Monsters-In-Law III

The Appellant Husband was treated cruelly by the Respondent Wife. There were repeated threats of suicide [See, Pankaj Mahajan v. Dimple, (2011) 12 SCC 1]; levelling of disgusting accusations of indecent familiarity with a person outside wedlock [Vijaykumar v. Neela, 2003 (6) SCC 334]. Both are acts of cruelty within the meaning of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

The Respondent Wife wanted to get her Appellant Husband separated from his family too, ‘merely for monetary considerations’. She had a ‘legitimate expectation’ to see that the income of her husband is used for her and not for the family members of the husband.

The SC observed in Narendra v. K. Meena, [Civil Appeal No. 3253 of 2008] that “it is not a common practice or desirable culture for a Hindu son in India to get separated from the parents upon getting married at the instance of the wife, especially when the son is the only earning member in the family. A son, brought up and given education by his parents, has a moral and legal obligation to take care and maintain the parents, when they become old and when they have either no income or have a meagre income. In India, generally people do not subscribe to the western thought, where, upon getting married or attaining majority, the son gets separated from the family. 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. A son maintaining his parents is absolutely normal in Indian culture and ethos. It is a pious obligation of the son to maintain the parents. 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”.

The observation was not important to the matter. Two acts of cruelty had already been confirmed with precedent. Frankly, it had been 20 years since the Respondent Wife had left the matrimonial home. An indifference reflected by her counsel too, who was absent when the appeal was called out for hearing. A mere confirmation that “the persistent effort of the Respondent Wife to constrain the Appellant to be separated from the family constituted an act of cruelty’” should have sufficed. By April 2015, the SC had already pronounced in Vinod Kumar v. Saraswathi, [Civil Appeal Nos. 5511-5512 of 2014] that “making it impossible for any close relatives to visit or reside in the matrimonial home would also indubitably result in cruelty to the other spouse”. And in that case too, the wife wanted her husband to leave his family and live with her.

Obiter Dicta “like the proverbial chickens of destiny, come home to roost sooner or later in a very uncomfortable way to the Judges who have uttered them” [Cooke v. New River Co., (1888) 38 Ch. D. 56]. The SC now recognizes the pious and legal obligation of a Hindu son, brought up and given education by his parents, to maintain his parents, at their old age, if they have no or meagre income, and especially if the son is the only earning member of the family. The SC also recognizes that without a justifiable strong reason a wife would never insist that her husband should get separated from the family and only live with her.

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