect", the High Court unequivocally declared that it has "no hesitation to hold that the Family Court was highly unjustified in making the above observations".
The Family Court had been of the view that situations are such that the respondent/wife can accompany the husband in his matrimonial home and to build up a good happy life, and that naturally, if the respondent is not responding to that suggestion, petitioner can choose one of the method of restitution of conjugal rights. "With these observations, I am inclined to hold that there are no sufficient circumstances herein to dissolve the marriage between the petitioner and respondent", it had ruled.
"The Family Court has taken the role of a councilor rather than an adjudicator while doing so. It is after much efforts 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 advice 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", the High Court said.
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