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Vindictiveness Aimed To Erode Father-Daughter Relationship Is Not Only Extreme Cruelty To Father But Also Gross Inhumanity To Child: Delhi HC

Introduction: In a groundbreaking judgment by the Delhi High Court, a divorce case has shed light on the profound impact of vindictiveness on the father-daughter relationship. The case, titled ABC vs XYZ (MAT. APP. (F.C.) 326/2018), with Neutral Citation: 2024:DHC:1698-DB, has been a focal point for discussing the severe consequences of using children as pawns in marital disputes. The court’s decision underscores the gravity of mental cruelty not just towards the estranged spouse but also the inadvertent inhumanity inflicted upon the children involved.

It is most significant to note that the Delhi High Court while deciding a divorce case and after perusing the facts of the case and considering the relevant evidence in a most learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled ABC vs XYZ in MAT. APP. (F.C.) 326/2018 and cited as Neutral Citation: 2024:DHC:1698-DB that was initially reserved on 19th September, 2023 and then finally pronounced on 28th February, 2024 minced just no words whatsoever to hold most unequivocally that the vindictiveness aimed to erode a father-daughter relationship is not only an act of extreme cruelty to the father but also gross inhumanity to the child. We need to note that the Division Bench of Delhi High Court comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and Hon’ble Ms Justice Neena Bansal Krishna also minced just no words to hold in no uncertain terms while referring to the allegations levelled by wife that the conduct of making unsubstantiated allegations of adultery coupled with involving the child in disputes between the parties can be termed as nothing but an extreme act of cruelty. So it was but natural that the Delhi High Court allowed the appeal, set aside the impugned judgment and granted divorce to the husband on the ground of cruelty.

At the very outset, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by Hon’ble Ms Justice Neena Bansal Krishna for a Division Bench of Delhi High Court comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and herself sets the ball in motion by most laudably putting forth first and foremost that, “Howsoever abysmal the differences maybe between the spouses, but in no realm can the act of the aggrieved spouse of igniting animosity and hostility in the minor child in an attempt to use the child as a weapon to get even with their spouse, could be justifiable. Such vindictiveness aimed to erode a father-daughter relationship is not only an act of extreme cruelty to the father but also gross inhumanity to the child.”

As we see, the Division Bench clarifies in para 1 stating that, “The appeal under Section 19 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 read with 28 Hindu Marriage Act 1955 has been filed by the petitioner/husband against the Judgment dated 09.10.2018, vide which his petition under Section 13 (i) (ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Act’), has been dismissed.”

 In brief, the Division Bench discloses in para 2 that, “Briefly stated, the parties got married on 09.05.1998, according to the Hindu Rites and Customs at Arya Samaj Temple at Baroda, Gujarat. The marriage was consummated and two daughters were born from their wedlock on 25.03.1999 and 15.10.2004 respectively.”

To put things in perspective, the Division Bench envisages in para 3 that, “The petitioner/husband has asserted in his Divorce Petition that he was working in Indian Army at the time of marriage, while the respondent was a PHD in Management and was working as a lecturer and earning good salary. The temperamental differences inter se the parties grew and the respondent left the matrimonial home in May, 1999, without any justiciable cause. She made a complaint to his Commanding Officer and consequently, directions were passed for deduction of Maintenance Allowance from the salary of the petitioner, to be paid to the respondent directly, w.e.f. July, 1999.”

Lamentably, the Division Bench then laments in para 4 that, “Eventually, the respondent joined the matrimonial home in September, 1999, but continued to receive the maintenance from the Army Authorities. The appellant approached the Army Authorities to stop the deduction from his salary as the respondent had joined the matrimonial home, but the respondent had not disclosed this fact to the Authority, which caused immense pain and agony to the appellant.”

More lamentably, the Division Bench further reveals in para 5 that, “The appellant further claimed that he suffered an injury in his leg and was admitted in the Army Hospital, Udhampur, from September, 2001, for six months, but the respondent did not take care and left him to the mercy of the hospital.”

As if this was not enough, the Division Bench further points out in para 6 that, “The respondent despite getting a handsome salary, never contributed to the household expenses and made derogatory remarks against the appellant for being less qualified than the respondent. She had immense inclination and affinity for her parental family and would frequently visit her parental home without informing the appellant.”

Most shockingly, the Division Bench then further lays bare in para 7 that, “On 29.01.2007, the respondent demanded separate residence from the mother of the appellant and when she refused, the respondent gave beatings to the old aged mother and threw her out of the house. The petitioner/appellant was compelled to set-up a rented accommodation in Paschim Vihar but because of the callous attitude of the respondent, the landlord asked him to vacate the premises. He made alternate arrangement of another rented accommodation at Vikas Puri, but the respondent refused to shift to the new accommodation or stay in the company of the appellant. The respondent preferred to reside in Paschim Vihar accommodation and did not permit the appellant to enter the premises.”

Adding further salt to the wounds, the Division Bench then discloses in para 8 that, “Rather, she filed a complaint under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 on 18.10.2007, without any reasonable cause and thereby withdrew herself from the company of the petitioner. The repeated requests of the appellant did not yield any result. He, therefore, filed a Petition under Section 9 of the Act, for Restitution of Conjugal Rights. With great efforts of the appellant, the respondent consented to live with him w.e.f. 04.05.2009, consequent to their Settlement in December 2008 . He withdrew his Petition under Section 9 of the Act and the parties started residing together.”

 Worst of all, the Division Bench then reveals in para 9 that, “However, the conduct of the respondent continued to be indifferent and she refused to establish conjugal relationship. She also refused to withdraw her complaint under Domestic Violence Act, 2005, in complete violation of their Settlement, despite the petitioner having withdrawn his Restitution of Conjugal Rights petition.”

Do note, the Division Bench notes in para 26 that, “The appellant a qualified Engineer working in the Indian Army, got married to the respondent, who herself is a PHD in Management and working as a Lecturer since 09.05.1998. However, being educated is no guarantee of a successful marriage. The incompatibility in the two, became evident soon after the marriage. Admittedly, the respondent had left the matrimonial home in May, 1999 and had returned after about five months in September, 1999. Though, there are no cogent explanation of their prolonged separation but one inference which can be safely drawn is that there was incompatibility, which led to the separation of the parties, soon after the marriage for a period of about five months. In this period, the respondent admittedly approached the Commanding Officer and a maintenance amount was deducted from the salary, to be paid directly to the respondent.”

Most significantly, the Division Bench mandates in para 33 that, “The differences between two adults may arise due to myriad reasons, some may be temperamental or factual, but the irrationality of the conduct of the respondent is brought forth by her conduct of involving in eight years old child, in their disputes. The petitioner and the respondent may not have been able to generate mutual affection, respect and understanding due to their differences, but it does not justify the act of the respondent in embroiling their minor daughter in their fights. Taking a small daughter along with her with a specific design to the house of the appellant and then to make allegations of adultery and call the Police, is an act of ruining the psyche of a child and turning her against her father. A person may be a bad husband but that does not lead to the necessary conclusion of he being a bad father. The act of the respondent in trying to turn the children against their father and even making her write a complaint against her father, is a clear case of parental alienation, which in itself is an act of grave mental cruelty.”

Be it noted, the Division Bench notes in para 36 that, “This is a clear case of parental alienation where the respondent has not even spared her children and has involved them in her differences, with the appellant. Such conduct of making unsubstantiated allegations of adultery coupled with involving their child in the inter se disputes between the parties, can be termed as nothing but an extreme act of cruelty.”

Most remarkably, the Bench propounds in para 37 that, “We may also observe that admittedly, parties have separated in the year 2006 and their efforts of reconciliation, which followed thereafter, did not succeed and the parties are living separately since the year 2011. There is not an iota of evidence that after the parties separated, there was any effort made for reconciliation. Rather, the testimony of the appellant shows that having separated from each other, the respondent repeatedly visited the rented accommodation and made complaints to the police. The acts of the respondent reflect her non-re-conciliatory attitude and also establishes that she had withdrawn from the company of the petitioner and abandoned her matrimonial relationship for no justifiable reason. For a couple to be deprived of each other’s company and denial of conjugal relationship by the other spouse, with no effort by the respondent/wife to resume matrimonial relationship, is an act of cruelty as is held in the case of Samar Ghosh v. Jaya Ghosh (2007) 4 SCC 511.”

To be sure, the Division Bench then holds in para 38 that, “We thus, conclude that the evidence on record proved that there is no chance of reconciliation between the parties and such long separation peppered which false allegations, Police reports and criminal complaints and further aggravated by parental alienation, can only be termed as acts of mental cruelty. This dead relationship has become infested with acrimony, irreconcilable differences and protracted litigations; any insistence to continue this relationship would only be perpetuating further cruelty upon both the parties.”

Resultantly, the Division Bench concludes in para 39 postulating that, “We, hereby conclude that the appellant has been able to prove cruelty at the hands of the respondent. We hereby set-aside the impugned Judgment dated 19.10.2018 and grant divorce on the ground of cruelty under Section 13 (i) (ia) of the Act, 1955.”

In addition, the Division Bench directs in para 40 that, “The appeal is hereby allowed.”

Finally, the Division Bench concludes by holding in para 41 that, “The decree sheet be drawn accordingly.”

To conclude, we thus see that the Delhi High Court very rightly upheld the grave charges of cruelty levelled by the appellant-husband at the hands of the respondent-wife. It was made indubitably clear by the Delhi High Court that vindictiveness aimed to corrode father-daughter relationship is not only extreme cruelty to father but also gross inhumanity to child. So it was but ostensible that the divorce had to be granted to the appellant-husband and was accordingly so granted by the Delhi High Court in this leading case.

Conclusion: The Delhi High Court’s landmark judgment in ABC vs XYZ serves as a pivotal reminder of the profound impacts of vindictiveness in divorce proceedings, particularly on the innocent children caught in the crossfire. By setting aside the impugned judgment and granting divorce on grounds of cruelty, the court underscored the necessity of prioritizing children’s emotional and psychological well-being over marital disputes. This case sets a significant precedent, advocating for a more compassionate approach to handling divorce cases, ensuring that the innocence and purity of the child-parent relationship are preserved against all odds. It is a call to action for all stakeholders in a divorce to consider the far-reaching implications of their actions, not only on each other but, more importantly, on the children who bear the unintended consequences of their conflicts.

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