Court: Punjab and Haryana High Court
Bench: JUSTICES S.S. SARON and NAVITA SINGH
Uma Soni vs Suresh Soni on 3 April 2014
Divorce on ground of cruelty – Appeal – Appealant wife misbehaved not only with husband and in-laws but also with guests and visitors – Appealant also filed criminal cases against respondent husband. Appeal dismissed.
The appellant has come up in appeal against the judgment and decree dated 06.12.2000 passed by the Additional District Judge, Patiala, whereby the petition filed by the respondent-husband was accepted and the marriage between the parties was dissolved by a decree of divorce.
The respondent-husband had filed the petition under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (Act – for short) stating that the marriage between the parties took place on 01.02.1998 at Gurgaon and, thereafter, they resided together as husband and wife at Patiala. No child was born out of the wedlock. It was not disclosed to him that the appellant was suffering from mental disorder and he came to know of the same after marriage. She needed constant medical care and the respondent took her to different doctors who confirmed that she had some psychiatric problem. Later on, she refused to accompany him to any psychiatrist. Her behaviour was abnormal, aggressive and irresponsible. She would pick up quarrel Malik Ramesh 2014.04.09 15:39 I attest to the accuracy and integrity of this document High Court Chandigarh over trivial matters and misbehaved with the respondent and his family members and also at times with guests. Sometimes she would resort to violence and throw about household articles. She could not perform the normal household chores. She being of incurable unsound mind, it could not be reasonably expected for the respondent to live with her as he was subjected to mental cruelty.
The respondent tried to discuss the matter with the family of the appellant and on 08.03.1998 a meeting was held at Jalandhar in the house of cousin sister of the appellant where her family admitted her ailment. Another meeting was held in New Delhi on 09.08.1998 and the respondent told the family of the appellant that since the latter was not showing any signs of improvement, it was not possible for him to continue living with her. Her family sought time to get the appellant checked up in All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, but to no avail. Rather the appellant instituted a case under Sections 406, 498-A of the Indian Penal Code against the respondent and also filed a suit under Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act.
The appellant controverted the allegations of the respondent stating that her husband was a greedy person and he was earlier also married, but that marriage had broken down due to demands of dowry by the respondent. It was pleaded that the appellant was compelled to leave the matrimonial home as she could not fulfill the unreasonable demands of her husband regarding more dowry by way of cash. She was mentally and physically tortured by him and his family pressurizing her to bring an amount of Rs.50,000/-. On 06.03.1998, she was left by the respondent at Gurgaon and he wrote a letter dated 05.08.1998 levelling wild allegations Malik Ramesh 2014.04.09 15:39 I attest to the accuracy and integrity of this document High Court Chandigarh against her. It was stated that the petition was a counter-blast to the criminal case lodged by her.
The respondent filed replication reiterating the pleas taken by him in his petition.
The trial Court framed the following issues:-
1. Whether the respondent (now appellant) has been incurably of unsound mind and has been suffering continuously and intermittently from mental disorder. If so its effect? OPP
2. Whether after the solemnization of the marriage the petitioner (now respondent) has been treated with cruelty by the respondent (now appellant)? OPP
Learned counsel for the appellant argued that the trial Court wrongly reached the conclusion that the appellant-wife was suffering from any mental disorder though there was not an iota of medical evidence on record. He contended that since the appellant was alleged to be suffering from some incurable mental disorder and it was also pleaded by the respondent that he had taken her to various doctors for treatment, absence of medical evidence was fatal to the case of the respondent and the trial Court should have dismissed the petition. He also argued that besides the self-serving statement of the respondent as PW1, there was no evidence to substantiate the allegations of mental disorder and, therefore, the trial Court erred in allowing the petition.
Learned counsel for the respondent, on the other hand, argued that the trial Court arrived at the right conclusion after properly discussing the evidence. He stated that no cross-examination was conducted on the respondent regarding his averments about the mental disorder and the treatment for which the appellant was taken to different places. He further Malik Ramesh 2014.04.09 15:39 I attest to the accuracy and integrity of this document High Court Chandigarh pointed out that the appellant did not even bother to appear in the witness box and, therefore, there was no rebuttal to the evidence of the respondent. She was the best witness to depose about the averments made by her in the written statement, but she did not come forward to do so.
Before discussing the merits of the appeal, it may be pointed out that it is not only in the trial Court that the appellant did not appear, but she did not appear in this Court also despite specific directions. On 25.07.2002, the case was ordered to be placed before the Lok Adalat. The respondent appeared there, but the appellant did not put in appearance and the parties were directed to appear on 01.11.2002. On that date again, the appellant-wife was not present and the matter was deferred, to be taken up on 06.01.2003. Yet again, the appellant did not appear whereas the respondent was present. Similar was the situation on 24.02.2003 and 14.05.2003. Last opportunity was granted to the appellant to appear for settling the matter on 01.08.2003, but she still did not bother to appear and notice was ordered to be issued to her. It was recorded by the Lok Adalat on 13.11.2003 that despite several notices having been sent to the appellant-wife her presence could not be procured. The appeal was returned to the Court. This Court then issued notices to the parties for 16.03.2005, 11.05.2005 and 18.05.2005. On the last date so given, i.e. 18.05.2005, the respondent appeared through counsel but the appellant did not appear and the appeal was dismissed for non-prosecution. An application for restoration of the appeal was filed on behalf of the appellant and after notice to the respondent, the appeal was restored and was put up for hearing on 28.11.2009, on which date no one was present on behalf of the appellant and the matter was adjourned to 14.12.2009. Malik Ramesh 2014.04.09 15:39 I attest to the accuracy and integrity of this document High Court Chandigarh The appeal was, however, taken up on 10.08.2011 and parties were directed to appear in person on 24.08.2011, as only counsel were present. On the adjourned date, the appellant was not present and also on 01.09.2011, the position remained the same. Vide order dated 13.02.2014, the appellant was directed to appear, but she did not appear even today. All these details go to show that ever since the inception of the appeal the appellant did not appear despite directions of this Court and despite notices by the Lok Adalat. As already mentioned above, she had not appeared before the trial Court. From her conduct, which is quite deprecable, the irresistible conclusion is that either she is not interested in the matter and is not bothered about the result of the appeal or she is so mentally sick that she was not in a position to appear. It could also be that due to her mental disorder, her presence in the Court was avoided by the family and the counsel so that the cat may not be out of the bag before the Court.
Coming to the merits of the appeal, it is seen that the trial Court made proper discussion. It was pointed out that as to what was the meaning of mental disorder as per the Act and what was psychopathic disorder. It was further discussed that the term ‘cruelty’ had not been defined in the Act, but it could be deduced from the evidence of the respondent that the behaviour of the appellant was not normal and she was taken for treatment by the respondent-husband, but later she refused to accompany him to a psychiatrist and also to take medicines. She misbehaved not only with her husband and in-laws, but also with the guests and visitors. On one occasion, she had caught hold of the husband from the neck. It may be pointed out that PW1 i.e. the husband, had been Malik Ramesh 2014.04.09 15:39 I attest to the accuracy and integrity of this document High Court Chandigarh subjected to lengthy cross-examination, but no cross-examination was conducted regarding abnormal behaviour of the appellant as testified by the respondent and there was no cross-examination which could demolish the evidence of the respondent-husband. Even no suggestion was put to him that whatever he had spoken against his wife was incorrect or false. The Court reached the presumption that the wife had nothing to dispute what the husband said while appearing in the witness box.
Whatever is discussed in detail by the Court below is vouchsafed from the record. The respondent appeared as PW1. He was cross-examined about the length of time for which the parties lived together and it was put to him that the wife did not resort to any abnormal behaviour and that rather he was dissatisfied with the dowry articles and the respondent and his family started finding faults with the appellant. The suggestions were denied by the respondent. He was thereafter asked about the doctor who examined the appellant, when the respondent took her to the hospital. The respondent stated that she was examined by the doctor on duty, but he did not remember his name. He was not expected to remember the name of the doctor. Then he said that he had taken the respondent to Dr. Harminder Singh, Neuro Physician, who referred the appellant to psychiatry, but she refused to go there. Nothing more was asked about the details of behaviour of the appellant given by the witness. The respondent also produced the medical prescriptions by way of Mark A to Mark D and categorically stated that the original papers were with the appellant. He was not in a position to produce the original documents and no adverse inference can, therefore, be drawn against him.
The appellant also filed criminal case against the respondent Malik Ramesh 2014.04.09 15:39 I attest to the accuracy and integrity of this document High Court Chandigarh and his family under Sections 406 and 498-A of the Indian Penal Code. Though filing of the case does not amount to cruelty singularly, yet it can be taken to be an additional factor. Since the respondent was already undergoing mental cruelty due to the unsound mind of his wife and her behaviour towards him and his family and others and also by refusing to take treatment, facing the criminal case added to his misery.
Keeping in view the totality of the circumstances, i.e. material on record, and the conduct of the appellant as pointed out above, we find no merit in the present appeal and dismiss the same.
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