Bitter, acrimonious marital relationship inflicts cruelty, ground to dissolve marriage: SC

New Delhi, April 27 (IANS) The Supreme Court has said that to keep the facade of a broken marriage alive would be doing injustice to both the parties, and a marriage which has broken down irretrievably, in court’s opinion, spells cruelty to both the parties, as it dissolved the marriage of a couple living separately for 25 years.
A bench comprising Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and J.B. Pardiwala said, “A marital relationship which has only become more bitter and acrimonious over the years, does nothing but inflicts cruelty on both the sides. To keep the facade of this broken marriage alive would be doing injustice to both the parties.
“A marriage which has broken down irretrievably, in our opinion, spells cruelty to both the parties, as in such a relationship, each party is treating the other with cruelty. It is therefore a ground for dissolution of marriage under Section 13 (1) (ia) of the Act (Hindu Marriage Act).”
The bench observed that irretrievable breakdown of a marriage may not be a ground for dissolution of marriage, under the Hindu Marriage Act, but cruelty is. It said a marriage can be dissolved by a decree of divorce, inter alia, on the ground when the other party “has, after the solemnization of the marriage, treated the petitioner with cruelty”.
The top court allowed a plea by a man against a 2011 Delhi High Court judgment, which reversed a family court’s order granting him divorce. However, the top court ordered the man to pay Rs 30 lakh as permanent alimony to the wife.
Taking into consideration the facts of the case, the bench said it is convinced that continuation of this marriage would mean continuation of cruelty, which each now inflicts on the other. It noted that the couple had lived together as husband and wife for barely four years, and no child was born out of the wedlock.
The bench said, “We have a married couple before us who have barely stayed together as a couple for four years and who have now been living separately for the last 25 years. The matrimonial bond is completely broken and is beyond repair. We have no doubt that this relationship must end as its continuation is causing cruelty on both the sides.”
The bench said the long separation and absence of cohabitation and the complete breakdown of all meaningful bonds and the existing bitterness between the two has to be read as cruelty under Section 13(1) (ia) of the 1955 Act.
“We therefore hold that in a given case, such as the one at hand, where the marital relationship has broken down irretrievably, where there is a long separation and absence of cohabitation (as in the present case for the last 25 years), with multiple court cases between the parties… Continuation of such a ‘marriage’ would only mean giving sanction to cruelty which each is inflicting on the other. We are also conscious of the fact that dissolution of this marriage would affect only the two parties as there is no child out of the wedlock,” the bench said.
It added, “Under these circumstances, we uphold the order of the trial court, though for different grounds given by us in our order, and set aside the order of the high court and grant a decree of divorce to the appellant/husband. Their marriage shall stand dissolved.”

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