A man cannot snap matrimonial relations with his wife to compel her to leave home and then use that as ground for divorce, the Supreme Court has said.
In an observation that may have serious ramification in matrimonial disputes, the SC said if a man severs sexual relations with his wife and creates a situation that forces her to live separately, he cannot use desertion and cruelty as ground to obtain divorce. The court said that in such a situation, the period of separation will not be material for considering a divorce decree.
“You may be living separately for 30-40 years but if you have created such situations, like you stop cohabiting with her and snap all ties of marriage, we will set aside such decree of divorce too. No divorce can be granted in such a scenario,” observed the Bench led by Chief Justice R M Lodha.
The Bench, also comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and Rohinton Nariman, added, “You cannot say I don’t want to cohabit with her; never had the intention of cohabiting with her, thereby forcing her not to live with you and then plead before a court that she left you.”
“If one gets a divorce like this and has a second marriage, we can annul the second marriage, too,” it remarked.
The court’s observations came as it heard arguments by a 66-year-old man, who had objected to paying maintenance to his first wife and their two daughters. The first wife had moved the SC against the Punjab and Haryana High Court order granting divorce to the man on ground of desertion and cruelty. Married in 1973, the couple had stayed together for five years.
The man’s counsel contended the woman had deserted him and there was an “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” between the two.
The Bench, however, said “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” was not a valid ground for divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act.
Moreover, the court said the marriage was dissolved on ground of desertion but it was apparent the woman was compelled to live separately.
The Bench also censured the man for his resistance to pay maintenance to his two daughters since they had got married. “If you can get re-married at the age of 65 after your superannuation, we would like to believe your financial status is sound. So you must discharge your duties as a father too. They are after all your daughters,” it said.
The court granted four weeks to the man to decide whether he was willing to pay Rs five lakh each to his daughters, saying it will otherwise pass appropriate orders on its own.