While setting aside a decree of judicial separation passed by the Family Court, Dehradun, the Uttarakhand High Court on Wednesday reiterated that allegations of infidelity, consistently leveled by a spouse, amount to cruelty.
This position was earlier settled by the Supreme Court in Ravinder Kaur v. Manjeet Singh (Dead), 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1069, wherein it was held that bald allegations of illegitimate relationship made by a husband against the wife amounts to mental cruelty.
Noting that the husband in the case had been leveling the allegations of infidelity against his wife since 2006, the bench of Justice Alok Singh and Justice Ravindra Maithani said,
"It is the husband who first leveled such allegations against his wife. Allegations of infidelity were leveled firstly by the husband against the wife. It amounts to cruelty. It is not the respondent wife who initiated this game. It is the appellant husband who started it. The cruelty was initially committed by the appellant. It is not the respondent wife who may be blamed on this account, instead it is the appellant who has committed the cruelty upon the respondent wife by leveling unsubstantiated allegations of infidelity, repeatedly."
The observations were made by the court while jointly adjudicating upon the appeals filed by both the husband, Vineet Kumar Jain and the wife, Archana Garg against the order passed by the court of Principal Judge, Family Court, Dehradun, whereby:
Notably, the husband had on two previous occasions filed for divorce against the wife but both the cases came to be withdrawn on account of amicable settlements.
In his pleadings before the Family Court, the husband claimed that despite the aforesaid settlements, the wife restored her cruel attitude towards him and thus the cruelty which was condoned by these settlements, revived. Thus he contended that a decree of divorce ought to have been passed under section 13 of the Act.
The wife on the other hand sought that the decree of judicial separation be set aside. She submitted that the husband used to stay away from the house without informing her, for spending money on drinks and other wrong deeds. He also ill-treated her and the children but despite such actions, she wanted to stay together and save the family.
She further contested the husband's appeal, stating that since after the decree of judicial separation, the husband did not make any effort for cohabitation, therefore, decree of divorce could not be granted. Moreover, since the husband had not challenged the order for custody of their child, therefore, the appeal was not maintainable.
Taking note of the above submissions, the court noted that after amicable settlement of the two previous divorce cases, the wife had not done any acts which could be called cruel. Stating that the trivial incidents cited by the husband merely denoted "family struggles", the court explained that they were not fit grounds for seeking divorce. Moreover, it was essential that their minor son, who was an autistic child, receive the attention and care of both his parents.
However, the court went on to take note of the baseless infidelity arguments that were raised by the husband against his wife, starting from 2006, when the first suit for divorce was filed, up until the present proceedings. Appreciating the submissions made by the major daughter of the couple, the court found her to be a reliable witness to the ill-treatments that her mother had faced at the hands of her father.
In this regard, the court said,
"once acts are condoned, it does not wipe out the entire past. What it does is, it hibernates or puts the consequences of the earlier act in abeyance, which may definitely be revived if after condonation, such acts are repeated in the same degree or in any aggravated nature."
Thus it held that the false allegations of infidelity leveled against the wife, which amounted to cruelty, had revived. It was further stated that since the game of making such allegations was started by the husband himself, he could not accuse the wife of committing cruelty when she leveled similar allegations.
"It is also true that the respondent has also leveled such allegations of infidelity against her husband and categorically stated that she was told about it by some persons. She has not proved it but the respondent was second to level such allegations. It is the husband who first leveled such allegations against his wife. Allegations of infidelity were leveled firstly by the husband against the wife. It amounts to cruelty. It is not the respondent wife who initiated this game. It is the appellant husband who started it," the bench said.
Lastly expressing hope that the "estranged relationship" of the parties will find happiness again, the court set-aside the decree for judicial separation and dismissed the appeal filed by the husband. The court said,
"daughter of the parties… is a bridge, in fact, between the appellant and - 24 - respondent. Who knows tomorrow, she would be able to make the family happy again.
First Appeal No.122 of 2013 filed by Smt. Archana Garg is allowed. The impugned judgment and decree dated 06.08.2013 passed in petition no.238 of 2008 filed by Vineet Kumar Jain is set aside. The petition filed by Vineet Kumar Jain under Section 10 or 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is dismissed."
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