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Kochi: Matrimonial relationships in Kerala appear to have been influenced by consumer culture of ‘use and throw’ which is evident from rise in live-in relationships and the prevailing trend to opt for divorce on flimsy or selfish grounds, the Kerala high court observed recently.
The high court further observed that the younger generation apparently views marriage as an “evil” to be avoided for enjoying a “free life” without any liabilities or obligations.
“They would expand the word ‘WIFE’ as ‘Worry Invited For Ever’ substituting the old concept of ‘Wise Investment For Ever.’ The consumer culture of ‘use and throw’ seems to have influenced our matrimonial relationships also.
“Live-in-relationships are on the rise, just to say good-bye when they fall apart,” a bench of Justices A. Muhamed Mustaque and Sophy Thomas said while dismissing a divorce plea of a man who abandoned his wife and three daughters after nine years of marriage subsequent to an alleged affair with another woman.
The high court said that Kerala, known as God’s own Country, was once famous for its well knit family bonds.
“But the present trend, it seems, is to break the nuptial tie on flimsy or selfish reasons, or for extra-marital relationships, even unmindful of their children. The wails and screams coming out of disturbed and destroyed families are liable to shake the conscience of the society as a whole.
“When warring couples, deserted children and desperate divorcees occupy the majority of our population, no doubt it will adversely affect the tranquility of our social life, and our society will have a stunted growth,” it said.
The bench pointed out that marriages, from time immemorial, were considered as “solemn”, a sanctity was attached to it and it was “the very foundation of strong society”.
“Marriage is not a mere ritual or an empty ceremony for licensing the sexual urge of the parties,” it added.
Denying the husband’s plea for divorce, the high court said that “courts cannot come to the aid of an erring person to legalise his activities, which are per se illegal”.
The bench said if the husband, who was having an affair, wanted to avoid his wife and children, he cannot seek the assistance of the courts to get his “unholy alliance” or present relationship legalised.
“Law and religion consider marriage as an institution by itself and parties to the marriage are not permitted to walk away from that relationship unilaterally, unless and until they satisfy the legal requirements to dissolve their marriage through a court of law or in accordance with the personal law which governs them,” the high court said.
The husband, whose plea for divorce was rejected by a Family Court, had moved the high court in appeal claiming cruelty on the part of his wife.
He had said in his plea that their marital relationship from 2009, when they got married, to 2018 was smooth, but thereafter, the wife developed behavioural abnormalities and quarrelled with him alleging that he was having an affair. LiveLaw has reported that the couple has three children.
The high court rejected his contentions saying that when a “wife had reasonable grounds to suspect the chastity or fidelity of her husband, and if she questions him, or expresses her deep pain and sorrow before him, it cannot be termed as a behavioural abnormality, as it is the natural human conduct of a normal wife”.
“The normal human reactions or responses from a wife, on knowing that her husband was having illicit connection with another lady, cannot be termed as behavioural abnormality or cruelty from the part of the wife, so as to dissolve their marriage,” the bench said.
It further said that mere quarrels, ordinary wear and tear of matrimonial relationships or casual outburst of some emotional feelings cannot be treated as cruelties warranting a divorce.
The wife was also supported by her mother-in-law and her husband’s relatives all of whom said that she was a good natured lady who loved her spouse and family, the high court noted in its order.
The high court also noted the mother-in-law’s contention that her son was unhappy with her and did not even hesitate to question her chastity for supporting her daughter-in-law.
“The available facts and circumstances clearly point to the fact that in the year 2017 the appellant developed some illicit intimacy with another lady and he wanted to avoid his wife and children from his life, so as to live with that lady.
“Since, no act of cruelties, able to cause a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the appellant that it would be harmful or injurious for him to live with the respondent was proved by the appellant, he is not entitled to get a decree of divorce on the ground of matrimonial cruelties…In the result, the appeal is dismissed,” the high court said.
It also noted that the wife was ready to accept the husband if he was ready to return to her and their children and therefore, “there was nothing to show that the chances of an amicable reunion is foreclosed forever”.
In an analysis for The Wire on how the Supreme Court has seen ‘cruelty’ as grounds for divorce, Raghav Tankha had made note of the case of Joydeep Majumdar vs Bharti Jaiswal Majumdar (2021), in which the husband accused his wife of mental cruelty for making allegations of adultery and defamatory complaints to his superiors in the army and other authorities resulting in a court of inquiry and thereby affecting his career.
It was an act of mental cruelty, the court had held, irrespective of whether the allegations were proved in a court of law or not.
(With PTI inputs)