While allowing the matrimonial appeal preferred by a husband against the order of a Family Court dismissing his application for divorce, the Gauhati High Court has held inter alia, that refusal to wear 'sakha and sindoor' are indicative of the wife's refusal to accept her marriage.
The bench of Chief Justice Ajai Lamba and Justice Soumitra Saikia observed that under the custom of Hindu Marriage, a lady who has entered into marriage according to Hindu rituals and customs, her refusal to wear 'sakha and sindoor' will project her to be unmarried and/or signify her refusal to accept the marriage.
"Under the custom of Hindu Marriage, a lady who has entered into marriage according to Hindu rituals and customs, and which has not been denied by the respondent in her evidence, her refusal to wear 'sakha and sindoor' will project her to be unmarried and/or signify her refusal to accept the marriage with the appellant", the bench observed.
In the present case, the bench observed, the Respondent-wife had categorically stated during her cross-examination, "I am not wearing/putting sindoor right now because I don't consider him as my husband."
Under these circumstances the bench observed that the Family Court had "erred in evaluating the evidence in the proper perspective". It observed,
"Such categorical stand of the respondent points to the clear intention of the respondent that she is unwilling to continue her conjugal life with the appellant. Under such circumstances compelling the appellant husband to continue to be in matrimony with the respondent wife may be construed to be harassment inflicted by the respondent upon the appellant and his family members."
Refusal to live with in-laws amounts to cruelty
Inter alia the bench observed that the Respondent-wife had refused to reside with her in-laws. She had in fact entered into an agreement whereby the appellant husband was required to provide "separate accommodation" to her in a rented house, away from the matrimonial house.
Such act of forcing a son (the appellant) to live away from his family, the court said, may be construed as an act of cruelty on part of the Respondent-wife.
The bench observed that children are mandatorily required to maintain their parents under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.
Under the circumstances, the bench said,
"the Family Court completely ignored this fact brought out during the evidence that the respondent compelled and prevented the appellant from performing his statutory duties towards his aged mother under the provisions of the 2007 Act. Such evidence is sufficient to be construed as an act of cruelty as the non-compliance/non-adherence to the provisions of the 2007 Act has criminal consequences leading to punishment or imprisonment as well as fine."
Filing of unsubstantiated criminal case amounts to cruelty
The High Court reiterated that the act of lodging criminal cases on unsubstantiated allegations against the husband and/or the husband's family members amounts to cruelty.
In the present case, the Respondent-wife had filed three criminal complaints against the appellant and his family, one of which had been dismissed.
Thus relying on the Supreme Court's verdict in Rani Narasimha Sastri v. Rani Suneela Rani, 2019 SCC Online SC 1595, the bench observed,
"filing of criminal cases like case under Sections 498(A) IPC etc. against the husband and the family members and which are subsequently dismissed/rejected by the Family Court, is sufficient to be construed as an act of cruelty by the wife…. it is evident that there will be no purpose served to keep the marriage alive as there was no matrimonial harmony between the parties to be reached."
Accordingly, the appeal was allowed and a decree of divorce was passed.