Court:Punjab-Haryana High Court
Bench: JUSTICE J L Gupta, N Khichi
Harpal Sharma vs Smt. Tripta Rani on 27 January, 1999
False allegation that husband’s plea for her treatment was a tactic to get rid of her. No cogent/reliable evidence. Amounts to mental cruelty.
1. The husband’s petition for a decree of divorce having been rejected by the trial Court and the learned single Judge, he has filed the present Letters Patent Appeal. A few facts may be noticed.
2. The parties are Hindus. They were married on April 30, 1974. They had no issue. In July 1986, a six month old male child was adopted by mutual consent. Still, the relations between the parties did not improve. On June 8, 1988, the husband filed a petition under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. It was inter alia alleged that soon after marriage, the respondent had started treating him with “mental as well as physical cruelty.” She was got medically examined at PGI, Chandigarh. She was advised surgery. She refused to get herself treated. She alleged that the petitioner-appellant wanted her to be “liquidated in collusion with doctors.” She suffered from tuberculosis. She was got treated even for that. When a child was adopted in July 1986 with the consent of the respondent, she started even “treating the child with cruelty. For her it was a routine matter to beat the child whenever he wept or made the bed wet.” Ultimately, the appellant had to start feeding the child with a bottle and to wash his clothes himself. The life became miserable. The respondent treated the child as a nuisance and prayed for his death.
3. The relations between the parties got further strained. They even stopped talking to each other and started preparing their meals separately. So much so, even the child had to be left at the Creche when the appellant went to the University where he was working as a clerk. Even the appellant’s old mother had to start living separately in a rented accommodation. The respondent even accused the appellant of “developing bad relations” with any lady in the neighbourhood when he happened to talk to her. As a result, he had to even stop visiting his friends. The two stayed together upto May 1988 but as strangers. Tt was difficult for the appellant to leave the house as the respondent used to beat the child in his absence. Whenever he went out with the child, she used to bolt the house from inside. If the appellant tried to read or write something, she would switch off the light. Driven by these circumstances, the appellant approached the Court for dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce.
4. The respondent filed a reply. She raised three preliminary objections, alleging that the appellant wants to solemnise a second marriage; that the allegations in the petition are vague and that he is estopped by his own act and conduct from claiming a decree for divorce. On merits, the respondent alleged that she was medically fit and was not “bound to undergo operation and refusal does not tantamount (to) cruelty”. She alleged that “it was a tactic of the petitioner to get rid of her through such treatment…….”
5. On the pleadings of the parties, the learned trial Court framed the following issues :–
1. Whether after solemnisation of the marriage, the respondent has treated the petitioner with cruelty ?
6. Finding against the appellant on Issue No. 1, the trial Court dismissed the petition. This view has been affirmed by the learned single Judge. Hence this appeal.
7. Mr. Doabia, counsel for the appellant has contended that the judgment and decree passed by the two Courts are vitiated as the pleadings and the evidence on record have not been correctly appreciated. On behalf of the respondent, the claim made by the appellant has been controverted.
8. On examination of the record, it is established that the respondent was suffering from tuberculosis. The appellant had taken care of her. He got her treated. She was cured. Still further, she was having some problem on account of which no child was born to her. The appellant had taken her to the PGI for examination. She was examined by the Gynaecologist. On examination, she was advised leprotomy. A date was given to her. She did not report. The statement of Dr. Indu Gupta of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, who has appeared as P.W. 6 is clear in this behalf. There is an entry even on the Out Patient Ticket of the respondent which is on record as P.W. 6-A. She was required to report of April 21, 1986. It appears that she did not. Still further, it is the respondent’s allegation in paragraph 4 of the written statement that she was not bound to undergo operation and the refusal did not tantamount to cruelty. So far so good, one can legitimately believe that surgery is dangerous. One may like to avoid it even if it is at the cost of suppressing the maternal instincts. However, the respondent in the present case does not stop at this. She goes on to allege that “it was a tactic of the petitioner to get rid of her through such treatment………” This is an insinuation which was wholly unwarranted. The husband had taken good care of his wife and yet, he was accused of adopting tactics to get rid of her. The only lactic was that he had taken her to the hospital like the PGI and put her under the care of a qualified Gynaecologist who had advised a simple surgical procedure. The allegation was wholly unfair and unwarranted by the circumstances of the case.
9. Still further, the ocular testimony is there on the record. The appellant has appeared as P.W. 1. He has given the details in regard to each of the allegations made by him in the petition. Even if these are overlooked as the version of an interested party, there are two independent witnesses. The first of these is Ajaib Singh who has appeared as P.W. 3. He has made a categorical statement that “the respondent used to beat the minor child of the parties. There was a daily quarrel between the parties. Whenever there was a quarrel between them, I used to go to their house and separate them. There was always a dispute because the respondent misbehaved with the boy. Harpal Sharma used to cook his own meals and wash his own clothes.” The statement clearly indicates that the respondent was not cooperating in the day to day life. She was unkind to the child. The appellant had not only to attend to his work in the office but had also to come back home to take care of the child. He had to even cook the food. Still further, this witness was cross-examined. Only a vague suggestion was made that he was deposing falsely because he was a co-employee and “due to friendship”. Otherwise, even during cross-examination, he had categorically stated that he had seen “the petitioner cooking his own meals and washing his own clothes.” Besides Ajaib Singh, P.W. 4, Dharam Pal has also stated that whenever he visited the house of the parties, he observed that “the relations…….. were not happy. They were even not on speaking terms. The petitioner used to prepare tea and cook his own meals. The respondent was seen giving beating to the child.” Thus, the allegations made by the appellant arc fully corroborated and in fact proved by the statements of these two witnesses. Nothing has been pointed out to show that any of these witnesses had any motive to depose falsely.
10. There is another aspect of the matter. It is the admitted position that the appellant had to leave the child in the Creche. He has categorically averred in his petition that this had become necessary to save the child from being beaten by the respondent. As against this, the respondent has stated on oath that the child was sent to the Creche to enable him to learn manners. Admittedly, the child was too small. He needed the attention of a mother at home. If it was considered necessary, he could have been taught everything including the good manners by the parents. Surely, he was not being sent to the Creche to be taught manners. The plea taken by the appellant that it was only in an effort to save the child from being beaten by his mother, appears to be correct. It is corroborated by the statement of P.Ws. 3 and 4. Ajaib Singh has stated that “the respondent misbehaved with the boy.” Dharam Pal P.W. 4 has said that “the respondent was seen giving beating to the child.”
11. Thus, it appears that the parties were not talking to each other. They were not having any cordial relations. The respondent was even unkind to the child. She did not even cook the meals for the family. The husband had to not only work in the office but even to cook for himself and the child. Still further, the fact that the husband was cooking, has not been seriously controverted by the respondent. On the contrary, she has tried to find an excuse by saying that the provisions were not available in the house. Surely, if the husband was cooking, something was available. She could have cooked the same food. It appears that she was not willing to do so.
12. It also deserves notice that the parties are in Courts since the year 1988. They have been litigating. During this time, the appellant has even shifted from the house in which he was living with the respondent. It is the undisputed position that the appellant owns the house. Yet, he allowed the respondent to continue to stay there.
13. When this case had initially come up for hearing on January 6, 1999, Mr. C.B. Kaushik, counsel for the respondent-wife had stated that in case, the appellant allowed her to stay in the house till she was alive, the dispute could be settled and that she would not contest the case. The case was adjourned to January 14, 1999. It was again taken up on January 18, 1999. At the request of the counsel, the case was adjourned for today. The counsel has submitted that the respondent is not willing to settle the dispute. Consequently, we have proceeded to decide it.
14. The events as noticed above clearly show that the wife has falsely alleged that the appellant’s plea for her treatment was a tactic to get rid of her. The clear insinuation is that he wanted her to be killed. Nothing could be farther from truth. Still further, there has been continuous pressure in the form of quarrel with the child and otherwise. Under these circumstances, the husband could reasonably believe that continuous stay with the respondent would be injurious to his health and that his system shall not be able to bear with the cruelty perpetrated by her. Even otherwise, the marriage appears to have irretrievably broken. The factum of cruelty is further established by the fact that the appellant has chosen to even leave his own house and to live in a rented accommodation. This could have happened only as a last resort. Nobody would have liked to voluntarily leave the house that he owns.
15. No other point has been raised.
16. In view of the above, we are unable to uphold the judgment and decree passed by the learned single Judge. It is, consequently set aside. The appeal is allowed. The petition under Section 13 filed by the appellant is decreed, the marriage is dissolved by a decree of divorce. In the circumstances, there will be no order as to costs.