By FutureLaw Desk

The Supreme Court of India has decided that the coercion or forcing the husband to leave his parents (who are dependent on his income) amounts to cruelty on part of the wife, therefore can be a strong ground for divorce under Hindu Law. The verdict came on the appeal of Narendra vs. K.Meena (Civil appeal no. 3253 of 2008, decided on 2016), where the Supreme Court set aside the verdict of the Karnataka High Court.

Under ‘Sec 13(1) (i-a)’ of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 of India, cruelty is the main ground to seek divorce as defined and the party who is filing a case must prove that living between the husband and wife became impossible. (You can read the full verdict of Narendra vs. K. Meena from Live Law.)

“In normal circumstances, a wife is expected to be with the family of the husband after the marriage. She becomes integral to and forms part of the family of the husband and normally without any justifiable strong reason; she would never insist that her husband should get separated from the family and live only with her…. 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 and in this case, we do not find any justifiable reason, except monetary consideration of the Respondent wife. In our opinion, normally, no husband would tolerate this and no son would like to be separated from his old parents and other family members, who are also dependent upon his income.”
– Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice L. Nageswara Rao; Supreme Court of India

Naturally, there are many legal and judicial provisions which facilitates the protection of the women, which has got recognition from constitutional jurisprudence as well. Interestingly, there is a gender bias in this procedure which is evident from that fact that unlike almost all other laws in India, the burden of proof lies on the accused. Which  means as soon as the complaint is made by the aggrieved person/ wife, the result is that the husband and his family may be immediately arrested and will be considered as accused in the eyes of law. According to the Indian Penal Code (Section 498-A), the wife and her parental family can charge any or all members of the husband’s family of physical or mental cruelty but genuineness of the case has to be looked into by the court as this section is cognizable, non-compoundable and non-bailable in nature.

There have a significant development to improve and empower the husband to seek divorce on the ground of cruelty. Apart from the recent verdict, a number of cases decided in the different state High Courts shed some light on to the issue.

For instance, in Mrs. Deepalakshmi Saehia Zingade vs. Sachi Rameshrao Zingade (AIR 2010 Bom 16), the petitioner(wife) filed a false case against her husband on the ground of ‘Husband Having Girl Friend’ which is proved as false in a court of law, ans Court ruled that it could be considered as cruelty against husband.

In a similar manner, in Smt. Bhawna vs. Vijaykumar, (Appeal 1253/ 2008) the Nagpur Bench of Mumbai High Court dismissed the appeal of the wife and upheld the verdict of the Family Court. The High Court considered the wife’s demand of separate residence,  forcing her Husband to leave his parents and stay separate and also the threat of filing Criminal Complaints like 498a and threat of suicide as cruelty.

This compilation of 38 recent cases can be read through to get a glimpse of the judicial development of the cruelty against husband in India. Some of the cases are really weird, and the Court took cautious steps to deal with it since the complexity of these decisions often leave impacts beyond the contesting families.