A man cannot escape his responsibility to his son and wife by simply filing for divorce to serve his parents: High Court of Madhya Pradesh

The High Court of Madhya Pradesh, Indore Bench, recently rejected the Appellant/Husband’s preferred appeal for the grant of divorce, holding that being a husband and a father, he could not shirk his responsibility by simply asking divorce on the grounds that he wanted to serve his mother and father for the rest of his life or that he and his wife did not live together for many years.

Elucidating the concept of marriage according to Hindu laws, the bench of division of Justice Vivek Russia and Justice AN Kesharwani observed-

According to Hindu law, marriage is a sacred bond and the last of the ten sacraments which can never be broken. Also, it is a relationship that is established from birth to birth. Also, it is not only considered sacred, but it is also a holy union. The main purpose of marriage is to enable a woman and a man to perform their religious duties. Along with this, they must also father offspring. Based on ancient writings, a wife is considered half of her husband and thus completes him. While a man is also considered incomplete without a woman.

The facts of the case were that the appellant/husband filed for divorce in Family Court U/S 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act. After reviewing the documents on file, the trial court concluded that the marital dispute between the appellant/husband and the respondent/wife was petty in nature, which did not amount to cruelty on the part of the wife and therefore the husband had no right to the dissolution of the marriage. Injured by the said order, the husband preferred to appeal to the Court.

The appellant/husband argued that he and the respondent/wife had been living apart for almost 10 years and that there had been no cohabitation during that time. He argued that he previously filed for divorce twice and then withdrew them both as he reached a compromise with his wife, but even after that she did not change his behavior towards his parents. Therefore, he claimed, there was no possibility or hope of them living together for the rest of their lives.

He also drew the Court’s attention to the fact that he was the victim of mental cruelty due to the behavior of the respondent/wife. He argued that she had attempted to wrongfully implicate him for a U/S 498-A IPC punishable offense, in which he was acquitted. As a result, he prayed for the right to a divorce decree.

It was further argued that whenever the respondent lived in the marital home, she used to pressure her to live with him separately from her parents.

On the contrary, the respondent/wife argued that since her husband had applied to the family court for a divorce judgment, he therefore had the burden of proving the allegations against her under Article 13(1 ) of the Hindu Marriage Act. She argued that the appellant/husband had failed to establish physical or mental cruelty by presenting compelling evidence and therefore the lower court had rightly dismissed the divorce decree.

The respondent/wife added that she and her husband had reached old age and needed companionship for the rest of their lives. With respect to their 22 year old son, she asserted that the appellant/husband had a responsibility to him. She maintained that she had taken care of their son on her own and that a divorce, at some stage, would cast a shadow over her future. She concluded that a mere long period of separation cannot be the only ground for divorce when there was hope of reuniting.

Considering the submissions of the parties and the documents in the file, the Court concurred with the submissions of the respondent/wife, finding that the disputes between the couple were not of a serious nature and that they could not amount to mental cruelty on the part of the wife towards the husband. The Court added that such disputes were “perfectly normal” in “all matrimonial homes in this country”.

Going through the letters exchanged between husband and wife over a period of time, the Court observed-

She seems like a sensible woman, so an incident that happened 10-12 years ago, which is normal between husband and wife, cannot be grounds for divorce. Their son has reached the age of 22. The appellant/husband being husband and father cannot escape responsibility to his son by simply filing for divorce on the grounds that he wants to serve his mother and father to keep him alive. His son must have the same feeling of serving his father. The appellant has a responsibility to his son and his wife as well, he cannot leave them alone at this stage of life.

The Court therefore noted that the appellant/husband had not argued for the granting of a divorce decree-

We are of the affirmative opinion that the appellant failed to establish his case to obtain the judgment of divorce. The judgment of divorce cannot be granted on the sole ground that husband and wife have been living apart for so many years. The appellant has failed to establish the allegation in the motion by producing evidence.

With the above observations, the Court declined to interfere with the Family Court order and the same was upheld. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.

Case Title: Parag Pandit V Smt. Sadhana

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