Supreme Court of India
Vinod Kumar Subbiah vs Saraswathi Palaniappan on 24 April, 2015Bench: Vikramajit Sen, Abhay Manohar Sapre




CIVIL APPEAL Nos. 5511-5512 OF 2014






1 These Appeals assail the Judgment of the learned Single Judge of the
High Court of Judicature at Madras, Bench at Madurai, delivered on
13.3.2013, setting aside the Judgment dated 25.8.2011 of the Trial Court.
The Impugned Judgment dismissed the divorce petition filed by the

2 The Appellant and the Respondent were married on 28.6.2004 and moved
to the U.S. on 9.7.2004. They visited Chennai in October 2005 and June
2006. During the latter visit, the Respondent was three months pregnant and
left for her parental home in Madurai on 10.6.2006 where she gave birth to
a male child on 5.12.2006. The Appellant subsequently filed for divorce
under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act on 30.4.2007.

3 The case put forward by the Appellant is that the Respondent was
verbally abusive; she would insult his family; she would threaten to lodge
false police complaints; and she would threaten to commit suicide placing
the blame on the Appellant and his family. After she left for her parental
home in June 2006, the Appellant attempted to bring her back to her
matrimonial home but she refused. The Appellant claims that he has been put
through intolerable mental agony and can no longer continue to be married
to the Respondent.

4 The Respondent denied these allegations and claimed that she and the
Appellant lived happily in the U.S., and she only went to her parental home
in June 2006 for her child to be born there. She has pleaded that she
returned to Chennai with her child from March to April 2007, that the
divorce petition was completely unexpected and was the result of a
misunderstanding between her family and that of the Appellant. She
subsequently filed a petition seeking restitution of conjugal rights under
Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, praying that the Appellant be directed
to take her back to her conjugal home, which she pleaded is in the U.S.
She alleged that her husband is living a wayward life, that her father-in-
law misbehaved with her, and that her parents-in-law were negligent with
her infant child and asked her to leave the house when she questioned them
about this. She also filed a maintenance petition seeking Rs. 2 lakhs per
month as maintenance.

5 The Trial Court heard all three petitions together and examined the
evidence submitted by the parties at length. The Appellant has deposed that
when his sister came to the U.S., she initially stayed with him and the
Respondent. However, the Respondent did not like having her in the house,
so she locked the Respondent and his sister out of the house, was abusive
towards them and told them that they belonged to a “prostitute family”.
Eventually the Appellant’s sister was constrained to stay at a Lodge. The
Respondent claimed that the dispute was because her sister-in-law tried to
make her join her diamond business, which she did not want to do. The Trial
Court found no truth in the argument of the Respondent, in light of the
fact that she has no background or knowledge of the diamond business.
Furthermore, the Appellant has deposed that when his brother came to the
U.S. to study, he also initially stayed at the Appellant’s house. However,
it is in evidence that the Respondent called the Appellant at work alleging
that his brother was knocking on her door, thus implying that he was
behaving in an untoward manner. She abused the Appellant and his family in
the presence of his brother and threatened to file a police complaint. The
Appellant has deposed that he was forced to make his brother stay
elsewhere. In a subsequent event, the Appellant informed the Respondent
that his parents would be coming to the U.S. The Respondent was verbally
and physically abusive, and called the police alleging domestic violence.
The Appellant was given a warning by the Police. The Respondent claimed
that the incident took place because the Appellant was having an affair
with a woman named Solai. She claimed that he took her to Solai’s house
that evening and then wanted to go back at night, which is why she called
the police. The Trial Court has justifiably highlighted that summoning the
police was serious because the Appellant was in a foreign country and
didn’t know the laws and procedure. Further, the allegation that he was
having an affair was not accepted, as it was unbelievable that the
Respondent had previously not told anyone about Solai and further that it
never came up du ring the attempted compromise between the families of the
two parties. The Respondent claimed that after having the child, she came
to live with the Appellant, which the Appellant denied. The Respondent also
alleged that while she was living with the Appellant’s family, his parents
took the child who was only three months old away for six hours. By the
time they brought him back, he was unconscious due to starvation. When the
Respondent questioned them about this, they asked her to leave the house
with the child, even though it was late in the night. The Trial Court found
this allegation entirely unbelievable. Her allegation that the father of
the Appellant started misbehaving with her and went to the extent of
pulling her hands was also found to be false. The Trial Court also took
into consideration the voice mails and emails from the Respondent to the
Appellant, which were not treated as the main evidence but as evidence
intended to substantiate the oral evidence. It was held that the evidence
and the submissions of the Respondent indicate that she was unwilling to
live in the Appellant’s house in Chennai, and that she wanted him to leave
his family in India and live in the U.S. with her. It is pertinent to note
that the Appellant had lost his job in the U.S. and was unemployed and
consequently had to set up residence in Chennai. In light of these
circumstances, it was found that the Respondent is not entitled to conjugal
rights. An order of dissolution of marriage was passed and maintenance was
fixed at Rs. 25,000 per month.

6 The High Court, however, held that the Appellant’s allegations in his
divorce petition were no more than “the ordinary wear and tear” that takes
place in a marriage. It observed that the Appellant did not give details of
the events of abuse by the Respondent towards his family or the cruelty
that was meted out to him in the U.S. in his main petition or his
subsequent counter affidavits. It was only after filing the petition that
the Appellant had produced copies of the abusive voicemails and emails he
received from the Respondent. The High Court noted that the Trial Court did
not need to strictly adhere to hard and fast rules while entertaining
evidence, but nevertheless held that the Trial Court had acted in haste in
allowing the Appellant’s allegations. The High Court found that the Trial
Court, instead of considering whether the Appellant had established cruelty
by adducing evidence, took certain answers from the Respondent’s Chief
examination and cross-examination out of context and held that a case of
cruelty was made out. The High Court stated that in a matrimonial
relationship, parties must be prepared to subject themselves to the normal
wear and tear of life, and that the situation at hand was no more than
that. The divorce petition was thus dismissed and the petition for
restitution of conjugal rights was allowed.

7 We have carefully considered the matter, and find that we are unable
to uphold the conclusions of the High Court. The Appellant had duly pleaded
instances of mental cruelty which he proved in evidence and documents. An
examination of the divorce petition makes it abundantly clear that various
allegations of cruelty were made out and a number of incidents were
mentioned therein. Further evidence was submitted during the course of the
Trial to substantiate these allegations, which is in keeping with Order VI
Rule 2 of the CPC. Furthermore, we find that the Trial Court examined the
evidence at great length and came to the reasoned conclusion that the
actions of the Respondent amounted to cruelty. If a spouse abuses the other
as being born from a prostitute, this cannot be termed as “wear and tear”
of family life. Summoning the police on false or flimsy grounds cannot
also be similarly viewed. 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. After a cursory discussion of the evidence
which the Trial Court had discussed threadbare, the High Court was not
justified to set aside the conclusions arrived at by the Trial Court
without giving substantiated reasons.

8 We thus allow these Appeals and set aside the Impugned Order, but
desist from imposing costs. The Trial Court’s decision granting
dissolution of the marriage between the parties is hereby restored.

9 We allow the Respondent’s Application for disbursement of the amount
deposited by the Appellant towards her legal expenses in pursuance of the
Order dated 4.7.2013.


New Delhi;
April 24, 2015.


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