Joydeep Majumdar vs Bharti Jaiswal Majumdar on 26 February, 2021


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Supreme Court of India

Joydeep Majumdar vs Bharti Jaiswal Majumdar on 26 February, 2021

Author: Hrishikesh Roy

                                                             [REPORTABLE]

                 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                  CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

             CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 3786-3787 OF 2020

JOYDEEP MAJUMDAR                                  APPELLANT(S)


                                 VERSUS


BHARTI JAISWAL MAJUMDAR                           RESPONDENT(S)




                           J U D G M E N T

Hrishikesh Roy, J.

1. Heard Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan, the learned

Senior Counsel appearing for the appellant (Husband).

Also heard Mr. Ahmad Ibrahim, learned counsel

appearing for the respondent (Wife).

2. The challenge in these appeals is to the

analogous judgment and order dated 25.6.2019 in the

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First Appeal No. 81 of 2017 and First Appeal No. 82

of 2017 whereby the High Court of Uttarakhand had

allowed both appeals by reversing the common order

dated 4.7.2017 of the Family Court, Dehradun. Before

the Family Court, the appellant succeeded with his

case for dissolution of marriage but the respondent

failed to secure a favourable verdict in her petition

for restitution of conjugal rights.

3. The appellant is an Army Officer with M.Tech

qualification. The respondent is holding a faculty

position in the Government P G College, Tehri with

Ph.d degree. They got married on 27.9.2006 and lived

together for few months at Vishakhapatnam and at

Ludhiana. But from the initial days of married life,

differences cropped up and since 15.9.2007, the

couple have lived apart.

4. Following the estrangement, the appellant earlier

applied for divorce from the Family Court at

Vishakhapatnam. The respondent then filed a petition

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against the respondent in the Dehradun Court for

restitution of conjugal rights. Later, when she

learnt of the case filed by the appellant at

Vishakhapatnam, the respondent filed Transfer

Petition (C) No. 1366/2011 before this Court. The

appellant appeared before the Supreme Court and

stated that the case at Vishakhapatnam would be

withdrawn. This Court then recorded the following

order:

“Counsel for the respondent states that
the respondent would withdraw his
petition pending before the Family
Court at Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh
and in case he has to file any petition
seeking any relief against the
petitioner (his estranged wife), he
will file the petition only before the
proper Court at Dehradun, Uttarakhand.
In view of the statement made at the
Bar, the petitioner is left with no
grievance.

The transfer petition is disposed of.
We may, however, observe that in case
the respondent files a petition at
Dehradun, the Dehradun Court shall take
it up and dispose it of expeditiously
and without any undue loss of time.”
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5. In the divorce proceeding, the appellant pleaded

that he was subjected to numerous malicious

complaints by the respondent which have affected his

career and loss of reputation, resulting in mental

cruelty. On the other hand, the respondent in her

case for restitution of conjugal rights contended

that the husband without any reasonable cause had

deserted her and accordingly she pleaded for

direction to the appellant, for resumption of

matrimonial life.

6. The Family Court at Dehradun analogously

considered both cases. The learned judge applied his

mind to the evidence led by the parties, the

documents on record and the arguments advanced by the

respective counsel and gave a finding that the

respondent had failed to establish her allegation of

adultery against the husband. It was further found

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that the respondent had subjected the appellant to

mental cruelty with her complaints to the Army and

other authorities. Consequently, the Court allowed

the appellant’s suit for dissolution of marriage and

simultaneously dismissed the respondent’s petition

for restitution of conjugal rights.

7. The aggrieved parties then filed respective First

Appeals before the Uttarakhand High Court. On

consideration of the pleadings and the issues framed

by the trial Court, the High Court noted that cruelty

is the core issue in the dispute. The Court then

proceeded to examine whether the wife with her

complaints to various authorities including the

Army’s top brass, had treated the appellant with

cruelty to justify his plea for dissolution of

marriage. While it was found that the wife did write

to various authorities commenting on the appellant’s

character and conduct, the Division Bench opined that

those cannot be construed as cruelty since no court

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has concluded that those allegations were false or

fabricated. According to the Court, the conduct of

the parties against each other would at best be

squabbles of ordinary middle class married life.

Accordingly, the High Court set aside the decree for

dissolution of marriage and allowed the respondent’s

suit for restitution of conjugal rights, under the

impugned judgment.

8. Challenging the High Court’s decision, Mr. Gopal

Sankaranarayanan, the learned Senior Counsel

highlights that the respondent had filed a series of

complaints against the appellant before the superior

officers in the Army upto the level of the Chief of

Army Staff and to other authorities and these

complaints have irreparably damaged the reputation

and mental peace of the appellant. The appellant

cannot therefore be compelled to resume matrimonial

life with the respondent, in the face of such

unfounded allegations and cruel treatment. Moreover,

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matrimonial life lasted only for few months and the

couple have been separated since 15.9.2007 and after

all these years, restitution would not be justified

or feasible.

9. Per contra, Mr. Ahmad Ibrahim, the learned

counsel submits that the respondent is keen to resume

her matrimonial life with the appellant. According

to the counsel, the respondent wrote letters and

filed complaints only to assert her legal right as

the married wife of the appellant and those

communications should therefore be understood as

efforts made by the wife to preserve the marital

relationship. It is further contended that only

because the appellant had filed the divorce case

before the Vishakhapatnam Court and had obtained an

ex-parte order, the respondent was constrained to

write to various authorities to assert her right as

the legally wedded wife of the appellant.

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10. For considering dissolution of marriage at the

instance of a spouse who allege mental cruelty, the

result of such mental cruelty must be such that it is

not possible to continue with the matrimonial

relationship. In other words, the wronged party

cannot be expected to condone such conduct and

continue to live with his/her spouse. The degree of

tolerance will vary from one couple to another and

the Court will have to bear in mind the background,

the level of education and also the status of the

parties, in order to determine whether the cruelty

alleged is sufficient to justify dissolution of

marriage, at the instance of the wronged party. In

Samar Ghosh Vs. Jaya Ghosh1, this Court gave

illustrative cases where inference of mental cruelty

could be drawn even while emphasizing that no uniform

standard can be laid down and each case will have to

be decided on its own facts.

1 (2007) 4 SCC 511

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11. The materials in the present case reveal that the

respondent had made several defamatory complaints to

the appellant’s superiors in the Army for which, a

Court of inquiry was held by the Army authorities

against the appellant. Primarily for those, the

appellant’s career progress got affected. The

Respondent was also making complaints to other

authorities, such as, the State Commission for Women

and has posted defamatory materials on other

platforms. The net outcome of above is that the

appellant’s career and reputation had suffered.

12. When the appellant has suffered adverse

consequences in his life and career on account of the

allegations made by the respondent, the legal

consequences must follow and those cannot be

prevented only because, no Court has determined that

the allegations were false. The High Court however

felt that without any definite finding on the

credibility of the wife’s allegation, the wronged

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spouse would be disentitled to relief. This is not

found to be the correct way to deal with the issue.

13. Proceeding with the above understanding, the

question which requires to be answered here is

whether the conduct of the respondent would fall

within the realm of mental cruelty. Here the

allegations are levelled by a highly educated spouse

and they do have the propensity to irreparably damage

the character and reputation of the appellant. When

the reputation of the spouse is sullied amongst his

colleagues, his superiors and the society at large,

it would be difficult to expect condonation of such

conduct by the affected party.

14. The explanation of the wife that she made those

complaints in order to protect the matrimonial ties

would not in our view, justify the persistent effort

made by her to undermine the dignity and reputation

of the appellant. In circumstances like this, the

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wronged party cannot be expected to continue with the

matrimonial relationship and there is enough

justification for him to seek separation.

15. Therefore, we are of the considered opinion that

the High Court was in error in describing the broken

relationship as normal wear and tear of middle class

married life. It is a definite case of cruelty

inflicted by the respondent against the appellant and

as such enough justification is found to set aside

the impugned judgment of the High Court and to

restore the order passed by the Family Court. The

appellant is accordingly held entitled to dissolution

of his marriage and consequently the respondent’s

application for restitution of conjugal rights stands

dismissed. It is ordered accordingly.

16. With the above order, the appeals stand disposed

of leaving the parties to bear their own cost.

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……………………………………………………J.

(SANJAY KISHAN KAUL)

……………………………………………………J.

(DINESH MAHESHWARI)

……………………………………………………J.

(HRISHIKESH ROY)
NEW DELHI
FEBRUARY 26, 2021

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