The Hon’ble Supreme Court while rendering a judgment on matrimonial dispute has observed that:
“The foundation of a sound marriage is tolerance, adjustment and respecting one another. Tolerance to each other's fault to a certain bearable extent has to be inherent in every marriage. Petty quibbles, trifling differences should not be exaggerated and magnified to destroy what is said to have been made in heaven. The Courts do not have to deal with ideal husbands and ideal wives. It has to deal with particular man and woman before it. The ideal couple or a mere ideal one will probably have no occasion to go to Matrimonial Court."
Indian society has eroded the original sanctity of marriage. Abuse of the due process of law with an intent to drag the alleged offender and his/her family to the court of law to demean them has become all too common. In a recent judgment in Narendra Vs K. Meena, the grounds of cruelty on which a husband can seek divorce has been elucidated. The case was judged based on the norms, values and ethos prevalent in the Indian culture.
The fact of the case is that the parties to the marriage did not lead a happy matrimonial life for even a month. The wife wanted her husband to get separated from his parents, despite the fact that he was the only earning member in the family and it was out of his income he was maintaining his parents. On one occasion, she went to the extent of committing suicide which was averted by the husband. After this, she started to live apart from her husband, and for nearly 20 years they have been living in separation. In addition to this, the wife has also leveled baseless and disgusting allegations against her husband of unchastity and extra-marital affair.
In matrimonial disputes like this one, there is no hard and fast rule to define what cruelty is. But given past judgments rendered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, mental cruelty is one of the worst forms of cruelties. The test of cruelty has been laid down by this court in N.G. Dastane v. S.Dastane: an act is said to be mentally cruel if it to causes in the mind a reasonable apprehension that it will be harmful or injurious for a spouse to live with another.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court has also gone to the extent of stressing the moral and Indian values of a matrimonial life. It has set out the pious obligations of an Indian son to maintain his parents by living along with them unlike the prevalent practices in Western countries. The notable excerpt from the observations made in the judgment:
“A son maintaining his parents is absolutely normal in Indian culture and ethos. If a wife makes an attempt to deviate from the normal practice and normal custom of the society, she must have some justifiable reason for that. As stated hereinabove, in a Hindu society, it is a pious obligation of the son to maintain the parents. A son, brought up and given education by his parents, has a moral and legal obligation to take care and maintain the parents, when they become old and when they have either no income or have a meager income. In India, generally people do not subscribe to the meager income. In India, generally people do not subscribe to the meager income. In India, generally people do not subscribe to the western thought, where, upon getting married or attaining majority, the son gets separated from the family.”
The institution of marriage is India is revered and given a sacrosanct value where the wedlock is being considered as not only a tie between two individuals but also of the families. However, the impact of western thoughts and changing lifestyle patterns have attributed to the severance of marital ties. It is high time for the individuals who have stepped into marital life to consider it seriously before initiating litigation before a court of law, unless the relationship is broken down beyond repair. There is a brighter chance that certain issues can be sorted out at the instance of mediation or any other mode which the parties may prefer, considering the serious repercussions and also the welfare of children born out of the wedlock, rather than fighting it out in a court for frivolous reasons.