Putting an end to a 42-year-old marriage,the Bombay High Court last week held that mental cruelty cannot be determined by its recurrence but by the impact that it may have when meted out even once.
Upholding the family courts order of 2005,Justices Abhay Oka and Revati Mohite Dere granted divorce to a Mulund resident who had sought separation from his wife on grounds of cruelty and desertion.
The man had alleged that his wife had levelled baseless allegations of him having illicit relationship with his sister and sister-in-law. He had also said that under her influence the couples sons now aged 41 and 39 turned against him. They even drove him out of his house.
Ordinarily,mental cruelty,in our view,will not depend upon the numerical count of such incidents or only on the continuous course of such conduct,but would really go by the intensity,gravity and stigmatic impact it may have,when meted out even once and the deleterious effect of it on the mental attitude of a spouse, the judges wrote in their 36-page judgment.
Taking note of the two letters written by the woman to her husband in October and December 1994,the court said that the wife had accused him of having illicit relationship with his sister and sister-in-law. The language used in the letters was filthy. The court described the letters as extremely vulgar,abusive,obscene and derogatory.
The position of law is well settled that levelling disgusting accusations of extra-marital relationship amounts to grave assault on the character,honour,reputation,status as well as the health of a person. Such aspersions which are unsubstantiated constitute worst form of cruelty,sufficient by itself to constitute cruelty in law, the court observed.
The couple had a love marriage on March 15,1971. The husband alleged that his wife did not get along with his family and forced him to move out of his parents place. Despite his humble means,he was compelled to take a loan for buying a two-room-kitchen flat in Mulund.
However,his wife and sons made him feel unwelcome in his house. The wife had even taken away the house keys and asked him to call her every time before he came home. This compelled him to leave home in 1993,the man claimed.
We are firmly of the opinion that the said allegations and language used therein,would constitute mental cruelty which is of such a nature that the respondent husband cannot reasonably be expected to live with the appellant wife thereafter, the judges said.