NEW DELHI: A single letter can constitute an act of cruelty, the Delhi high court has said, granting divorce to a man living separately from his estranged wife for the past 28 years. The missive in question: a declaration by his angry wife in 1990 when he was stationed abroad that she wanted to divorce him and that she had found an old friend who wanted to marry her and accept her with their young daughter.
It was only in 1995, when the case came up in trial court, that she admitted the letter didn’t contain a grain of truth and was only meant to jolt the husband out of his complacency. But Justice Najmi Waziri of the high court pointed out the mental agony caused to the husband due to “this sole act of cruelty that continued for a period of 4-5 years”.
Upholding the decision of the trial court to dissolve the marriage on ground of cruelty, Justice Waziri noted, “For a husband living away from his wife since 1987, to have received a letter from her intimating him about her unequivocal decision to dissolve the marriage and marry another man would have been a pain as grievous as any to endure. Such an element of rejection, coupled with brunt of emotional infidelity by the wife, can break the spirit of the husband to continue marital ties.”
Challenging the decision in high court, the wife argued that the letter was a “one-off, stray incident and could not be a ground for divorce”. She said it was an act of despair, the letter was written in sheer frustration since she had been waiting for many years to live with her husband again, abroad or back home.
There was no friend, no prospect of marriage; in fact, she had made up a fictional name just to “shake up” her husband. Besides, she argued, there was not a single act of violence on her part for the charge of cruelty to pass muster.
Appearing for the husband, advocate Manjit Singh Ahluwalia countered her argument, saying she did think of divorce as she drew up an affidavit to finalise her legal plan. The high court highlighted that the letter was written in 1990 while the divorce was granted five years later but during this period she never tried to explain to her husband why she had written the latter.
The high court said the husband would have suffered acute mental agony by the letter “that the wife had found someone to replace him as her husband”. It took into account the stand of the wife that the letter was a mere threat but said its import “could only evoke pain, distress, rejection and self-doubt in any reasonable husband” and termed it as a “telling testimony of cruelty”.