K. Srinivas Rao vs D.A. Deepa
The husband filed the petition on the supreme court granting a divorce on the basis of mental cruelty caused to him by his wife. The dispute started with a fight among the elders of the family, following which the wife’s family took her away from the matrimonial house. The wife later filed a petition for restitution of conjugal rights, to which the husband filed a divorce petition. According to her, the reason behind her actions was to force her husband to accept her again. This was followed by series of events such as wife filing a case of dowry against the husband, wife alleging husband mother of asking her to sleep with husband’s father, husband beating his mother in law, wife’s brother threatening her mother in law and so on. The family court considered the wife’s action as cruelty and dismissed the petition while the High Court stated that as the wife and husband weren’t living under the same roof, their actions cannot amount to cruelty and granted 6 months imprisonment to the husband under the dowry charges. The husband filed a petition in the Supreme Court.
- Can the wife’s actions amount to cruelty?
- How could the parties have handled the present situation in a better way?
Apex Court's Order
- The statements made by the wife against the husband’s mother are sufficient to cause immense humiliation and agony to the husband. All the actions undertaken by the wife, though for being desperately being with him, caused enough suffering to husband and his family, which no doubt amounts to cruelty. Though cruelty is not a ground for divorce, in present case separation for 10 years and this escalated animosity between the parties makes the irretrievable breakdown of marriage a ground for divorce.
- The issue wouldn’t have escalated to such an extent if proper guidance had been provided to the wife, telling her that her action won’t help her get her husband back. But, in matrimonial issues, only one party cannot be blamed. 10-15% of the matrimonial cases sent for court-directed mediation get resolved. If the parties in the present case, would have tried to resolve the dispute on the onset itself, things wouldn’t have been this ugly. For this, the court suggested the process of mediation. Where the parties could have taken the help of a neutral person help to understand the dispute better and have arrived at an amicable solution. The court referred to section 9 of the Family Courts Act and said that mediation should be made compulsory in disputes where settlement is possible. Dowry cases being non-compoundable offenses can be referred for mediation, but even if in these cases parties decide for settlement, they can surely opt this. the court also directed the lower courts to set up a pre-mediation help desk for better implementation and mechanism of the mediation process.