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Darshan Gupta vs. Radhika Gupta: Case Study

  • The marriage between the appellant- husband and the respondent- wife was solemnised on 09.05.1997 as per the Hindu rites and customs. They were living happily until the wife conceived for the first time in February 1999, which was two years after their marriage.
     
  • The conception was aborted on medical advice when the respondent- wife was in the fourth month of her pregnancy, that is, in June 1999.
     
  • After her first conception, the wife started suffering from hypertension that later resulted into fits, weakness and extreme morning sickness.
     
  • The couple was cautioned by the gynaecologist, that further conception needs to be avoided for minimum of two years as it could lead to serious medical complications for the wife.
     
  • The appellant- husband proceeded with cohabitation which , hence resulting into second pregnancy within eight months after the previous abortion. She conceived for the second time in February 2000
  • The wife delivered the child in the eighth month of the pregnancy via caesarean operation. It was again the wife developed medical complications which was more severe.
     
  • After further medical examination, the husband alleged that the wife suffered from serious mental damage. He filed a petition before the Family Court, seeking for a decree of dissolution of marriage by a means of divorce. The wife, on the other hand filed a petition before the Family Court for restitution of conjugal rights.
     
  • The Family Court dismissed the plea for divorce and allowed the plea of the wife on grounds under of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
     
  • The appellant- husband subsequently filed an appeal in the Hyderabad HC. The High Court heard the appeal and directed the parties to stay together for a time period of six months.
    The results were reverse to what was expected by the HC.
     
  • The wife after inappropriate behaviour of the husband filed an appeal in the Supreme Court. The counsel of the appellant- husband asked for dissolution of marriage on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown. The SC dismissed the appeal as the respondent was not willing to agree to divorce.


Darshan Gupta vs. Radhika Gupta (01.07.2013 - SC) : MANU/SC/0627/2013

Applicable Law:
Restitution of Conjugal Rights (Section 9), Divorce (Section 13), Mental Cruelty [Section 13 (ia)], Section 13(1), Section 13(1)(iii), Divorce by mutual consent (Section 13B), Article 142 of the Constitution of India.

Issues:

  1. Is the appellant- husband responsible for the mental complications of the wife? Whether the mental condition of the wife would affect her marital life and was she capable of discharging her matrimonial obligations.
  2. Whether the plea of the counsel of the appellant- husband for dissolution of marriage on the basis of irretrievable breakdown must be granted?
  3. Whether the SC grant divorce to the wife from her husband, who on suffering from mental disorder had been dependent on her, if she promised compensation as permanent alimony.
     

Decision:
The Supreme Court held that there was no evidence to prove the abnormal behaviour of the respondent- wife. The mental condition of the wife, on which the appellant- husband sought dissolution of marriage was result of his own actions. The SC found that the appellant- husband cannot be permitted to use his fault for his own benefit. Divorce cannot be granted on the basis of irretrievable breakdown of marriage, that is, the breakdown is from the side of one of the party.

Lastly, the SC dismissed the appeal only after examining the matter by reversing the roles of the couple. According to the SC, justice could only be achieved if the picture appeared same when viewed from every angle.

Reasoning And Analysis:
With regards to the decisions of the Family Court and the High Court, the Supreme Court primarily looked into three issues of the case:

  • Is the appellant- husband responsible for the mental complications of the wife? Whether the mental condition of the wife would affect her marital life and was she capable of discharging her matrimonial obligations:
    The appellant- husband filed a petition on two grounds. Firstly, he claimed to be subjected to cruelty by wife which was on the account of the aggressive and unhealthy behaviour of the wife and secondly, according to him the mental unsoundness of his wife was incurable and hence he cannot be expected to live with her. The evidences presented in the both the courts, that is, the Family Court and the High court proved otherwise.

    The husband was found liable for the condition of the wife. He did not consider the advice of the gynaecologist and hence impregnated the wife, that worsened her condition further. The appellant failed to prove that the wife suffered from mental disorder and that he was subjected to cruelty. It was pointed out by the Family Court that the mental condition of the wife would have improved only if the husband provided her with mental and emotional support.

    The appeal of the husband for divorce was not available to him under the 'fault theory' under Section 13(1) of the Hindu Marriage act. According to the theory the party seeking divorce needs to be innocent. The husband therefore was not allowed to accuse her wife on the basis of his allegations and therefore was not seek dissolution of marriage. It was rather due to the ill-treatment of the husband that the wife had to leave her matrimonial home.

    The courts also held that since the medical treatment show the improving mental status of the respondent- wife. The medical conditions of the wife would not affect her marital life. When Dr. M Gauri Devi- C.W.1 and Dr. Bhaskar Naidu- C.W.2, members of medical board examined the respondent- wife, they concluded that the wife did not demonstrate any major sign of mental disorder and that she displayed normal emotional responses. Hence, even though the wife suffered from mild cognitive deficiency, she was perfectly fit in discharging her matrimonial obligations.
     
  • Whether the plea of the counsel of the appellant- husband for dissolution of marriage on the basis of irretrievable breakdown must be granted:
    The court dismissed that the plea of the counsel of the appellant- husband for dissolution of marriage on the basis of the irreversible breakdown. The court held that it cannot grant a decree of divorce for simple reason that only the husband wants it.

    The breakdown should be from both the sides. The respondent- wife was concerned with the relationship with her husband. Her desire was to live a normal matrimonial life with her husband. Even if the parties lived apart for more than twelve years, it is not enough for the annulment of the marriage. Supreme Court took the help of another case, Vishnu Dutt Sharma vs. Manju Sharma (2009) 6 SCC.

    The court said that Section 13 of the Act of the provides no such ground. A mere direction of the Court without considering the legal position is not a precedent. The court said that if it granted dissolution based on irretrievable breakdown, then it shall have to add a Clause to Section 13 and that could only be done by the legislature and not the court. Had it been that both the parties wanted a mutual divorce, it would have been provided under Section 13B of the Act.
     
  • Whether the SC grant divorce to the wife from her husband, who on suffering from mental disorder had been dependent on her, if she promised compensation as permanent alimony:
    When the plea of granting divorce based on irretrievable marriage was rejected by the court, the counsel of the appellant invoked the jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution. Since the article deals with the matter of doing equal justice to people, the court decided that in order to do complete justice to both the parties it is important to inspect perspective of both sides. The court examined the matter by exchanging the roles of parties.

    The court posed similar question in front of the husband placing him in position of the wife, under similar situation, whether he would accept the compensation as offered by wife for dissolution of marriage, if the approach of husband is negative then annulling of marriage cannot take place. The SC claimed that to assure justice, the picture should appear same irrespective to the fact that from which angle it is viewed.

    If the same situation did not do justice the husband, it would never do justice to the wife. Therefore, the appeal of the husband was dismissed by the SC on basis of the note of gender equality in granting divorce. Justice Khehar, opined that on reversal the husband would have never accepted the dissolution of the marriage even if the parties had been segregated for a period of time.


Judicial Approach:
In the case mentioned above, the Supreme Court referred to prior cases on the same grounds, that is, of that are present in this case.

Gurbux Singh v. Harminder Kaur (2010) 14 SCC 301:
In the above case, the appellant- husband and the respondent- wife were living separately and the chances of reunion was impossible. The District Court dismissed the plea for dissolution of marriage on the grounds of decree of divorce as the appellant merely mentioned Section 13 of the Act and did not establish the grounds on which he was entitled for divorce. The appellant further asked for divorce on the grounds of cruelty under Section 13(1)(ia).

Since cruelty is not defined under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and the nature of the conduct satisfies the essentials of cruelty, the appellant failed to present any similar conduct by the wife. The court also held that day to day quarrels and trivial irritations of a married life is not adequate for divorce on grounds of cruelty and hence the plea was dismissed.

It was therefore, the Court exercised the jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution and held that divorce can only be granted if both the parties wanted to. The appellant- husband was not interested in continuing his relationship with the wife and wanted a divorce by any means. Since same interest was not shown from the respondent's side, the court dismissed the plea and the appeal fails.

B.N. Panduranga Shet v. S.N. Vijayalaxmi (AIR 2003 Kant 357):
In the case the learned counsel of the appellant- husband filed a plea for dissolution of marriage under Section 13(1)(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The respondent- wife was suffering from schizophrenia and her mental condition was to such an extent that the petitioner cannot be expected to live with her. The court held that divorce cannot be granted on mere mental disorder. The mental condition of the person should be of such a degree that it would be impossible for them to lead a normal martial life.

The appellant through his pleadings stated that the respondent- wife used to:
Threaten him by saying she would marry again and that she would remove her Mangalasutra, Kumkum and bangles. She also spoke non-sense to the husband.

The appellant was unable to present evidence on the same. Section 13(1)(iii) of the Act stated that it is not enough to say that the person is suffering from mental disorder.

In order to be grant with relief under this section, the decree and the intensity of the action must be proved. The judgement of the Trial Court was fully justified as the conduct of the respondent- wife never showed that the petitioner- husband was put at risk or suffered severely due to the actions of his wife. The appeal was hence dismissed as the evidence produced before the court were not enough for granting relief under Section 13(1)(iii) of the Act.

Comments:
Supreme Court of India in the case of Darshan Gupta v. Radhika Gupta made it clear that mere separate living cannot declare a marriage as irretrievably broken. The Court gave valid explanations and reasonings with judicial and legal support that for a marriage to be declared as irretrievably broken, it is necessary that both the parties are willing to be separated.

The judgement on the surface level deals with dissolution of marriage by the means of divorce on the ground of mental disorder and mental cruelty. The court believed on the concept of equal and fair treatment of both the parties and that justice should be served equally.

The court with regards to the dissolution of marriage rightly said that the party seeking for dissolution on the ground of mental disorder and cruelty should be able to prove that the person having mental disorder is incapable of leading a normal life or is incapable of performing the matrimonial obligations. Mere statements cannot be taken into consideration for the Court to believe that the person is suffering from serious mental conditions.

The 'fault theory' was applied in the case to prove that one cannot gain benefit from the faults of their own. The party seeking divorce must be innocent. If the mental disorder or mental cruelty of one person is result of the actions and conduct of another person, as in the case of the appellant- husband and the respondent- wife, then the person may not be granted with the benefit of divorce. The conduct of the person in itself is enough to show that whether or not they are capable of discharging their matrimonial obligations.

The Supreme Court with regards to irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground of divorce has set two prime precedents for future course of action:

  1. For irretrievable breakdown of marriage both the parties should be willing to get separated on the grounds of divorce. Mutual consent is the key. Divorce will only be granted if the willingness of separation is expressed from both the sides.
  2. Mere separate living is not enough and therefore is not appropriate for the breakdown of the marriage.


It is therefore fair to conclude that the Supreme Court passed its judgement after a complete and detailed analysis of the case. The justifications given by the court is moral in every respect. In exercising the jurisdiction under Article 142, the Supreme Court expressed its desire of doing complete justice to both the parties. The court fairly held that it would dismiss the plea of the appellant- husband as if the judgement would have been reversed, it would do injustice to the respondent- the wife.

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