Wife Forcing Her Husband To Separate From His Parents Is ‘Cruelty’ : Gauhati HC
“Every child including a son is mandatorily required to provide for maintenance/welfare of any parent.”
The Gauhati High Court has granted divorce to a man on the ground that his wife compelled him to stay away from his step-mother.
The bench comprising of the Chief Justice Ajai Lamba and Justice Soumitra Saikia noted that, under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, children (which includes the son) shall mandatorily be required to maintain parents (includes step-mother also) and senior citizens.
While considering a Matrimonial Appeal [filed by husband whose divorce petition was dismissed by the District Court], the High Court noted that it has come in evidence that the step-mother has no personal source of income, and that she is a senior citizen. The Court also perused an agreement which was compelled to be executed at the behest of the wife prior to seeking pre-arrest bail by the husband and his family members. The condition was to live separately away from the family members of the husband and that none of the family members including the step-mother of the husband and that none of the family members including the step-mother of the husband will be permitted to visit them. Taking note of these, the court said.
It is seen that the Family Court completely ignored this fact brought out during the evidence that the respondent compelled and prevented the appellant from performing his statutory duties towards his aged mother under the provisions of the 2007 Act. Such evidence is sufficient to be consequences leading to punishment or imprisonment as well as fine.
The Court also noted that the wife had filed cases under Section 498A IPC which resulted in acquittal.
When a person undergoes a trial in which he is acquitted of the allegation of offence under Section 498-A of IPC, levelled by the wife against the
husband, it cannot be accepted that no cruelty has meted on the husband.”
In 2016, the Supreme Court also made similar observations while granting divorce to a husband who was forced to live separately from his parents.
Normally, no husband would tolerate this and no son would like to be separated from his old parents and other family members, who are also dependent upon his income, the Court had said.
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THE GAUHATI HIGH COURT
(HIGH COURT OF ASSAM, NAGALAND, MIZORAM AND ARUNACHAL PRADESH)
Case No. : Mat.App. 20/2019
1:SRI BHASKAR DAS
S/O- LATE HARIPADA DAS,
R/O- NO. 1 GOLAI GAON, P.S. DIGBOI, DIST.- TINSUKIA, ASSAM.
1:SMTI. RENU DAS
W/O- BHASKAR DAS,
D/O- LATE RAKESH CHANDRA DAS, C/O- SMT. LILY DAS, R/O- BORBARI
RAILWAY COLONY (NEAR PANI TANKI), P.O., P.S. AND DIST.- DIBRUGARH,
ASSAM, PIN- 786001.
HON’BLE THE CHIEF JUSTICE MR. AJAI LAMBA
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE SOUMITRA SAIKIA
Advocate for appellant – Mr. N. Hasan.
Advocates for respondent – Mr. S. R. Gogoi
Date of hearing : 27.02.2020
Date of judgment : 19.06.2020
JUDGMENT & ORDER (CAV)
(Soumitra Saikia, J.)
Heard Mr. N. Hasan, learned counsel for the appellant husband and Mr. S. R. Gogoi, learned
counsel for the respondent wife.
2. This matrimonial appeal has been filed by the appellant husband being aggrieved by the
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judgment dated 15.12.2018 passed in Title Suit (M) No.9/2014 by the Court of District Judge,
Dibrugarh, dismissing the suit for divorce preferred by the appellant husband.
3. The case of the appellant husband as projected before the Family Court is that he is a
contractual labourer in Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited (BCPL) at Madhuban under Bordubi
Police Station at about 30 kms from Digboi. He lives with his mother, sisters and brother in Digboi. His
marriage with the respondent wife was solemnized on 17.02.2012. After marriage, the appellant and
the respondent started their conjugal life in the matrimonial house of the appellant. After about a
month into their marriage, the respondent wife demanded to reside separately with the appellant
husband away from the husband’s relatives in a separate house. However, the appellant being a
contractual labourer was not able to sustain separate accommodation for him and his wife as he was
required to render service at a place away from his matrimonial house which is in Digboi. Being
unable to accede to the demands made by the respondent wife for separate accommodation, quarrels
became frequent between the respondent wife and the appellant husband leading to unpleasantness
in their matrimonial life. The appellant husband in the face of persistent demands by the respondent
wife for separate accommodation also attempted to take the respondent wife to his place of work at
Madhuban by arranging separate accommodation away from the matrimonial home at Digboi.
However, the respondent wife continued to resort to frequent quarrels with the appellant and started
blaming him for the couple not being able to have a child after marriage. The respondent wife alleged
that the appellant husband was medically unfit as a consequence of which she was unable to bear a
child. As the appellant’s period of contract in connection with his work was about to expire, he
brought back the respondent wife to the matrimonial house. However, the respondent wife continued
to be indifferent and negligent towards the appellant husband as well as the other family members.
Around the month of June, 2013, the respondent wife declared that she was not willing to continue
her matrimonial life with the appellant. As a consequence, the respondent wife insisted on going back
to her parental home. The appellant, his family members and friends tried to placate the respondent
wife and whereupon the respondent wife assured the appellant and his family members that she will
visit her parental house only for a few days but return back to the matrimonial home thereafter.
However, contrary to her assurance, instead of returning back to the matrimonial house, she filed a
case under Section 498(A) IPC before Digboi Police Station being Digboi P.S. Case No.154/2013
against the appellant and his family members. The appellant husband and his family members were
compelled to apply for pre-arrest bail in view of the said criminal case filed by the respondent wife.
The appellant husband further contended that the respondent wife compelled the appellant to execute
a written agreement to the effect that the couple will stay in a separate rental house together away
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from the joint family of the husband and further that the appellant/husband’s family members will not
visit them or maintain any relation with them. Under such circumstances, unable to bear the agony
and the stress inflicted by the respondent wife, the appellant husband filed divorce case being TS(M)
9/2014 before the Court of District Judge, Dibrugarh.
4. The respondent wife contested the case by filing her written statement. In her written
statement she stated that she was subjected to cruelty to meet illegal demands of dowry in the form
of cash and kind by the appellant husband, his step-mother, sister-in-law, brother and sisters from the
very threshold of their marriage. The respondent wife further stated that she further contended that
she was not provided with food and other medical treatment and that it was her brother who used to
take care of the bare necessities of her life. Although she tried to tolerate the cruelty meted out to her
but she was assaulted and thrown out of the appellant’s house on 30.06.2012 by the appellant and
his family members by retaining her belongings and sent to her brother’s house at Dibrugarh. She
admitted that she had filed Digboi P.S. Case No.154/2013, under Section 498(A) IPC against the
petitioner and his family members. The respondent stated that the appellant and his family members,
in order to procure the anticipatory bail, induced her to compromise and settle the dispute and agreed
to accept her back. However, after being enlarged on bail, the appellant and his family members went
back on the agreement and refused to take the respondent back. The respondent wife stated that she
has no income and is dependent on her brother whereas the appellant is serving at OIL, Digboi with a
monthly income of Rs.50,000.00 and also earns additional income and other benefits from landed
5. The court below, upon the pleadings filed by the parties, framed the following issues:
1. Whether respondent (the wife) subjected the petitioner (the respondent) to cruelty and
2. Whether the petitioner is entitled to a decree of divorce?
6. The court below dealt both the issues together and dismissed the suit and rejected the prayer
of the husband for decree of divorce. On the facts narrated above, the evidence available in the lower
court record is duly perused.
7. It is seen that the appellant husband adduced his evidence as PW1 and in his evidence-in-chief
stated that since after a month of the marriage between the appellant and the respondent, the
behaviour of the respondent wife was acrimonious towards the appellant and the members of his
family. The respondent wife started to blame the appellant/husband that because of him, not being
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medically fit, she was unable to conceive and consequently she asked the appellant husband to
divorce her repeatedly. The appellant husband admitted that there was a medical check-up but no
defect was detected in the appellant but from the medical record it is evident that the respondent had
some defect because of which she was unable to conceive. The appellant stated that there was
constant quarrel initiated by the respondent and she refused to take part in the household chores.
The appellant further stated that in the middle of June, the respondent insisted that she does not
want to live with the appellant and will abstain from wearing ‘sakha and sindoor’. The appellant
further stated that pursuant to family discussions held with the members of the family of the appellant
husband and the respondent wife as well as their friends and mediators of the marriage it was agreed
that the respondent will go back home and will return to the matrimonial house after a fortnight.
However, instead of coming back, she lodged Digboi P.S. Case No.159/2013, under Section 498(A)
8. The evidence projected by the appellant was duly confronted to him during the crossexamination.
But his evidence remained unshaken.
9. The appellant also examined his step-mother as PW2 who was about 65 years of age at the
relevant point of time. PW2 duly supported the statements made by PW1/appellant in his evidence.
Her examination in cross also did not yield any contradiction.
10. The respondent wife in her evidence as DW1 stated that she was subjected to extreme cruelty
by the appellant’s step-mother, sister-in-law, brother and his two sisters. According to the respondent,
the family members of the appellant tortured her physically and mentally by demanding various cash
and kinds from her as dowry and also declined to provide her the bare necessities of life. She further
stated that the respondent declined to provide her medical treatment, wearing apparels, adequate
food and medicine etc. which are provided to her by her brother. She further stated that she was
assaulted and sent back to her brother’s house by the appellant and his family members demanding
her to bring money from her house. On 30.06.2013, the brother of the appellant on being aware of
the treatment meted to her, came to the matrimonial house and saved her by taking her and her
belongings including ‘stridhan’ back to her parental house. As a consequence thereof, she had lodged
a case under Section 498(A) IPC against the appellant and his family members which was registered
as Digboi P.S. Case No.159/2013.
11. The respondent in her evidence-in-chief admitted to a settlement entered into with the
appellant in which inter-alia the appellant agreed to stay with her in a separate accommodation.
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However, she stated that pursuant to the petitioner being enlarged on pre-arrest bail he declined to
adhere to the terms of the agreement and thereby committed fraud with her. The respondent
admitted in her evidence that she has also filed a criminal case before Digboi Police Station being
Digboi P.S. Case No.230/2013, under Sections 471/420 IPC against the appellant and his family
members which is pending trial before the Court of Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate, Margherita,
12. During her cross, she maintained the evidence adduced by her in her evidence-in-chief. She
stated that she had filed three cases against the appellant. She further stated that she does not want
to stay with the appellant or compromise with the appellant. She also admitted to the existence of the
agreement entered by and between the appellant and the respondent pursuant to filing of the FIR
although she denied that the agreement stipulated that the appellant will live separately with her in a
rented house and that no one from his family members can come and meet them. It is also evident
from her cross-examination that she had categorically stated that either the appellant will come to
Dibrugarh to live with her or fulfil her demands, i.e., monetary demands or only then she will divorce
The cross-examination of the respondent as DW1 is extracted herein below:
-That the signatures in the evidence in chief are mine. I don’t know where the evidence
was typed. But the advocate has written it according to my version.
-That I know what is written in the evidence but I don’t remember it by para
-That it is true that the first and last page of my evidence was typed and the
remaining pages are written by computer and pages 2, 3, 4, 5 are photocopies
and I have again signed there by overlapping my previsous signatures.
-That it is a fact that no seal is there in page 2, 3, 4 and 5 of my evidence.
-That I have signed on my evidence before the Magistrate in the Court.
-That I have filed 3 more cases against Bhaksar Das other than this
(emphasised by us)
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-That my current age is 35 years but i have given my age as 44 years in the
-That it is not a fact that I don’t know the contents of pare no.2,3,4 & 5 of my
evidence in chief because it was photocopy of some other document.
-That I don’t want to stay with Bhaskar Das because he will again
cheat on me and will beat me too.
-That I will not compromise with Bhaskar.
(emphasised by us)
-That it is not a fact that I have not purchased anything in his home after
-That we have no children.
-That it is not a fact that I asked him (Bhaskar) to live separately after 1 month
-That it is not a fact that he is a daily wage labourer.
-That we stayed at Madhuban, Bordubi after marriage. Bhaskar used to work
-That Bhaskar’s house is at Golai of Digboi.
-That it is not a fact that Bhaskar took me to Madhuban because of my
-That it is not a fact that I and Bhaskar went to Sristi Hospital for testing.
-That I have no knowledge about any positive/good Medical Report of Bhaskar.
-That it is not a fact that the Report of Bhaskar is with me.
-That it is not a fact that I was not doing any domestic/household work after
marriage and said that I didn’t come here to work.
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-That I am not wearing/putting sindoor right now because I don’t consider him
as my husband.
-That on 30.06.2013 my brother, sister and ghatak (mediator) and his
wife along with others went to take me from Bhaskar’s home and
Bhaskar did let them go too. And on that day we lodged an FIR at
Digboi Police Station while coming from there and included all the
names of Bhaskar’s family there.
(emphasised by us)
– That it is not a fact that we went to compromise after lodging the F.I.R. It was
Bhaskar who asked for compromise.
– That it is not a fact that we entered into an agreement after the
(emphasised by us)
– That it is not a fact that it was written in the agreement that Bhaskar will live
separately with me in rented house and no one from his family can come there.
-That a case under Section 498(A) IPC is still pending at Digboi.
– That it is not a fact that since I did not want to live with Bjaskar therefore I
have filed various false cases against him for only harassing him.
-That I have objection regarding divorce in this case as because either
he come to Dibrugarh to live with me or otherwise fulfil my demand
i.e. monetary demand, only then I will divorce him.”
(emphasised by us)
13. Having noticed the evidence as discussed hereinabove, we proceed to examine the impugned
judgment rendered on the issues as discussed above.
14. The Family Court below has accepted the evidence of both the parties that there were indeed
criminal cases filed by the respondent wife under Section 498(A) IPC besides two other cases. In the
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case lodged under Section 498(A) IPC, the SDJM (Margherita) acquitted the appellant husband, his
step-mother and his sisters. However, the criminal cases filed under Sections 471/420 IPC and under
Section 125 Cr.P.C. are presently pending disposal. The Family Court below proceeded to decide the
matter on the basis of preponderance of probability by taking into account the evidence adduced
before it by the contesting parties. It is seen that the Family Court accepted the evidence of the
respondent wife that there was cruelty prevalent in the household. The Family Court also relied upon
the evidence rendered by DW2 who was the cousin of the respondent and who has stated that the
respondent wife was subjected to cruelty by her husband and that she was sent to his house on
several occasions. Upon due consideration of the evidence, the court below came to the finding that
there was no cruelty extended to the appellant husband and his family members or that they were
neglected by the respondent wife and accordingly rejected the petition for divorce by the husband.
15. Upon due perusal of the judgment it is seen that the discussion of the court below does not
refer to certain pertinent evidences, which were brought before the Court by the contesting parties
while adducing evidences. As discussed above, it is not disputed by the respondent wife that there
was indeed an agreement entered into by and between the appellant husband and the respondent
wife whereby the appellant was required to provide separate accommodation to the respondent wife
in a rented house away from the matrimonial house and that the appellant’s family members were not
to be permitted to come and visit them. The respondent wife categorically admitted in her crossexamination
about the presence of the said clause in the said agreement. It is also seen from the
evidence that the respondent had filed another case before Digboi Police Station being Digboi P.S.
Case No.230/2013, under Sections 471/420 IPC pending before the SDJM, Margherita, District
Tinsukia wherein, it was submitted at the bar that charge sheet has been filed against the petitioner
and other accused. PW1/appellant also adduced in his evidence that the respondent had refused to
wear ‘sakha and sindoor’ any more. Such statement was not confronted to the appellant during the
cross-examination, and accordingly, the same remained uncontroverted and is therefore an evidence
material for the purpose of this proceedings. Under the custom of Hindu Marriage, a lady who has
entered into marriage according to Hindu rituals and customs, and which has not been denied by the
respondent in her evidence, her refusal to wear ‘sakha and sindoor’ will project her to be unmarried
and/or signify her refusal to accept the marriage with the appellant. Such categorical stand of the
respondent points to the clear intention of the respondent that she is unwilling to continue her
conjugal life with the appellant. Under such circumstances compelling the appellant husband to
continue to be in matrimony with the respondent wife may be construed to be harassment inflicted by
the respondent upon the appellant and his family members. This evidence although available before
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the Family Court during the evidence adduced, was not taken into account during the discussion in
the impugned judgment. As such the Family Court erred in evaluating the evidence in the proper
perspective. During the course of hearing it was submitted at the bar that the criminal proceedings
pursuant to filing of Digboi P.S. Case No.159/2013, under Section 498(A) IPC against the appellant
has been dismissed as the informant, namely the respondent wife was not pursuing the said
proceeding. As such the allegation of subjecting the respondent wife to cruelty was not sustained.
Such acts of lodging criminal cases on unsubstantiated allegations against the husband and/or the
husband’s family members amounts to cruelty as held by the Supreme Court. In this context, the
Hon’ble Supreme Court in a recent judgment being Rani Narasimha Sastri vs. Rani Suneela Rani, 2019
SCC Online SC 1595 has held that filing of criminal cases like case under Sections 498(A) IPC etc.
against the husband and the family members and which are subsequently dismissed/rejected by the
Family Court, is sufficient to be construed as an act of cruelty by the wife. The Hon’ble Supreme Court
has held as under:
12. This Court has laid down that averments, accusations and character assassination of
the wife by the appellant husband in the written statement constitutes mental cruelty for
sustaining the claim for divorce under Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Act. This Court in Vijaykumar
Ramchandra Bhate v. Neela Vijaykumar Bhate1 has laid down following in paragraph 7:
“7. The question that requires to be answered first is as to whether the averments,
accusations and character assassination of the wife by the appellant husband in the
written statement constitutes mental cruelty for sustaining the claim for divorce under
Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Act. The position of law in this regard has come to be well
settled and declared that levelling disgusting accusations of unchastity and indecent
familiarity with a person outside wedlock and allegations of extra marital relationship is
a grave assault on the character, honour, reputation, status as well as the health of the
wife. Such aspersions of perfidiousness attributed to the wife, viewed in the context of
an educated Indian wife and judged by Indian conditions and standards would amount
to worst form of insult and cruelty, sufficient by itself to substantiate cruelty in law,
warranting the claim of the wife being allowed. That such allegations made in the
written statement or suggested in the course of examination and by way of crossexamination
satisfy the requirement of law has also come to be firmly laid down by this
Court. On going through the relevant portions of such allegations, we find that no
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exception could be taken to the findings recorded by the Family Court as well as the
High Court. We find that they are of such quality, magnitude and consequence as to
cause mental pain, agony and suffering amounting to the reformulated concept of
cruelty in matrimonial law causing profound and lasting disruption and driving the wife
to feel deeply hurt and reasonably apprehend that it would be dangerous for her to live
with a husband who was taunting her like that and rendered the maintenance of
matrimonial home impossible.”
13. In the present case the prosecution is launched by the respondent against the
appellant under Section 498-A of IPC making serious allegations in which the appellant had to
undergo trial which ultimately resulted in his acquittal. In the prosecution under Section 498-A
of IPC not only acquittal has been recorded but observations have been made that allegations
of serious nature are levelled against each other. The case set up by the appellant seeking
decree of divorce on the ground of cruelty has been established. With regard to proceeding
initiated by respondent under Section 498-A of IPC, the High Court made following observation
in paragraph 14:
14…..Merely because the respondent has sought for maintenance or has filed a
complaint against the petitioner for the offence punishable under Section 498-A of IPC,
they cannot be said to be valid grounds for holding that such a recourse adopted by
the respondent amounts to cruelty.”
14. The above observation of the High Court cannot be approved. It is true that it is open
for anyone to file complaint or lodge prosecution for redressal for his or her grievances and
lodge a first information report for an offence also and mere lodging of complaint or FIR
cannot ipso facto be treated as cruelty. But when a person undergoes a trial in which he is
acquitted of the allegation of offence under Section 498-A of IPC, levelled by the wife against
the husband, it cannot be accepted that no cruelty has meted on the husband. As per
pleadings before us, after parties having been married on 14.08.2005, they lived together only
18 months and thereafter they are separately living for more than a decade now.
15. In view of forgoing discussion, we conclude that appellant has made a ground for grant
of decree of dissolution of marriage on the ground as mentioned in Section 13(1)(i-a) of the
Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
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16. This aspect of cruelty was not gone into by the Family Court even though the same was
apparent from the evidence adduced by the parties before the court below.
17. As discussed above, attempts to reconcile between the appellant and the respondent by this
Court also did not yield any positive response and considering the fact that the appellant and the
respondent have remained separately since 30.06.2013, it is evident that there will be no purpose
served to keep the marriage alive as there was no matrimonial harmony between the parties to be
18. There is another aspect of the matter which needs to be reflected upon in the face of the
evidences adduced by the parties. Under the “Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens
Act, 2007” children (which includes the son) shall mandatorily be required to maintain parents and
senior citizens. In terms of the definition under Section 2 (d), a parent includes step-mother also.
Under Section 2 (h), senior citizen means any person being a citizen of India who attained the age of
60 years. Under Section 2 (k) “welfare” means provisions for food, health care, recreation centres and
other amenities necessary for senior citizens. A perusal of the provisions of the Act reveals that under
this Act every child including a son is mandatorily required to provide for maintenance/welfare of any
19. In the evidence of the appellant as PW1 it is stated that PW2 is her widowed step-mother who
has no personal source of income. It is also evident from the evidence that the widowed step-mother
is a senior citizen. Consequently, the agreement dated 06.07.2013, which, as brought out in the
evidence led by the appellant, was compelled to be executed at the behest of the respondent wife
prior to seeking pre-arrest bail by the petitioner and his family members. The said condition that the
appellant and the respondent are required to live separately away from the family members of the
appellant and that none of the family members including the step-mother of the appellant will be
permitted to visit them, being present in the agreement is also not disputed by the respondent in the
evidence led before the court below. It is also categorically stated by the respondent that because of
non-compliance of the said agreement, another criminal case being Digboi P.S. Case No.230/2013,
under Sections 471/420 IPC has been filed against the appellant and his family members.
20. Under the circumstances, it is seen that the Family Court completely ignored this fact brought
out during the evidence that the respondent compelled and prevented the appellant from performing
his statutory duties towards his aged mother under the provisions of the 2007 Act. Such evidence is
sufficient to be construed as an act of cruelty as the non-compliance/non-adherence to the provisions
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of the 2007 Act has criminal consequences leading to punishment or imprisonment as well as fine.
There was completely no reference and discussion in the impugned judgment rendered by the Family
Court although the same is sufficiently evident from the evidence adduced before the Family Court.
21. Consequently, we are of the considered view that the impugned judgment of the Family Court
be overturned in view of the discussions rendered above and which we accordingly do.
22. The impugned judgment dated 15.12.2018 in TS(M) 9/2014 passed by the District Judge,
Dibrugarh is hereby set aside and the petition being TS(M) No.9/2014 is hereby allowed and the
decree of divorce is accordingly granted. The marriage between the appellant husband and the
respondent wife is accordingly dissolved.
23. The decree be prepared accordingly.
24. On the question of maintenance it is seen that the appellant is presently paying a maintenance
of Rs.3,000/- pursuant to order passed in the maintenance case filed by the respondent under Section
125 Cr.P.C. It will be open to the respondent wife to pray for further alimony in terms of provisions of
the Hindu Marriage Act, if so advised.
25. Appeal is allowed.
26. No order to costs.
27. LCR be returned.
JUDGE CHIEF JUSTICE