Court:Madhya Pradesh High Court
Bench: JUSTICE V Agrawal
Smt. Bhagwanti vs Laxmandas Panjwani on 9 February, 1999
Equivalent citations: AIR 2000 MP 190, II (1999) DMC 40, 2000 (2) MPHT 491
Beating Husband and His Family Members Amounts to Cruelty, Divorce Granted
1. This appeal by the defendant/wife is directed against the judgment dated 30th January, 1996 in Civil Suit No. 38-A/1993 by III Additional District Judge. Raipur, whereby the application of the plaintiff/husband under Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Act’ for short) has been “allowed and a decree of divorce between the parties has been granted.
2. Undisputably, both the parties are Hindus. Their marriage was solemnised on 5-7-1987 at Naharpara, Raipur, according to the Hindu rites and customs. A daughter was born out of the said wedlock on 20-12-1991. The parties thereafter resided together in different localities at Raipur.
3. The case of the respondent/husband was that initially after the marriage, he was residing with the defendant/wife at Naharpara, Raipur. His wife started misbe-having and ill-treating him after 8-10 months of marriage. She used abusive language against the respondent husband and his family members. In the month of August, 1988, the defendant/wife refused to cook. When the husband/respondent questioned her, he was slapped by the wife. The husband/plaintiff complained to the parents of the defendant/wife about the misconduct as above of his wife, but the parents of the wife encouraged the defendant/wife. The defendant was adamant and told her husband, the plaintiff, that her mother also beats her father and that she is not competent to advise the defendant. Situation continued to worsen. The defendant/wife would hurl abuses at the plaintiff/husband and would also assault him, resulting in great humiliation and torture to the plaintiff/husband. The plaintiff/husband tried to pacify his wife, the defendant through some common friends and well-wishers. However, he did not meet with success. The husband/plaintiff was ridiculed by the persons of his locality and remarks were passed against him regarding the ill-treatment meted out to him by his wife, the appellant/defendant. He was forced to shift to Katore-Talab, another locality at Raipur. However, his wife, the defendant continued to abuse and beat him at Katora-Talab, Raipur also. In the month of February, 1992, the defendant/wife beat the plaintiff/husband and when the plaintiff/husband thought of complaining the matter to the police, his wife threatened that she would throw their daughter and kill her and would falsely involve her husband, the plaintiff for killing the baby. The wife repeated her misbehaviour as above in the month of June, 1992.
4. The plaintiff/husband had once lodged the report of the misbehaviour as above of his wife at P.S. Civil Lines, Raipur, but instead of taking proper action against the wife, police registered a case against the petitioner/husband Under Sections 107 & 116 of the Cr.P.C., in which the husband/plaintiff was required to execute bond before the Magis-
trate. The plaintiff/husband also “averred that his wife used to give household articles to her relatives without informing and seeking his permission. On account of quarrels and misbehaviour of the wife, the husband/ plaintiff was required to live separately from his family members and in December, 1992. he shifted to a rented accommodation at Lodhipara, Raipur and started residing there. He also opened a small Kirana Shop there in the hope that living separately with his wife would bring peace in the household. However, this hope was also shattered as his wife continued to misbehave, abuse and assault the husband at Lodhipara, Raipur also.
5. the plaintiff/husband averred that the constant harassment and misbehaviour as above by his wife amounted to cruelty. He, therefore, sought a decree of divorce Under Section 13(1)(i-a) of the ‘Act’.
6. The defendant/wife denied the above allegations. According to her, the plaintiff and his family members used to pass remarks against the defendant/wife every now and then, and were asking her to bring more dowry. It has been denied that she was misbehaving or assaulting her husband. She averred that the plaintiff staged living separately from his family members, because he himself wished to do so. She averrd that she comes from a poor family and, therefore, since she was not given, sufficient dowry, as desired by her husband and his family members, they wanted to get rid of her. The defendant/wife denied that she treated her husband/plaintiff with cruelty and, therefore, prayed that the petition for divorce be dismissed.
7. The learned trial Court framed issues and considered whether the plaintiff/husband was treated with cruelty by the defendant/wife. The issue was found in favour of the husband/plaintiff. It was also found that the averment of the defendant/wife that she was being harassed and was being asked to bring dowry has not been proved by her. Accordingly, the decree of divorce on the ground of cruelty was granted fn favour of the plaintiff/husband.
8. The learned counsel for the appellant has urged that the husband/respondent was obliged to prove cruelty meted out by his wife. It has been submitted that the allegations of cruelty as pleaded by the plaintiff/ husband have not been specifically proved. Evidence in this regard is general and vague.
It has also been urged that the plaintiff/ husband himself had admitted that he had condoned the cruelty meted out to him by the defendant/wife. Relying upon Dr. N. G. Dastane v. Mrs. S. Dastane, AIR 1975 SC 1534, it is urged that cruelty, if any. of the defendant/wife stood condoned and no evidence has been led that there was any subsequent continuance orrevival of cruelty by the defendant/wife. Therefore, the decree for divorce under Section 13(1)(i-a) of the ‘Act’ could not have been justifiably granted.
9. As against this, the learned counsel for the respondent has urged that the cruelty, as specifically pleaded by the plaintiff/ husband, has not been specifically denied by the defendant/wife. Therefore, it would be deemed that she had admitted the averments regarding cruelty. It has further been submitted that there was no condonation of cruelty, inasmuch as, the wife persisted with her abuses, assault and misbehaviour with her husband. It has further been submitted that it is impossible for the plaintiff/ husband to live with his wife in the situation created by her. The marriage between the parties has irretrievably broken. Therefore, the decree for divorce was rightly granted by the trial Court.
10. The first question that arises for consideration is as to whether evidence on record discloses cruelty on the part of the defendant/wife with her husband?
11. ‘Cruelty’ has not been defined in the Hindu Marriage Act. There can possibly not be any straight-Jacket formula in which the definition of cruelty could be fitted in. What conduct would amount to cruelty is a matter of fact and is to be decided on various considerations of each particular case. In Shobha Rani v. Madhukar Reddi, AIR 1988 SC 121, it has been observed in the above context as below at page 123 :–
“Section 13(1)(i-a) uses the words “treated the petitioner with cruelty”. The words “cruelty” has not been defined. Indeed it could not have been defined. It has been used in relation to human conduct or human behaviour. It is the conduct in relation to or in respect of matrimonial duties and obligations. It is a course of conduct of one which is adversely affecting the other. The cruelty may be mental or physical, intentional or unintentional. If it is physical the Court will have no problem to determine it. It is a question of fact and degree. If it is mental the problem presents difficulty. First, the enquiry must begin as to the nature of the cruel treatment. Second, the impact of such treatment in the mind of the spouse. Whether it caused reasonable apprehension that it would be harmful or injurious to live with the other. Ultimately, it is a matter of inference to be drawn by taking into account the nature of the conduct and its effect on the complaining spouse. There may however, be cases where the conduct complained of itself is bad enough and per se unlawful or illegal. Then the impact or the injurious effect on the other spouse need not be enquired into or considered. In such cases, the cruelty will be established if the conduct itself is proved or admitted.”
12. In the instant case, the husband, plaintiff Laxmandas (P.W. 1) has described the various acts and misdemeanour of his wife, the appellant. From his statement, it would appear that after the marriage, the appellant/wife came to reside with him and his family members at Nahar Para, Raipur. After about 4 to 6 months of marriage, she started quarrelling and using abusive language in the presence of others also. She would not work and refuse even to give a glass of water, if it was asked for by her husband, the plaintiff Laxmandas. When Laxmandas complained of the said conduct to the parents of his wife, the appellant/wife told him that her parents cannot do anything in the matter and that her mother used to similarly misbehave and abuse and assault her father. The plaintlff/Laxmandas (P.W. 1) has also stated that the appellant/ wife would threaten him that she would falsely involve him by lodging a report with the police. She, in fact, lodged a report with the police, due to which the plaintiff/husband had to remain at the Police Station for the whole day and was released on bail. When the defendant/wife was pregnant, she would threaten that she would lodge a false complaint that her husband, the plaintiff, had kicked her. She thereafter gave birth to a daughter.
13. The plaintiff Laxmandas (P.W.1) has further stated that the appellant/wife continued in her obnoxious activities even thereafter. She would abuse and assault him and thereafter her mother took his wife with her. After her return also, she continued to misbehave and would not serve food to the plaintiff/husband. In view of the above con-
duct of the appellant/wife, the defendant/ husband was asked by other family members to live separately. He therefore, started residing with his wife, the appellant at Lodhi Para, Raipur. The appellant, however, continued to misbehave with the husband. She would also hand-over household articles to her relatives. She would beat the husband with broom and stick. The husband was used to face taunting remarks relating to such misbehaviour by his wife. She also used to misbehave with the landlord, due to which the latter asked them to vacate. Thereafter, the plaintiff/husband started residing at a different place. He has also stated that he was fed up with the misbehaviour as above of the wife and even thought of ending his life.
14. The above statement of the plaintiff Laxmandas (P.W. 1) is amply corroborated by the statement of Dinesh Kesharwani (P.W. 2), who has stated that the appellant/wife. always used to behave in an obnoxious manner and would assault her husband. The plaintiff/husband used to be taunted by other persons of the locality. Manoj Ahuja (P.W. 3) is a neighbour of the parties. He has also stated that the appellant/wife used to quarrel with her husband. Lalji Sahu (P.W. 4) is the landlord of the plaintiff/husband and he has also corroborated the statement of the plaintiff and has submitted that the appellant/wife used to quarrel, beat and misbehave with her husband.
15. There is no reason for the above witnesses who seem to be independent ones to make a false statement. The appellant/wife, besides examining herself, has examined Bharatlal Sachdev (D.W.2) and her mother Champa Bai (D.W.3). Bharatlal Sachdev (D.W.2) has stated that the appellant/wife had told him that her husband used to misbehave with her and used to demand dowry. She also complained that he used to drink liquor. The appellant Bhagwanti Bai (D.W. 1) also states that her husband used to quarrel with her. However, she has admitted that she belongs to a poor family and the financial status of her matrimonial relatives is much better. Bhagwanti Bai (D.W. 1) in this connection has given an absolutely vague statement. She has stated that her husband used to ask for Rs. 25,000/-. Rs. 50,000/- to be brought in dowry. However, there is no pleading to the above effect by the appellant/wife. Her mother has also admit-
led that they are very poor persons and are not in a position to pay dowry. She earns her livelihood by labouring as a domestic servant. In the circumstances, it is rather improbable that the husband would ask his wife to bring Rs. 50,000/-, as there was no possibility of any such demand being met by his wile or her mother. The appellant/wife has also not specifically pleaded the particulars of the alleged demand. The evidence led by her including her own. statement in this regard has been duly considered and found to be unreliable by the learned lower Court. The findings in that regard appear to be proper and call for no interference.
16. It is therefore, clear that the appellant/wife used to behave in a most objectionable manner with her husband. She would use filthy language with him and his family members abuse them and would also beat him and would refuse to do even the normal household chores. The parties had lodged reports with the police due to which the respondent/husband was arrested and had to furnish bail and was then released. It also appears that the husband, on account of constant harassment, had to change his place of residence, from time to time. He was so much harassed that even he was forced to think of even — committing suicide.
17. All the above circumstances, unmistakably point out that the appellant/wife had treated the plaintiff/husband with cruelty.
18. In the above context, learned counsel for the appellant/wife has submitted that the husband/plaintiff had himself admitted that he had condoned the behaviour of his wife, as would be clear from his own admission in para 13 of his statement, wherein he has stated that till 3-4 months prior to the filing of the petition, he had condoned the cruel behaviour of his wife. It has further been urged in the above context that there is no evidence that thereafter the appellant/ wife again misbehaved or treated the plaintiff/husband with cruelty. However, the statement of plaintiff/husband Laxmandas shows that even thereafter his wife continued to misbehave with him. He states in para 14 in the above context that in March, 1992 he had complained about the above behaviour of his wife to her maternal uncle Bharatlal. He thereafter also complained for the last time to Bharatlal in March, 1993 and then filed the present suit. He states that com-
plaint made by him to Bharatlal was of no avail, as even thereafter his wife continued to misbehave with him and even assaulted him in the presence of others. The mother of his wife would not ask his daughter to behave properly. On the contrary, the father-in-law of the plaintiff/husband used to encourage his daughter to continue to misbehave. The plaintiff/husband complained to other relatives of his wife, but without any result. In the above circumstances, it is clear that even during the period prior to 3-4 months of filing of the suit, the misbehaviour of the wife continued unabated. Therefore, the statement of the plaintiff/husband that he condoned the misbehaviour of his wife till about 3-4 months prior to the filing of the suit would not amount to condonation of the cruelty complained of.
19. It may be noticed that Section 23(1)(b) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 relating to condonation of cruelty, reads as below :–
“23. Decree in proceedings.– (1) In any proceeding under this Act, whether defended or not, if the Court is satisfied that-
(b) where the ground of the petition is the ground specified in Clause (i) of Sub-section (1) of Section 13, the petitioner has not in any manner been accessory to or connived at or condoned the act or acts complained of, or where the ground of the petition is cruelty the petitioner has not in any manner condoned the cruelty.”
Mulla, in ‘Principles of Hindu Law’ Sixteenth Edition, 1990 at page 718, has discussed the principles of condonation as below :–
“Condonation, however, is not a contract, or a contingent contract. It is the overlooking of past wrongs accompanied by action on the part of the aggrieved spouse which shows that they are really forgiven, and the circumstance that the guilty party, before or at the time of condonation, makes promises as to future conduct cannot lead to the consequence that previous offences are no longer condoned, if and when the promises are afterwards repudiated.
The result might be different if it could be shown that the husband’s forgiveness and taking back of his wife was procured by the wife’s deliberately misrepresenting her true state of mind.”
Further deliberating on the subject, Mulla has quoted observation in Henderson v.
Henderson, ((1944) 1 All ER 44) as under :–“Reinstatement of the guilty spouse which postulates an intention to forgive and remit the wrong being conditional, the necessary legal implication is that if any matrimonial offence is afterwards committed the condonation ceases to have effect, or, as it is sometimes said, is cancelled and the offence condoned and all its consequences are for all purposes revived. The condition involved in reinstatement is not that the same matrimonial offence will not be committed in future but, as already pointed out, that the condoned spouse will in future fulfil in all respects the obligations of marriage.”
20. In Destane’s case (supra) it has been observed by the Apex Court that, in view of the provisions of Section 23(1)(b) of the Act, it is the duty of the Court to find out whether the cruelty was condoned by the appellant and the relief prayed for can be decreed only if the Court is satisfied, but not otherwise, that the petitioner has not in any manner condoned the cruelty. It has further been observed that there could be evidence on record of the case to show that the appellant had condoned the cruelty. Further discussing the matter of condonation, it has been observed that condonation means forgiveness of the matrimonial offence and the restoration of the offending spouse to the same position as he or she occupies before the offence was committed. It was held that the evidence showing that the spouses led normal sexual life even after series of acts of cruelty by one spouse, proved that the other spouse condoned that cruelty.
21. However, in the instant case, it is clear that the wife, despite tolerance and overtures of forgiveness and forbearance on the part of the plaintiff/husband continued to misbehave and torture him. Her activities and callousness in fact, increased. It is, therefore, clear that there was revival of misbehaviour and cruelty on the part of the appellant/wife, as has been stated by the plaintiff/husband and other witnesses examined by him. Therefore, the cruelty and earlier misbehaviour not only continued, and would get revived on account of such continuance. The plaintiff/husband continued to suffer due to the conduct as above of his wife and ultimately was led to file the petition. In the circumstances, the statement of the husband that he had condoned the cruelty or misbehaviour of his wife till about 3-4 months prior to the filing of the petition, would not be a ground for denying him a decree for divorce, in the above circumstances of the case, as has been urged by the learned counsel for the appellant.
22. It would thus appear from the material and evidence on record that it is not conducive for the parties to live together as husband and wife. Their marriage has irretrievably broken. In view of the above, the decree of divorce granted by the learned lower Court after detailed appreciation of evidence and the circumstances of the case appears to be fully justified and does not call for any interference.
23. Therefore, this appeal has no merit and is dismissed. The parties shall, however, bear their own costs.