Ankita Sharma, Student of Law, JGLS
A recent judgment of the Delhi Court dealt with the divorce petition being filed by a woman against her husband for the reasons of cruelty and desertion. Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1954 lists down the grounds for divorce. Courts across India have always been a witness for divorce petitions for various reasons of non-settlement over family issues, physical and mental trauma suffered between the two parties.
Whereas, in the case recently decided by the Additional District Judge of the Delhi Court, the Petitioner (wife) was denied divorce, as she wanted to show her relationship status as ‘single’ on her passport. TheCourtexamining the matter noted that the petition lacked any details of a marital discord between the couple. The petitioner had even failed to file a missing report for her husband. The Court hearing this matter rejected the case, terming the petition to be not maintainable on the face of it and termed it as a “peculiar” matter dismissed the plea.
The Indian Courts through many judgments in the past have defined of what constitutes as ‘cruelty’ and ‘desertion’ in a marriage. The Courts defined ‘cruelty’ to be decided on a number of factors – the social cultural background of the parties, their mental and physical conditions, quality and length of the marriage. The Courts refrained from giving it a narrow understanding considering the varied case by case situations. The Apex Court in the case for Naveen Kohli v/s NeeluKohli ((AIR (2006) SC 1675))elaborated on the definition and what constitutes ‘cruelty’- the conduct complained of should be “grave and weighty” so as to come to the conclusion that the petitioner spouse cannot be reasonably expected to live with the other spouse. It must be something more serious than “ordinary wear and tear of married life”. The Court further expressed that, the mere trivial irritations, quarrels between the couple in the married life, cannot be a ground for divorce.
Whereas, couples seeking divorce on the ground of ‘discretion’, the Apex Court in the case of Bipinchandra Jai Singhbai Shah v/s Prabhavati ((AIR (1957) SC 176.))lucidly defined and explained the concept of desertion. The two essential conditions to exist for desertion namely, are – i) the factum of desertion and; ii) The intention to bring cohabitation permanently to end (animus deserendi). Similarly, two essentials required to be considered for a deserted spouse are: – i) the absence of consent; and ii) absence of conduct giving reasonable cause for the spouse leaving the matrimonial home.
Looking at the interpretation of the Courts of these two grounds for divorce and the facts of the present case, it indeed was a ‘peculiar’ matter being filed by the wife to seek a ‘single’ status on her passport.