Retaliation by tortured wife cannot be ground for divorce: HC

Giving relief to a married woman who was threatened with divorce by her husband, the Gujarat High Court ruled that retaliation by wife to acts of harassment does not amount to cruelty and the husband cannot be granted divorce on this ground.

The bench of acting Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice JB Pardiwala gave this verdict recently in the case of a city-based couple who are in their late 60s. However, the husband wants to divorce his wife after 30 years of marriage.

The bench ruled that even if it is believed that the woman had committed stray acts of cruelty in retaliation to harassment, this by itself does not constitute an act of cruelty so grave as to allow the husband to divorce his wife.

“Even assuming for the moment that at times the respondent wife, in the heat of exasperation, may also have retaliated…this by itself is no ground to grant relief of divorce,” the bench said.

If the woman feels helpless and is absolutely exhausted by daily trouble in the house, then at times, being a woman, she may retaliate. “However, this by itself will not constitute an act of cruelty so grave as to entitle the husband to the relief of divorce,” the Justices said.

The bench further said that cruelty may be accepted where the complaining spouse is able to establish that he was being treated with cruelty, physical, mental, social or otherwise.

“But the acts [of cruelty]…must be more serious than ordinary wear and tear of marriage and should fall in the category of conscious acts cruel in nature, as that is the underlying requirement of the provision,” the court said.

Similarly, mere neglect, want of affection, or expression of hatred will not amount to cruelty. Further, the idiosyncrasies of wife cannot amount to cruelty even though they make the husband unhappy, the justices said.

“There may be occasions where the conduct of wife may lead to unpleasantness but such unpleasantness alone will not amount to cruelty and this may reasonably fall within the ambit of ordinary wear and tear of matrimonial life which is not sufficient to establish cruelty as envisaged under the Act,” the court ruled.

According to the case details, Mahendra and Mamata were married in 1979 and had a baby boy after one year of marriage. However, the man filed a petition for divorce in the family court within three years of marriage but his petition was not accepted.

Mahendra had alleged mainly that his wife had assaulted him several times. He had further stated that his wife had walked out of the house on several occasions without a genuine reason and had returned very late in the night, and was in the habit of hurling utensils and tearing clothes.