New Delhi, Oct 8
The Supreme Court Friday said married life should be assessed as a
whole and few isolated incidents over a period of time would not
amount to cruelty.

“Sustained unjustifiable and reprehensible conduct affecting physical
and mental health of the other spouse may lead to mental cruelty,”
said a bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice B.S. Chauhan in
their judgment.

Speaking for the bench, Justice Sathasivam said that the ill-conduct
amounting to mental cruelty must be for a fairly lengthy period,
thereby deteriorating the relationship to an extent where one of the
spouse finds it extremely difficult to live with the other.

The order case as the court dismissed the appeal of Gurbux Singh who
has accused his estranged wife Harminder Kaur of being cruel and
disrespectful towards his aging parents and sought a divorce.

Both were married Nov 23, 1997 and had a tiff on their first Lohri
(Punjabi festival heralding end of winter) in January 1998 when
Harminder Kaur allegedly used filthy language for her in-laws.

The couple had a child May 15, 1999 but May 10, 2002, Harminder walked
out of her matrimonial house and never came back. She, in turn,
accused Gurbux of being greedy and a regular drinker who used to beat
her on trivial issues.

“Making certain statements on the spur of the moment and expressing
certain displeasure about the behaviour of elders may not be
characterized as cruelty,” the judgment said.

Justice Sathasivam said: “Mere trivial irritations, quarrels, normal
wear and tear of married life which happens in day to day life in all
families would not be adequate for grant of divorce on the ground of

“An isolated friction on some occasion like festival of Lohri even in
the presence of others cannot be a valid ground for dissolving the

Earlier, Gurbux Singh’s plea for divorce was rejected by the Amritsar
additional district judge and subsequently by the Punjab and Haryana
High Court.

On the question of law, the judgment said that Gurbux has sought
dissolution of marriage under Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
and in the petition, he only talks about the cruelty being meted out
to him and his parents. It noted that cruelty has not been defined in
the law and an act which might be cruel in one instance may not be so
in another.

Thus, there could be no presumption that a certain act would be cruel
in all circumstances, it said.

“We have verified all the averments in the petitions, reply
statements, written submissions as well as the evidence of both
parties. We are satisfied that on the basis of such instances, the
marriage cannot be dissolved,” the judgment said.