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Not Taking Treatment For Mental Issues To Bring Peace In Family Amounts To Cruelty To Spouse: Kerala HC Upholds Divorce Decree

Sparsh Upadhyay
28 Jan 2022 1:58 PM GMT
Not Taking Treatment For Mental Issues To Bring Peace In Family Amounts To Cruelty To Spouse: Kerala HC Upholds Divorce Decree
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While upholding a Divorce decree, the Kerala High Court recently observed that not taking treatment for mental issues in order to bring out a peaceful and harmonious family atmosphere, amounts to cruelty to the persons at the receiving end i.e., the Spouse.Since the couple in question hail from the Christian Community and the issue before the Court was related to as to what would...

While upholding a Divorce decree, the Kerala High Court recently observed that not taking treatment for mental issues in order to bring out a peaceful and harmonious family atmosphere, amounts to cruelty to the persons at the receiving end i.e., the Spouse.

Since the couple in question hail from the Christian Community and the issue before the Court was related to as to what would constitute mental cruelty, the Bench of Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Sophy Thomas remarked thus:

"Law cannot recognise different varieties of cruelty as Hindu cruelty, Muslim cruelty, Christian cruelty or secular cruelty to justify a decree for divorce...The concept of matrimonial cruelty to entitle a spouse for divorce can't be dissimilar and different for persons belonging to different religious faiths merely because of different words being used in the relevant personal law statutes governing divorce matters."

The case in brief

The appellant (Wife) and respondent (Husband), a Christian couple, got married as per the Christian rites and ceremonies in October 1988, and out of this wedlock, two girl children were born.

The husband (respondent herein), who is an Engineer cum Yoga Trainer filed an application before the Family Court, Ernakulam to dissolve their marriage under Section 10 of the Divorce Act, alleging cruelties, both mental and physical, and desertion, from the part of the wife, who is a Post Graduate.

The husband alleged that, from the very inception of marriage, the wife was showing behavioral disorders. She was intolerable even on minor domestic problems and she was abusive and assaultive in nature. She did not give proper attention to the children.

Further, he alleged that she often threatened the husband that she would slice his throat and even strangulated him during sleep. Whenever he did not accede to her demand for unnatural sex, she threatened to slice away his penis. She often threatened him with suicide, and once she jumped out of a running car.

Though she was taken to various psychologists and psychiatrists, she was not cooperating with the treatment. In July 2005, she returned to her paternal house, and thereafter, she never came back to live with her husband and children. 

Hearing both the parties, the Family Court granted a decree of divorce in favor of the Husband on the ground of cruelty and desertion.

Challenging the said judgment and decree, the wife filed an appeal before the High Court alleging that, by the impugned judgment, the husband was given an incentive for his own cruelty and desertion.

Court's order

At the outset, the Court noted that the respondent (Husband) had a case that the appellant (wife) was having some behavioral problems and she was taken to various psychologists and psychiatrists for treatment, however, the wife claimed that she had no mental problem but had only mental stress and strain, due to the matrimonial cruelties she was subjected to, by her husband and mother-in-law.

Further, the Court observed, that as per her own testimony, she was having some behavioral disorders which created troubles in her family life and she was not continuing her treatment, so as to lead a normal family life with her husband and children.

Agaisnt this backdrop, the Court noted thus:

"One may suffer mental stress or strain due to very many reasons. But, not taking treatment for the same in order to bring out a peaceful and harmonious family atmosphere, also may have to be counted as cruelty to the persons at the receiving end. The appellant has no case that, she had any difficulty to continue the treatment, but according to her, she had no psychiatric problem and so she discontinued the treatment. The doctor gave testimony to the effect that, the impulse control disorder, will definitely affect a normal family life. If proper treatment is given, it can be brought under control."

On the question as to what would constitute mental cruelty, the Court opined that there cannot be any comprehensive definition of the concept of 'mental cruelty' within which all kinds of cases of mental cruelty can be covered.

Further, since the couple in question hail from the Christian community and the primary question before the Court was about whether the wife had indeed inflicted mental cruelty upon the husband which would be sufficient to sustain the divorce decree, the Court observed thus:

"It would be absolutely safe to draw inspiration from Art.44 of the Constitution also to jump to the conclusion that nature of cruelty justifying a decree for divorce cannot be different under different personal laws. To our mind, it appears that matrimonial cruelty must have a uniform definition or conceptualisation to justify the founding of a decree for divorce"

Importantly, the Court also referred to Section 10 of the Indian Divorce Act, which is applicable to Christians and states that that cruelty must be such as to cause reasonable apprehension in the mind of the petitioner, the spouse that it would be harmful or injurious for the petitioner to live with the respondent.

In this regard, the Court said that the expression harmful or injurious cannot be limited to physical harm or injury and that anything that would hinder the ability of the spouse to blossom into his/ her fullness and to enjoy life in matrimony must be held to fall within the sweep of S.10(1)(x) of the Divorce Act.

"Cruelty which is not defined in S.13(1)(1a) of the Hindu Marriage Act and S.27(1) of the Special Marriage Act and cruelty which is explained in S.2(viii) of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act and S.10(1)(x) of the Divorce Act must all take inspiration from such understanding of matrimonial cruelty," the Court added as it concluded that the Husband had amply proved that his wife had treated him with such cruelty as to cause reasonable apprehension in his mind that it would be harmful or injurious to him to live with the appellant.

Therefore, the Court dismissed the wife's appeal as it came to the conclusion that the appellant was treating her husband with cruelty both physical and mental, and in the year 2005, she had deserted him.

"There is no merit in preserving intact a marriage, when the marital tie becomes injurious to the parties. When there is no rose, and only thorns left, and there is no scope for the plant to sprout again, there is no meaning in watering the same, knowing that it is dead for ever," the Court noted this while concluding.
Case title - MARY MARGRET v. JOS P THOMAS
Case citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 44

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