A CASE ANALYSIS: BHASKAR DAS VS. RENU DAS

A CASE ANALYSIS: BHASKAR DAS VS. RENU DAS

This Article is written by Harpreet Kaur Bains, a student of Rayat College of Law, Railmajra, SBS Nagar, Punjab.

                                    Refusal to wear ‘sakha and sindoor’ will project her refusal to accept marriage

                                                                                                                                                                 -Gauhati High Court

A Division Bench of Ajai Lamba, CJ and Soumitra Saikia, J., granted a decree of divorce to the appellant-husband on the grounds of cruelty by the respondent-wife.

FACTS

The Bhaskar Das case of the appellant (husband) filed before the Family Court. He is a contractual labourer in Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited (BCPL) at Madhuban at about 30 km from Digboi.

His marriage with the respondent (wife) was solemnized on 17.02.2012. After about a month into their marriage, the respondent (wife) demanded to reside separately with the appellant (husband) away from the husband’s relatives in a separate house. The appellant arranged for separate accommodation to take the respondent to his place of work at Madhuban. But quarrels between them continued and started blaming the appellant for not having a child as alleging him unfit.

About the month of June 2013, the respondent (wife) declared that she was not willing to continue her matrimonial life with the appellant. As a consequence, the respondent (wife) insisted on going back to her parental home assuring the appellant and his family members that she will visit her parental house only for a few days but return back to the matrimonial home thereafter.

Later, instead of returning back to the matrimonial house, she filed a case under Section 498(A) IPC before Digboi Police Station Case No.154/2013 against the appellant and his family members.

The respondent (wife) compelled the appellant to execute a written agreement to the effect that the couple will stay in a separate rental house together away and the appellant’s family members will not visit them or maintain any relationship with them. Unable to bear the agony and the stress inflicted by the respondent-wife, the appellant filed a divorce case (Bhaskar Das Case) (M) 9/2014 before the Court of District Judge, Dibrugarh.

ISSUES:

  1. Whether the respondent (the wife) subjected the petitioner (the respondent) to cruelty and deserted him?
  2. Whether the petitioner is entitled to a decree of divorce?

CONTENTIONS

By appellant:

  • The appellant adduced his evidence as PW1 stating that after a month of marriage between the appellant and respondent, her behaviour was harsh towards the appellant and his family.
  • He added that medical checkup proves him fit in all ways but the medical reports show some defect of respondent due to which she is unable to conceive.
  • He contended in June, the respondent insisted that she do not want to live with the appellant and abstained from wearing ‘sakha’ and ‘sindoor’.
  • He also contended that the respondent compelled the appellant to execute a written agreement to the effect that the couple will stay in a separate rental house together away and the appellant’s family members will not visit them or maintain any relationship with them.

By Respondent:

  • She contended the appellant for being medically unfit as she was unable to conceive.
  • The Respondent in her evidence as DW1 contended she was subjected to extreme cruelty by appellant family both physically and mentally, demanded dowry and declined basic necessities of life, on which she was taken by her brother to the parental home. As a consequence of this, she lodged a case (Bhaskar Das case) u/s 498(A) IPC against the appellant and his family at Digboi PS case (Bhaskar Das case) no.159/2013.

PROCEEDINGS:

The respondent in her evidence-in-chief admitted to an agreement entered into with the appellant in which the appellant agreed to stay with her in separate accommodation. Respondent stated that petitioner being enlarged on pre-arrest bail he declined to adhere to the terms of the agreement and thereby committed fraud with her. During her cross, she maintained the evidence produced by her in her evidence-in-chief. She admitted to the filing of three cases against the appellant. It is also evident from her cross-examination that she had categorically stated that either the appellant will come to Dibrugarh to live with her or fulfill her demands, i.e., monetary demands or only then she will divorce him.

Respondent gave her statements saying that she was subjected to extreme cruelty by the appellant’s step-mother, sister-in-law, brother, and his two sisters. She contended of physical and mental torture on her and demanded various cash and kinds in the form of dowry. She was denied all the necessities which therefore were provided by her brother. On various occasions, she was sent back to her home to bring money.

HELD

Family Court accepted evidence of the respondent that she was subjected to cruelty. He relied on the evidence rendered by DW2 (cousin of respondent) stating that she was subjected to cruelty and sent to her home on various occasions.

The court came to view that there was no cruelty to the appellant and his family and accordingly rejected a petition for divorce by the husband.

JUDGEMENT OVERTURNED

The discussions of the court didn’t consider certain pieces of evidence properly. The respondent didn’t dispute the agreement entered between her and the appellant, where the appellant to provide with separate accommodation to the respondent in a separate house away from the matrimonial house and where his family did not come and meet.

The Appellant adduced in his evidence that the respondent has refused to wear “sakha” and “sindoor” anymore. Under the custom of Hindu Marriage, a lady who has entered into marriage according to Hindu rituals and customs, and which has not been denied by the respondent in her evidence, her refusal to wear ‘sakha and sindoor’ will project her to be unmarried and/or signify her refusal to accept the marriage with the appellant. Such a categorical stand of the respondent points to the clear intention of the respondent that she is unwilling to continue her conjugal life with the appellant. Under such circumstances compelling the appellant-husband to continue to be in matrimony with the respondent-wife may be construed to be harassment inflicted by the respondent upon the appellant and his family members.

During the course of hearing it was submitted at the bar that the criminal proceedings pursuant to the filing of Digboi P.S. Case No.159/2013, under Section 498(A) IPC against the appellant has been dismissed as the informant, namely the respondent was not pursuing the said proceeding. As such the allegation of subjecting the respondent to cruelty was not sustained. Such acts of lodging criminal cases on unsubstantiated allegations against the husband and/or the husband’s family members amount to cruelty as held by the Supreme Court. In this context, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in a recent judgment of Rani Narasimha Sastri vs. Rani Suneela Rani, 2019 SCC Online SC 1595 has held that filing of criminal cases like case under Sections 498(A) IPC, etc. against the husband and the family members and which are subsequently dismissed/rejected by the Family Court, is sufficient to be construed as an act of cruelty by the wife.

Appellant made ground for grant of decree of dissolution of marriage on the ground of cruelty as mentioned in section 13(1)(i-a) of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

The court considered the fact that the appellant and respondent remained separately since 30 June 2013, it is evident that there is nothing left to carry forward the marriage as there was no matrimonial harmony between parties.

Under “Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007” which mandates the maintenance of parents and senior citizens. In Bhaskar Das case, the appellant stated that PW2 (widowed step-mother) has no personal source of income and she is a senior citizen. It is seen that the family court completely ignored the pieces of evidence where the appellant stated that the respondent has completely decided to not perform any household work and statutory duties towards his aged mother. Moreover, she demanded a separate residence away from the matrimonial home. Such circumstances are sufficient in construing the built cruelty faced by the appellant and his family.

The impugned judgement of family court dated 15 December 2018 passed by District Judge, Dibrugarh is set aside and a petition being (M) 20/2019 allowed and decree of divorce granted. Taking notice of the fact that the appellant is paying maintenance of Rs 3,000, the court said it the woman may pray for further alimony under the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1956.

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