Tag Archives: matrimonial relationship

Hindu Marriage – Status of Wife

Hindu Marriage is a sacred and holy union of husband and wife by virtue of which the wife is completely transplanted in the household of her husband and takes a new birth. It is a combination of bone to bone and flesh to flesh. To a Hindu wife her husband is God and her life becomes one of the selfless service and profound dedication to her husband. She not only shares the life and love, but the joys and sorrows, the troubles and tribulation of her husband and becomes an integral part of her husband’s life and activities. Colebrooke in his book Digest of Hindu Law, Vol.II, described the status of wife thus:
“A wife is considered as half the body of her husband, equally sharing the fruit of pure and impure acts: whether she ascends the pile after him or survives for the benefit of her husband, she is a faithful wife.”
Further Colebrooke in his book Digest of Hindu Law, Vol. II quoted the Mahabharata at page 121 thus:
“Where females are honoured, there the deities are pleased; but where they are unhonoured there all religious acts become fruitless.” Anuradha Samir Vennangot v. Mohandas Samir Vennangot, (2015) 16 SCC 596.

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Offence of Desertion

Rayden on Divorce has summarized thus:
“Desertion is the separation of one spouse from the other, with an intention on the part of the deserting spouse of bringing cohabitation permanently to an end without reasonable cause and without the consent of the other spouse; but the physical act of departure by one spouse does not necessarily make that spouse the deserting party.”
In Halsbury’s Laws of England (3rd Edition), Vol. 12, it has been held as under:
“In its essence desertion means the intentional permanent forsaking and abandonment of one spouse by the other without that other’s consent and without reasonable cause. It is a total repudiation of the obligations of marriage. In view of the large variety of circumstances and of modes of life involved, the Court has discouraged attempts at defining desertion, there being no general principle applicable to all cases. Desertion is not the withdrawal from a place but from the state of things, for what the law seeks to enforce is the recognition and discharge of the common obligations of the married state; the state of things may usually be termed, for short, ‘the home’. There can be desertion without previous cohabitation by the parties, or without the marriage having been consummated. The person who actually withdraws from cohabitation is not necessarily the deserting party. The fact that a husband makes an allowance to a wife whom he has abandoned is no answer to a charge of desertion.
The offence of desertion is a course of conduct which exists independently of its duration, but as a ground for divorce it must exist for a period of at least three years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition where the offence appears as a cross charge, of the answer . Desertion as a ground of divorce differs from the statutory grounds of adultery and cruelty in that the offence founding the cause of action of desertion is not complete, but is inchoate, until the suit is constituted. Desertion is a continuing offence.”
Thus the quality of permanence is one of the essential elements which differentiates desertion from willful separation. If a spouse abandons the other spouse in a state of temporary passion, for example anger or disgust, without intending permanently to cease cohabitation, it will not amount to desertion. For the offence of desertion, so far as the deserting spouse is concerned, two essential conditions must be there namely, (1) the factum of separation, and (2) the intention to bring cohabitation permanently to an end (animus deserendi). Similarly two elements are essential so far as the deserted spouse is concerned: (1) the absence of consent, and (2) absence of conduct giving reasonable cause to the spouse leaving the matrimonial home to form the necessary intention aforesaid. Anand Singh v. Smt. Kunti, 2017 (121) ALR 146.

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Matrimonial Dispute – Terms “Cruelty” and “Mental Cruelty”

The word “cruelty” has not been defined in the Hindu Marriage Act. The word appears to have been used in the section in context of human behavior in relation to or in respect of matrimonial obligations or duties. Cruelty can be termed as behavior or conduct of one spouse which adversely affects the other. Thus broadly speaking “cruelty” as a ground for the purpose of divorce under Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act can be taken as a behavior of one spouse towards the other which causes reasonable apprehension in his or her mind that it is not safe to continue the matrimonial relationship. Cruelty can be physical or mental or even intentional or unintentional. The mental cruelty is difficult to establish by direct evidence. It is a matter of inference to be drawn from facts and circumstances of the case. A feeling of anguish and frustration in one spouse caused by the conduct of other can be appreciated on the assessment of facts and circumstances in which the two have been living. The inference has to be drawn from overall facts and circumstances considered cumulatively.
Mental cruelty and its effect cannot be stated with arithmetical accuracy. It varies from individual to individual, from society to society and also depends on the status of the persons. What would be mental cruelty in the life of two individuals belonging to a particular stratum of the society may not amount to mental cruelty in respect of another couple belonging to a different stratum of society. The agonized feeling or for that matter a sense of disappointment can take place by certain acts causing a grievous dent at the mental level. The inference has to be drawn from the attending circumstances. Puja Suri v. Bijoy Suri, 2016 (119) ALR 140.

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Determination of Paternity—D.N.A. Test

In Bhabani Prasad Jena v. Convenor Secretary, Orissa State Commission for Women, (2010) 8 SCC 633, the court held as under:
“In a matter where paternity of a child is in issue before the court, the use of D.N.A. test is an extremely delicate and sensitive aspect. One view is that when modern science gives the means of ascertaining the paternity of a child, there should not be any hesitation to use those means whenever the occasion requires. The other view is that the court must be reluctant in the use of such scientific advances and tools which result in invasion of right to privacy of an individual and may not only be prejudicial to the rights of the parties but may have devastating effect on the child. Sometimes the result of such scientific test may bastardise an innocent child even though his mother and her spouse were living together during the time of conception.
When there is apparent conflict between the right to privacy of a person not to submit himself forcibly to medical examination and duty of the court to reach the truth, the court must exercise its discretion only after balancing the interests of the parties and on due consideration whether for a just decision in the matter, D.N.A. test is eminently needed. D.N.A. test in a matter relating to paternity of a child should not be directed by the court as a matter of course or in a routine manner, whenever such a request is made. The court has to consider diverse aspects including presumption under Section 112 of the Evidence Act: pros and cons of such order and the test of “eminent need” whether it is not possible for the court to reach the truth without use of such test.
In Goutam Kundu v. State of West Bengal, (1993) 3 SCC 418, it has been laid down that courts in India cannot order blood test as a matter of course and such prayers cannot be granted to have roving inquiry: there must be strong prima facie case and the court must carefully examine as to what would be the consequence of ordering the blood test. In Sharda v. Dharmpal, (2003) 4 SCC 493, while concluding that a matrimonial court has power to order a person to undergo a medical test, it was reiterated that the court should exercise such a power if the applicant has a strong prima facie case and there is sufficient material before the court. Obviously, therefore, any order for D.N.A. test can be given by the court only if a strong prima facie case is made out for such a course. Dipanwita Roy v. Ronobroto Roy, 2014 (6) AWC 6073.

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Alienation of Affection

Alienation of affection by a stranger, if proved, is an intentional tort i.e. interference in the marital relationship with intent to alienate one spouse from the other. Alienation of affection is known as “Heart Balm” action. Anglo-Saxon common law on alienation of affection has not much roots in the country, the law is still in its nascent stage. Anglo-Saxon based action against the third parties involving tortious interference with the marital relationship was mainly compensatory in nature which was earlier available to the husband, but, of late, a wife could also lay such a claim complaining of alienation of affection. The object is to preserve marital harmony by deterring wrongful interference, thereby to save the institution of marriage. Both the spouses have a valuable interest in the married relationship, including its intimacy, companionship, support, duties, affection, welfare of children, etc.
Action for alienation lies for all improper intrusions or assaults on the marriage relationship by another, whether or not associated with “extramarital sex”, his or her continued overtures or sexual liaisons can be construed as something akin to an assumption of risk that his/her conduct will injure the marriage and give rise to an action. But all the same, a person is not liable for alienation of affection for merely becoming a passive object of affection. The liability arises only if there is any active participation, initiation or encouragement on the part of the defendant. Act which lead to loss of affection must be wrongful, intentional, calculated to entice the affection of one spouse away from the other, in order to support a cause of action for alienation of affection. For proving a claim for alienation of affection it is not necessary for a party to prove an adulterous relationship. Pinakin Mahipatray Rawal v. State of Gujarat, (2013) 10 SCC 48.

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