Irretrievably broken down marriage can be dissolved on ground of cruelty: Supreme Court

Team SoOLEGAL 2 May 2023 4:28pm

Irretrievably broken down marriage can be dissolved on ground of cruelty: Supreme Court

New Delhi: In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that irretrievably broken down marriages constitute cruelty and can be grounds for divorce under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (Shri Rakesh Raman v. Smt. Kavita).

A Division Bench of Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and JB Pardiwala ruled that, while irretrievable break down of marriage is not a reason for dissolution of marriage under the Act, it might be regarded as a ground of "cruelty."

The court stated, "A marriage that has broken down irretrievably, in our opinion, spells cruelty to both parties, as in such a relationship each party is treating the other with cruelty. It is therefore a ground for dissolution of marriage under Section 13 (1) (ia) of the Act."

The Court was considering an appeal against a 2011 Delhi High Court ruling that overruled a divorce decree obtained by the family court in favour of the appellant-husband.

The couple had barely been living together for four years after they got married in 1994. They drifted apart and have been living apart for 25 years; during their period of separation, there have been numerous legal disputes.

While dismissing the divorce decree, the High Court noted that just filing a case against a spouse does not constitute cruelty. Dissatisfied, the husband filed a petition in the Supreme Court. The court observed that the party’s mediation attempts to reach a resolution or compromise had all been unsuccessful. Taking into account the numerous legal disputes between the parties over the course of these 25 years, the Court commented that this is an acrimonious relationship between the parties that has not known a moment of tranquilly, and thus this marital relationship exists only on paper.

The court further added, "The multiple court battles between them and the repeated failures in mediation and conciliation are at least testimony to the fact that no bond now survives between the couple; it is indeed a marriage that has broken down irretrievably."

The Bench further remarked that, despite the Supreme Court's emphatic recommendation in the case of Naveen Kohli v. Neelu Kohli in 2006, irretrievable breakdown of marriage is still not a reason for dissolution of marriage. It was also noted that the Law Commission declared in its 71st report that such marriages are de facto broken down and simply require de jure legal recognition.

The bench held, "We therefore hold that in a given case, such as the one at hand, where the marital relationship has broken down irretrievably, where there is a long separation and absence of cohabitation (as in the present case for the last 25 years), with multiple court cases between the parties, then continuation of such a ‘marriage’ would only mean giving sanction to the cruelty which each is inflicting on the other. We are also conscious of the fact that a dissolution of this marriage would affect only the two parties as there is no child out of wedlock."

As a result, the Court determined that the extended separation, lack of cohabitation, total collapse of all meaningful links, and existing hostility between the parties constituted cruelty under Section 13(1)(ia) of the 1955 Act. While dissolving the marriage, the court ordered the husband to pay his estranged wife 30 lakh rupees as permanent alimony.

The appellant-husband was represented by Senior Advocate SK Rungta and advocate Sk Bhalla, represented the wife.


Tagged: Irretrievably broken down   marriage  
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