On July 04, 2014, Premdeep Nishikant Matlane married Bhavana in Akola. Shortly after the marriage, the couple relocated to Panjim, Goa till August 28, 2014, since the husband (the appellant) worked at the Panjim Bench of the Bombay High Court. Between August 15 and August 18, the couple celebrated their Honeymoon. Per the appellant, his wife (the respondent) had an extreme affinity for her parent’s place at Akola, wherein she would allegedly get angry and aggressive towards the appellant. The respondent allegedly quarrelled with the appellant about the large distance between Akola and Panjim, wherein she allegedly insisted that he should leave his job and move to Akola where he should take another job; however, the permanent nature of the appellant’s job at the High Court made his relocation impossible, wherein the impossibility of the situation triggered the incumbent arguments between the appellant and respondent. The time-line of the events preceding the present case are as follows:
- The respondent moved to Aurangabad, Maharashtra between August 28 and September 08 under the pretext of attending Ganesh Chaturthi and Mahalaxmi festivals.
- The respondent moved to Akola between September 10 and September 18.
- The respondent and appellant arrive at Aurangabad on September 19 for attending Diwali festivities.
- The respondent returned to Akola along with her brother between October 2 and December 9.
- The appellant went on a tour of South India with his family between December 13 and December 22.
- Between December 22, 2021, and April 09, 2015, the couple stayed together in Panjim, wherein the respondent allegedly caused mental pain and agony to the appellant whilst insisting on leaving his job at Panjim for an alternate job in Akola; however, the appellant refused to act on the insistence. It is worth noting that the respondent allegedly refused to bear a child at the request of the appellant.
- On April 09, 2015, the respondent left for Akola under the pretext of studying for competitive exams; additionally, she carried all the gold ornaments given to her during her marriage with her to Akola. The appellant allegedly tried to convince the respondent to come back to Panjim, but the latter paid no heed to the request.
- On October 31, 2015, the respondent arrived at Panjim with her father to collect her clothes, goods and articles in order to leave the company of the appellant permanently, wherein the respondent left the appellant’s house in the dead of night even though the appellant allegedly asked the respondent to stay with vehement requests; however, the respondent abused the appellant in a filthy language.
The actions of the respondent allegedly caused unbearable harassment and mental cruelty to the appellant; consequently, the appellant prayed before the Bombay High Court for a decree of judicial separation on the ground of harassment and mental cruelty under Section 13, Sub-Section 1, Clause I-A of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
The respondent filed a complaint with the Women’s Commission, an application before the Family Court, Akola under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, an application before the Judicial Magistrate (First Class) under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, a report at Khadan Police Station, Akola under Sections 498-A, 506 and 323 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The respondent denies all claims of the appellant, wherein she claims that the appellant and his family members allegedly harassed her for dowry after the marriage whilst allegedly demanding household articles from the family of the respondent. The appellant allegedly discontinued the services of the incumbent male servant, wherein the respondent was heavily burdened with carrying all the household work herself without any assistance; consequently, the respondent was allegedly beaten, tortured and starved by the appellant. In her defence, the respondent claims that on the night of October 31, 2015, she arrived at the appellant’s house in Panjim along with her father; however, the appellant allegedly did not allow them to enter the house while throwing her clothes, goods and other articles out of the house whilst allegedly asking her to never return to his house. The respondent allegedly was forced to live with her parents in Akola owing to the extreme mental cruelty faced at the hands of the appellant and his family.
In the case of Dr. (Mrs.) Malathi Ravi, M.D. v. Dr. B. V. Ravi, M.D. (2014) 7 SCC 640, the Supreme Court of India held that the non-existence of the intention to lead a normal life on part of the wife amounts to mental cruelty to the husband, wherein the latter can seek a divorce from the former, such that the grounds for mental cruelty changes from person to person and society to society. In the case of Vishwanath Agrawal v. Sau. Sarla Vishwanath Agrawal (2012) C. A. No. 4095/ 2012, Justice Deepak Verma and Justice Dipak Misra held that the act of one spouse making wild and falsified allegations against the other spouse in a report lodged to the authority in either electronic or print format amounts to mental torture to the latter, wherein the mental cruelty can become the grounds for granting a divorce to the former. Justice B. P. Jeevan Reddy in the V. Bhagat v. D. Bhagat (1994) 1 SCC 337 outlined the meaning of cruelty under Section 13, Sub-Section 1, Clause I-A of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 to include any conduct of one spouse that inflicts mental pain and suffering upon the other spouse to a point where it would be reasonably impossible to expect the couple to live together because it cannot be expected from the wronged spouse to put out with such conduct of the other spouse; additionally, the grounds for cruelty must be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis whilst considering the unique circumstances and predicaments of the case.
The appellant claims that the respondent had put her matrimonial profile on BharatMatrimony.com and Shaadi.com; this shows that the respondent had decided to perform her second marriage even before getting a divorce from the appellant. It is worth noting that the matrimonial profiles mentioned a sentence by the respondent: awaiting divorce in a pending case. The court observed that the matrimonial profiles put by the respondent clarifies her intention of getting rid of the appellant, wherein the aforementioned action is not consistent with the facts stated by the respondent of wanting to be with the appellant as an obedient wife and daughter-in-law even when the appellant and his parents were supposedly causing mental agony to the respondent by allegedly wanting to get rid of the respondent from the life of the appellant. The court found no reason to disregard and disbelieve the pieces of evidence (including the corroboration by an eye-witness to the incident on October 31, 2015, Shri Ashwin Sharma), i.e. the court found the narrative of the appellant to be credible.
Justice A. S. Chandurkar and Justice G. A. Sanap held that the evidence from the matrimonial websites indicates that the respondent had no wish and desire to remain in the company of the appellant, wherein she wished for a second marriage even before her divorce with the appellant. The bench was convinced that the conduct of the respondent throughout and subsequent to the filing of the petition proves beyond doubt that the respondent had made the life of the appellant difficult and miserable. Apart from the mental cruelty and suffering causing injury to the health of the appellant, it makes it impossible for the appellant to live with the respondent.
It is worth noting that the Family Court had agreed to the position of mental cruelty inflicted by the respondent upon the appellant; however, the lower court had refused to believe that the mental cruelty was reasonable enough to be injurious for him to live with the respondent, wherein the Family Court, Akola granted a decree of judicial separation for a period of one year, starting from December 07, 2020, while rejecting the decree for divorce by the appellant.
The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court believes the pieces of evidence presented by the appellant (including the matrimonial profiles uploaded by the respondent on the two matrimonial websites) proves that the mental cruelty at the hands of the respondent and her family was of a high degree, which made it reasonably impossible for the appellant to live with the respondent; hence, Justice G. A. Sanap quashed the decision of the Family Court while granting the decree for divorce in favour of the appellant.