Court:Delhi High Court
Bench: JUSTICE Avadh Behari Rohatgi
Rajinder Singh Joon Vs. Smt. Tara Wati On 10 January 1980
The conduct of the wife in refusing to see the husband lying seriously ill, was such that it amounted to cruelty. It can properly and rationally be stigmatised by the word “cruelty” in its ordinary acceptation.
This is a husband’s appeal from the order of the Additional District Judge dated August 9, 1979 refusing him divorce on the ground of cruelty.
2. The parties were married at Delhi. The Saptpadi was performed on June 28, 1973. There is some controversy about the date of marriage. According to the wife the marriage took place on June 27, 1970 when admittedly they started living together and had a child in 1971 who subsequently died. The husband’s case, on the other hand, is that the marriage must be held to have been performed on June 28, 1973 when Saptpadi was performed and that is the date which ought to be regarded as the date of marriage. The learned trial judge recorded a finding that the marriage took place on June 27, 1970. In my opinion nothing turns on this issue. Admittedly the parties were legally married and they were living as husband and wife. The army authorities were also informed about marriage. A “casualty” notification was issued in the Army Gazette. I will therefore not dilate on this issue as it does not make much difference to the question at issue.
3. On 3rd December, 1977 the husband filed a petition for divorce under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act on the ground that the wife had treated him with cruelty. Several particulars of cruelty were given. It is not necessary to deal with all of them. Only one incident may be mentioned. On February 5, 1977 the husband met with a serious accident. He was driving a military jeep. The jeep hit a pole. The husband sustained head injuries and multiple fractures. He became unconscious. He was removed to the military hospital at Dinjan in Assam where he was posted. The military authorities sent S.O.S. They informed the wife that her husband was on “serious sick list.” The wife did not care. She did not visit the husband inspite of this S.O.S. Nor did her parents go. The husband’s parents however, rushed to Assam on hearing the news of their son’s illness.
4. The husband remained in the hospital for 8 months at Assam. Subsequently he was transferred to Delhi Military Hospital in August, 1977. Even there the wife did not visit the husband. This is the ground of cruelty which counsel for the husband has urged before me.
5. The learned judge held that this was not an act of cruelty. He was not prepared to grant a decree of divorce. He accepted the plea of the wife that she did not have money to go to Assam. I do not agree. The military authorities issue free passes in such serious cases. The wife could have written to the army authorities that as her husband was in a serious condition she should be given a free pass so that she can be near her husband in the hour of dire need. Then there is another factor. The wife was in receipt of maintenance allowance at the rate of Rs. 200 per month from the army authorities which amount was being deducted from the husband’s salary. This maintenance allowance had been fixed at the request of the wife on 1 st November, 1974. So it cannot be said that the wife was without means. This aspect of the case has been completely ignored by the learned Judge.
6. Did the conduct of the wife amount to cruelty to the husband? This is the question. The husband was lying seriously ill and the wife refused to see him. In my opinion the conduct was such that it can properly and rationally be stigmatised by the word “cruelty” in its ordinary acceptation. It was not a trival incident. It was a matter at once “grave and weighty”. It was a question of life and death of the husband. The wife’s callous indifference and neglect is inexcusable and unforgiveable. This is my conclusion.
7. Cruelty means “delight in or difference to pain or misery in others”. It connotes acts which give unnecessary pain to others, or which are savage or inhuman or merciless. As an adjective the word “cruel” is often used to indicate the quality of the thing described. For example the sea and the fate are called “cruel”. This means each is without mercy. The wife’s conduct was one of indifference. She was self-centred. If she appreciated but was indifferent to the husband’s suffering, the cruelty was worse. If she intended to hurt it was worst of all, “conduct which is intended to hurt strikes with a sharper edge than conduct which is the consequence of mere obtuseness or indifference.” Gollins v. Gollins, (1964) AC 644, 670, 688,689). Is it necessary to enquiry into motives and causes of the wife’s insensitiveness to husband’s pain and suffering? I think not. Sir William Scott, that great judge, in 1810 in the case of Holden v. Holden, 1 Hag.Con. 453, said: “If bitter waters are flowing, it is not necessary to enquiry from what source they spring.”
8. Moreover the wife has made a statement before me that she does not oppose the appeal. On evidence also I have come to the conclusion that the husband has a case and that he ought to be granted a decree of divorce. .
9. The wife has in her statement before me made a claim for Rs. 5000 in lieu of her dowry. The husband is prepared to pay that amount. The wife has made the statement that for dowry she will have no claim if the amount of Rs. 5000 is paid. The husband has paid Rs. 5000 in cash to the wife in the presence or the Court. A separate receipt has been issued by the wife to the husband.
10. For these reasons the appeal is allowed. The husband is granted a decree of divorce. The parties are left to bear their own costs.
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