IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL Nos.7114-7115 OF 2014
Suman Singh ….Appellant(s)
Sanjay Singh …Respondent(s)
J U D G M E N T
Abhay Manohar Sapre, J.
1) These appeals are filed by the appellant (wife) against the final
judgment and order dated 23.05.2013 passed by the High Court of Delhi at
New Delhi in F.A.O. No.108 of 2013 and F.A.O. No.109 of 2013 by which the
High Court dismissed the appeals filed by the appellant and confirmed the
judgment dated 14.12.2010 of the Principal Judge, Family Courts, Rohini
which had granted decree for dissolution of marriage in favour of the
respondent (husband) and, in consequence, also affirmed the order
dismissing the petition filed by the appellant (wife) for restitution of
2) Facts, in brief, to appreciate the controversy involved in the
appeals need mention infra.
3) The marriage between the appellant and the respondent was solemnized
on 26.02.1999 at Delhi as per the Hindu rites. The respondent-husband is
working as “Caretaker” in the Government of NCT of Delhi whereas the
appellant is a housewife. Out of this wedlock, one daughter was born on
15.06.2002 and the second daughter was born on 10.02.2006. Both daughters
are living with the appellant.
4) On 11.07.2010, the respondent (husband) filed a petition for
dissolution of marriage under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
(hereinafter referred to as “The Act”) in the Family Courts, Rohini, Delhi
against the appellant (wife). The respondent sought decree for dissolution
of marriage essentially on the ground of “cruelty”.
5) In substance, the respondent, in his petition, pleaded 9 instances
which, according to him, constituted “cruelty” within the meaning of
Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Act entitling him to claim dissolution of
marriage against the appellant.
6) The first ground of cruelty was related to wife’s behavior on the
next day of marriage, i.e., 27.02.1999. It was alleged that the appellant
came out of the bedroom in night dress and that too late when the close
relatives of the respondent were sitting in the house. It was alleged that
she did not pay respect and wishes to the elders. (Para 9 of the plaint)
7) The second ground of cruelty was again about the appellant’s behavior
with the respondent on the eve of New Year. However, the year was not
mentioned. According to the respondent, he agreed to celebrate the new
year with the appellant on her parental house as the parents of the
appellant gave repeated calls. After reaching her parental house, most of
the time the appellant was busy with her family members and left him alone
in the drawing room. Even at the time of dinner, the family members of the
appellant did not behave properly. (Para 10).
8) The third ground of cruelty was that the appellant did not show any
inclination or enthusiasm to attend any important family function or
festivals at the respondent’s house whenever held. However, no details were
given about the date and the function held. The allegations are general in
nature (Para 11).
9) The fourth ground of cruelty was again about the indecent behavior of
the appellant towards the respondent’s family members. However, no details
were pleaded except making general averments (Para 12).
10) The fifth ground of cruelty was in relation to an incident which,
according to the respondent, occurred in July 1999. It was alleged that the
appellant, on that day, insisted that the couple should live separately
from the respondent’s parents (Para 13).
11) The sixth ground of cruelty was again general with no details. It was
alleged that the appellant was not interested in doing any household work
nor was interested in preparing meals and used to insist the respondent to
have his lunch from outside. (Para 14).
12) The seventh ground of cruelty was in relation to one incident which,
according to the respondent, occurred on Diwali day in the year 2000. It
was again about the behavior of the appellant with the family members of
the respondent which, according to the respondent, was rude (Para 16).
13) The eighth ground of cruelty was in relation to one isolated incident
which, according to the respondent, occurred on 15.04.2001. It was again
about the behavior of the appellant with the friends of the respondent who
had come to the respondent’s house. According to the respondent, the family
members did not like it (Para 17).
14) The ninth ground of cruelty was that one day in year 2010, the
appellant visited the respondent’s office and misbehaved with the
respondent in the presence of other officials (Para 27).
15) The respondent also alleged some instances in the petition. They,
however, again essentially relate to the appellant’s behaviour with the
respondent and his family members.
16) The appellant filed her written statement and denied these
allegations. The appellant also applied for restitution of conjugal rights
against the respondent in the same proceedings by filing petition under
Section 9 of the Act and inter alia alleged in her petition that it was the
respondent who has withdrawn from her company without there being a
reasonable cause. She also while denying the case set up by the respondent
justified her case for restitution of conjugal rights.
17) The Trial Court framed the following issues on the basis of pleadings
in the case:
Whether after solemnization of marriage, the Respondent has
treated the Petitioner with cruelty? OPP
Whether the Petitioner is entitled to the decree of
divorce as prayed? OPP
The following issues were framed based on the pleadings in the petition
under Section 9 of the Act:
Whether the Petitioner is entitled to the restitution of conjugal rights as
18) Parties adduced the evidence. By order dated 14.12.2012, the Family
Court allowed the petition filed by the respondent. It was held that the
grounds alleged by the respondent amounted to mental cruelty within the
meaning of Section 13(1)(ia) of the Act and the same having been proved by
the respondent, he was entitled to claim a decree for dissolution of
marriage against the appellant. Accordingly, the Trial Court granted decree
for dissolution of marriage in favour of the respondent and dissolved the
marriage. Since the decree for dissolution of marriage was passed against
the appellant, the petition filed by the appellant against the respondent
seeking restitution of conjugal rights was dismissed.
19) The appellant, felt aggrieved by the aforesaid order, filed first
appeals before the High Court. In appeals, the question was whether the
Trial Court was justified in granting decree for dissolution of marriage to
the respondent (husband) and, in consequence, was justified in dismissing
the petition for restitution of conjugal rights filed by the appellant
20) By impugned judgment, the High Court dismissed the appeals and
affirmed the judgment/decree of the Trial Court. The appellant (wife), felt
aggrieved, has filed these appeals by special leave against the judgment of
the High Court.
21) Heard Mr. D.N. Goburdhan, learned counsel for the appellant and Mr.
Gaurav Goel, learned counsel for the respondent.
22) Having heard the learned counsel for the parties and on perusal of
the record of the case, we are inclined to allow the appeals and while
setting aside the impugned order, dismiss the divorce petition filed by the
respondent(husband) against the appellant and, in consequence, allow the
petition filed by the appellant(wife) for restitution of conjugal rights
against the respondent (husband).
23) The word “cruelty” used in Section 13(1)(ia) of the Act is not
defined under the Act. However, this expression was the subject matter of
interpretation in several cases of this Court. What amounts to “mental
cruelty” was succinctly explained by this Court (three Judge Bench) in
Samar Ghosh vs. Jaya Ghosh [(2007) 4 SCC 511]. Their Lordships speaking
through Justice Dalveer Bhandari observed that no uniform standard can ever
be laid down for guidance, yet it is appropriate to enumerate some
instances of human behavior which may be considered relevant in dealing
with the cases of “mental cruelty”.
24) Their Lordships then broadly enumerated 16 category of cases which
are considered relevant while examining the question as to whether the
facts alleged and proved constitute “mental cruelty” so as to attract the
provisions of Section 13 (1) (ia) of the Act for granting decree of
25) Keeping in view the law laid down in Samar Ghosh’s case (supra), when
we examine the grounds taken by the respondent in his petition for proving
the mental cruelty for grant of divorce against the appellant, we find that
none of the grounds satisfies either individually or collectively the test
laid down in Samar Ghosh’s case (supra) so as to entitle the respondent to
claim a decree of divorce.
26) This we hold for more than one reason. First, almost all the grounds
taken by the respondent in his petition were stale or/and isolated and did
not subsist to enable the respondent to seek a decree for dissolution of
marriage. In other words, the incidents of cruelty alleged had taken place
even, according to the respondent, immediately after marriage. They were
solitary incidents relating to the behavior of the appellant. Second,
assuming that one or more grounds constituted an act of cruelty, yet we
find that the acts complained of were condoned by the parties due to their
subsequent conduct inasmuch as admittedly both lived together till 2006 and
the appellant gave birth to their second daughter in 2006. Third, most of
the incidents of alleged cruelty pertained to the period prior to 2006 and
some were alleged to have occurred after 2006. Those pertained to period
after 2006 were founded on general allegations with no details pleaded such
as when such incident occurred (year, month, date etc.), what was its
background, who witnessed, what the appellant actually said etc.
27) In our view, the incidents which occurred prior to 2006 could not be
relied on to prove the instances of cruelty because they were deemed to
have been condoned by the acts of the parties. So far as the instances
alleged after 2006 were concerned, they being isolated instances, did not
constitute an act of cruelty.
28) A petition seeking divorce on some isolated incidents alleged to have
occurred 8-10 years prior to filing of the date of petition cannot furnish
a subsisting cause of action to seek divorce after 10 years or so of
occurrence of such incidents. The incidents alleged should be of recurring
nature or continuing one and they should be in near proximity with the
filing of the petition.
29) Few isolated incidents of long past and that too found to have been
condoned due to compromising behavior of the parties cannot constitute an
act of cruelty within the meaning of Section 13 (1)(ia)of the Act.
30) In our considered opinion, both the Courts below failed to take note
of this material aspect of the case and thus committed jurisdictional error
in passing a decree for dissolution of marriage.
31) We cannot, therefore, countenance the approach of the High Court
because it did not, in the first instance, examine the grounds taken in the
petition to find out as to whether such grounds constitute mental cruelty
or not? The finding, therefore, though concurrent does not bind this
32) We are not impressed by the submission of the learned counsel for the
respondent that an incident which occurred somewhere in 2010 when the
appellant visited the office of the respondent and alleged to have
misbehaved with the respondent in front of other officers would constitute
an act of cruelty on the part of the appellant so as to enable the
respondent to claim divorce. In the first place, no decree for divorce on
one isolated incident can be passed. Secondly, there could be myriad
reasons for causing such isolated incident. Merely because both exchanged
some verbal conversation in presence of others would not be enough to
constitute an act of cruelty unless it is further supported by some
incidents of alike nature. It was not so.
33) We are also not impressed by the submission of the learned counsel
for the respondent that since the appellant had made allegation against the
respondent of his having extra-marital relation and hence such allegation
would also constitute an act of cruelty on the part of the appellant
entitling the respondent to claim decree for dissolution of marriage.
34) Similarly, we are also not impressed by the submission of learned
counsel for the respondent that since both have been living separately for
quite some time and hence this may be considered a good ground to give
35) In the first place, the respondent did not seek a decree of
dissolution of marriage on these grounds. Second, the grounds of cruelty
taken by the respondent in his petition does not include these grounds.
Third, even if some stray allegations were made by the wife in her
pleading/evidence as were relied upon by the learned counsel are of no
relevance because, as mentioned above, these ground were not pleaded in the
petition by the respondent for seeking a decree of divorce and nor were put
in issue; and lastly, the burden being on the respondent, the same could be
discharged by the respondent by pleading and then proving. It was not so
done. It is for these reasons, we cannot accept the aforementioned two
submissions for affirming the decree of divorce.
36) This takes us to the next question as to whether the appellant was
able to make out any case for restitution of conjugal rights against the
37) Having perused her petition and evidence, we are of the view that the
appellant is entitled for a decree for restitution of conjugal rights
against the respondent.
38) In our considered view, as it appears to us from perusal of the
evidence that it is the respondent who withdrew from the appellant’s
company without there being any reasonable cause to do so. Now that we have
held on facts that the respondent failed to make out any case of cruelty
against the appellant, it is clear to us that it was the respondent who
withdrew from the company of the appellant without reasonable cause and not
the vice versa.
39) In view of foregoing discussion, the appeals succeed and are allowed.
The impugned judgment is set aside. As a result, the petition filed by the
respondent (husband) under Section 13(1) of the Act seeking dissolution of
marriage is dismissed. As a consequence thereof, the marriage between the
parties is held to subsist whereas the petition filed by the appellant
against the respondent under Section 9 of the Act seeking restitution of
conjugal right is allowed. A decree for restitution of conjugal right is,
accordingly, passed against the respondent.
40) We hope and trust that the parties would now realize their duties and
obligations against each other as also would realize their joint
obligations as mother and father towards their grown up daughters. Both
should, therefore, give quite burial to their past deeds/acts and bitter
experiences and start living together and see that their daughters are well
settled in their respective lives. Such reunion, we feel, would be in the
interest of all family members in the long run and will bring peace,
harmony and happiness. We find that the respondent is working as a
“Caretaker” in the Government Department (see Para 4 of his petition). He
must, therefore, be the “Caretaker” of his own family that being his first
obligation and at the same time attend to his Government duties to maintain
[ABHAY MANOHAR SAPRE]
March 08, 2017