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Long separation, bitter relationship can be treated as cruelty to dissolve marriage: Supreme Court [Read Judgment]

By LawStreet News Network      29 April, 2023 12:31 AM      0 Comments
Long separation, bitter relationship can be treated as cruelty to dissolve marriage: Supreme Court [Read Judgment]

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has said long separation, absence of cohabitation and bitter relationship can be treated as cruelty to dissolve marriage of a couple.

The top court said a marital relationship which has only become more bitter and acrimonious over the years, does nothing but inflicts cruelty on both the sides, as it dissolved marriage of a couple, who lived separately for 25 years.

A bench of Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and J B Pardiwala said irretrievable breakdown of marriage can be read as the ground of "cruelty" under Section 13 (1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act for the dissolution of marriage.

The court allowed appeal by a man against the Delhi High Court's 2011 judgement which reversed the family court's order granting him divorce.

The bench, however, directed him to pay Rs 30 lakh as permanent alimony to the wife.

It noted that the couple had lived together as husband and wife for barely four year and no child was born out of the wedlock.

"This embittered relationship between the appellant and the respondent which has not witnessed any moment of peace for the last 25 years is a marital relationship only on paper. The fact is that this relationship has broken down irretrievably long back," the bench said.  

The bench said irretrievable breakdown of a marriage may not be a ground for dissolution of marriage, under the Hindu Marriage Act, but continuation of this marriage would mean furthering cruelty, which is inflicted on each other.

"To keep the façade 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," the bench said.

The bench further 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; then 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 a dissolution of this marriage would affect only the two parties as there is no child out of the wedlock," the bench said.

It further pointed out there is absolutely no scope of reconciliation between the parties. There is in fact no bond between the two and as the Law Commission in its 71st report said about such a marriage, which is a marriage which has de facto broken down, and only needs a de jure recognition by the law. This was reiterated by the Law Commission in its 217th report, it added.

"Matrimonial cases before the Courts pose a different challenge, quite unlike any other, as we are dealing with human relationships with its bundle of emotions, with all its faults and frailties. It is not possible in every case to pin point to an act of “cruelty” or blameworthy conduct of the spouse. The nature of relationship, the general behaviour of the parties towards each other, or long separation between the two are relevant factors which a court must take into consideration," the bench said.


[Read Judgment] 

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