25 June 2020

Refusal by Hindu-wife to wear 'sindoor' is cruelty against husband

Refusal by Hindu-wife to wear 'sindoor' and preventing husband performing duties towards his parents; is cruelty against husband.

   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 cross- examination 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.

Refusal by Hindu-wife to wear 'sindoor' is cruelty against husband

This evidence although available before  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:.....[Para No.15]
   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 parent.[Para No.18]

   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.[Para No.19]

   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 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.[Para No.20]

Gauhati High Court

Sri Bhaskar Das
Smt. Renu Das

Decided on 19/06/2020

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