Marital tiff not cruelty, can’t be basis for divorce

MUMBAI: Many a married man’s pet grouse is his quarrelsome wife. But a 47-year-old Parel resident’s attempt to get a divorce on the grounds that his wife constantly quarrelled with him, and this amounted to cruelty, was thrown out by the Bombay high court.

‘‘Normal wear and tear is expected in a matrimonial home,’’ a division bench of Justices P B Majumdar and R V More said, adding: ‘‘Quarrels between spouses over trivial matters in day-to-day married life do not amount to cruelty.’’

The judges also struck a blow for women’s rights. ‘‘It is not expected that a lady should remain like a maidservant and only prepare food and look after the children. The wife is not executing a slavery bond in favour of the husband or her in-laws,’’ the court said while dismissing a petition filed by Vithal seeking
divorce from his wife of 17 years, Rashmi.

The court also said a wife could not be expected to keep her silence and not complain at all. ‘‘It is not expected from the wife that she should not even speak a single word or cannot raise a grievance (sic) about a particular act of her husband,’’ the judges said. The judges also declaimed the practice of seeking dissolution of marriage for petty reasons. ‘‘Marriage is a sacred ceremony which is not to be taken lightly by either spouse; they cannot treat it as child’s play,’’ they held. The judges remarked that the manner in which divorce petitions were flooding the courts made them wonder about the future of marriage. ‘‘(Will) a child who is born out of the said wedlock be able to get the love and affection of father and mother in case the marriage is dissolved in a light fashion?’’ the judges asked.

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Vithal married Rashmi in December 1992, and the couple had a son in August 1993. Two years later, in 1995, Vithal filed a petition for dissolution of the marriage on grounds of cruelty. He listed the instances of cruelty: Rashmi threatened to commit suicide if they did not go on a honeymoon despite the fact that his mother was in hospital; she fought with him after the birth of their son; on their son’s first birthday, she quarrelled and went to Siddhivinayak temple alone; once, after a fight, she went to the balcony and stripped; Rashmi did not cook or prepare hot water for his bath.

Vithal claimed that Rashmi was quarrelsome and did not respect or love him. She used to ask him why he had not disclosed his previous relationship, he said, adding that this amounted to cruelty.

Rashmi denied the allegations. She claimed that Vithal had a pre-marital relationship, and from the first day of their married life used to treat her badly and not provide for her. She, however, refused to give him a divorce, saying that she did not want the stigma of being a divorcee.

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