Topic: V. Bhagat v D. Bhagat

V. Bhagat v D. Bhagat
Equivalent citations: 1994 AIR 710, 1994 SCC (1) 337 - Bench: Jeevan Reddy, B.P. (J), Kuldip Singh (J) - Citation: 1994 Air 710 1994 Scc (1) 337 - Jt 1993 (6) 428 1993 Scale (4)488 - Date of Judgment: 19/11/1993


The Judgment of the Court was delivered by B.P. JEEVAN REDDY, J.- This is an unusual case calling     for an unusual solution. The husband sued for divorce on     the ground that the wife is guilty of adulterous course of life. The wife not only denied the allegation     she attributed     the allegation to    lack of mental equilibrium of the husband. The husband then amended his petition; he alleged a     new ground for divorce viz., mental cruelty. According to    him, the allegations made    in the     written statement per se constitute cruelty which entitle him straight     away to a divorce     without going     into the original allegation of adultery. He is also relying upon certain questions put to him in cross-examination by the counsel for the respondent and the said counsel's explanatory statement made in    that connection. We may elaborate.

2.The petitioner-applicant, Shri V. Bhagat is an Advocate practicing in this Court and Delhi High Court.     He is     now aged about 55 years.    The respondent wife is     working at present     as the Vice-President of ITDC, a Public Sector Corporation. She is aged about 50 years. They were married in the year 1966. They have two grown-up children now a son and a daughter. The son is a doctor while the daughter holds an MBA degree and is working with an American Company in California.

3.The respondent was working in a Television Company at the time of her marriage. After the birth of a child     she left the job in August 1967. The respondent started working again from the year 1972 onwards. To start with she     was employed in a Travel Agency. Somewhere around 1978-79,     the petitioner began suspecting her of infidelity.    According to him, when he questioned the respondent of her adulterous behaviour, she admitted the same and asked to be pardoned. The wife denies this. She says, she never made any    such admission and that the allegation is a totally     false    one. From 1980 onwards the petitioner was    making    attempts to obtain    a divorce by    consent. The    respondent was     not willing. On May 28,     1985,    he instituted    the present petition for divorce in the District Court,    Delhi.     The divorce     petition runs into more than 160 paragraphs.     The main ground is adultery. According to the husband, the wife is an    incorrigible adulteress. The respondent flied     the written     statement denying the     allegations.    The written statement, it     anything, is    even lengthier     and more voluminous than the divorce petition.


She has denied the allegation in toto.     According to her, the husband is like Othello a pathologically suspicious character.

4.On February    5, 1986, the petition    for divorce was withdrawn and transferred to the High Court of Delhi.     It was assigned to Justice H.C. Goel. The learned Judge struck out a    large number of paragraphs from the petition     for divorce. Against the     order of the    learned     Judge,     the petitioner approached this Court by way of an appeal which was allowed on February 19, 1987. On that occasion,    this Court directed the learned Chief Justice of the Delhi    High Court to nominate a learned Judge to take up    the divorce petition and dispose it of as expeditiously as possible. It was directed that the matter may be heard on day-to-day basis as far as possible.

5.In May 1987, the petitioner     filed    an interlocutory application before the High Court for passing a decree of divorce on the basis of the averments made by the respondent in her written statement/counter. According to him, those allegations amounted to cruelty against him and furnished adequate grounds for passing a decree of divorce. He    then filed an application in this Court to     withdraw the    said interlocutory application to the file of this Court     and grant the relief prayed for by him. This Court refused to do so.     The interlocutory application filed    by him     was dismissed by the High Court.    Thereafter, he    amended     his petition for divorce and again filed another interlocutory application for granting divorce on     the basis of     the averments made by the respondent in her written statement. This application too was dismissed by the High Court. It is stated    that the special leave petition filed    against     the same was also dismissed by this Court. The trial is in progress now. Petitioner's evidence is over and the wife's statement is being recorded.    At this stage,    the present application I.A. No. 1 of 1993 is filed in Civil Appeal No. 424 of 1987 (which was disposed of on February     19, 1987).    The prayer in the application is to give appropriate directions for speedy disposal of the divorce petition.     In this application the    petitioner has    made the following averments: the petition for divorce is pending over the last 8 years. The respondent has indulged in dilatory tactics to protract the litigation. The respondent spent more than 11 months in cross-examining the petitioner alone (February 19, 1992 to January 1993).     While the examination-in-chief is mere 30 pages, the cross-examination runs into more than 150 pages    most of it irrelevant and unnecessary.     The trial Judges are unable to stop the vexatious cross-examination by the counsel for the respondent. The    repeated directions from this Court to dispose of the divorce petition as expeditiously as possible and on day-to-day basis did     not have the desired effect. As many as five learned Judges of the High Court have tried this matter, but still it is at the stage of recording of evidence. The evidence of     the respondent wife is yet to be completed. As a matter of fact, on May 1, 1991, this Court was constrained to observe: "We are inclined to    agree with the counsel for     the petitioner that the directions have not been followed     and the matter has unnecessarily been protracting.     We request the learned Chief Justice of the High Court to personally look into the matter and allot the case to a learned Judge on


the appellate side who can deal with the matter day-to-day and have it disposed of within a reasonable     time,    say, within three to four months from today."

The petitioner complains that even though a period of    more than 28 months has elapsed since the said order, the matter is still at the stage of trial.

6.In her counter filed to    this application, the respondent stated that she is in no way responsible for the delay in disposal of the divorce petition and that in    fact the petitioner himself is responsible for the    delay.     She submitted that almost every order passed by the Delhi    High Court was challenged by him by way of special leave petition in this Court and that he has also been making     allegations against     the learned Judges trying the petition as and    when they passed orders unfavourable to him.

7.In this application (I.A. No. 1 of 1993), this Court directed on May 3, 1993, both the parties to be present in person    in the Court with a view to explore the     possibility of a settlement. On the next date, i.e. May 7, 1993,     the respondent was     not present. The matter was adjourned to July 19, 1993. On July 19, 1993, the parties were heard for some time and the Court suggested to the parties to find a via media to settle the matter. The parties sought for a short adjournment. The matter was adjourned to August 6, 1993. On 6th August, the matter was again adjourned to 16th August on which date we were told that the parties could not arrive    at any settlement, whereupon the arguments of     the counsel     for the parties were heard. In the background of the orders of this Court made in this IA, referred to above, learned     counsel for the petitioner reiterated his plea to grant a divorce on the ground of cruelty evidenced by     the averments in her counter and the questions put to him in the cross-examination. Counsel submitted     that the marriage between     the parties has broken down irretrievably. Having regard to the nature of allegations and     counter-allegations made by the parties against each other, there is hardly     any room for their coming together. The petitioner has    been trying to obtain divorce right from the year 1980. For five years he tried to get it by    consent, failing which he approached the     Court.     Eight years have passed by and in spite of the repeated orders of this Court, even the trial is not     yet over. The petitioner is now 55 years old. A good part of the lives of both the parties has been spent in rancour and litigation.     Dehors the allegations of adultery originally made in the petition for divorce, the petitioner is entitled to divorce on the basis of the additional ground put in by way of amendment viz., cruelty mental cruelty by wife.    The averments made in her counter and the questions put by her counsel    in the     cross-examination of     the petitioner do constitute clear acts of cruelty.     In view of the said averments/questions, no further material     is necessary to establish the said additional ground. In her written     statement, the respondent has alleged that     the petitioner is "suffering from mental hallucination" that his is a "morbid mind for which he needs     expert     psychiatric treatment" and further that "the petitioner is suffering from paranoid    disorder. He    needs expert psychological treatment.... He is incoherent in his thinking....     The petitioner is    a mental patient. The petitioner needs treatment by a psychiatrist


to whom he was directed by his own sister.... He is a patient and needs treatment and restoration of normal mental health.... The petitioner needs psychological treatment to make him act a normal person" and so on and so     forth.     In the cross-examination of the petitioner, the Senior Advocate appearing for    the respondent wife put several questions suggesting that the petitioner and the several     members of his family including his grandfather are lunatics and that a streak of insanity is running in the entire family. When he protested against the said questions, the learned Senior Advocate made the following statement in the Court "all of your (petitioner's) family including your grandfather     and others are lunatics with streaks of insanity running in     the entire    family; this is the respondent's case; and that is why these questions have been asked." The said questions were put and the said statement was made by her Advocate at the instructions of the respondent. Notwithstanding     the dismissal of a similar application by the Delhi High Court and the dismissal of a special leave petition there against by this Court, this is a fit and proper case and this is the most appropriate stage at which the petitioner should be granted divorce on the ground of cruelty. The situation has become intolerable, says the counsel.

8.The learned counsel for the respondent, on the other hand, reiterated his submission that the respondent was     not responsible for the delay; that in fact the petitioner     has himself been delaying the proceedings and that the questions put to him in cross-examination and the defence taken in the written     statement are merely the reactions of the wife to unjustified and unwarranted aspersions cast upon     her character. The respondent has only been trying to explain that the several serious allegations levelled    against     her are the products of a sick mind and are mere figments of his imagination. She submitted that her children and even     the sisters and mother of the petitioner are siding her in    this dispute     and that the petitioner alone, alienated from     his entire family, is persecuting her. It is submitted that she is only trying to defend her honour, self-respect     and standing in society. It is pointed out that she is holding a fairly high office in a Public Sector Corporation and it is her duty to herself, her children and to the families of her husband    and herself to disprove the unfounded allegations levelled against her. She has submitted    that she is not agreeable to divorce on any ground whatsoever and that she is always prepared to live with the petitioner. It is only the petitioner who is keeping himself away from     her company     and has confined himself to one room, whereas    she, her children and her mother-in-law live in the house as usual.

9.It is said that marriages are made in heaven, that may be so, but this one has turned into a hell for     sure.     The allegations and the counter allegations are indicative of the intense hatred and rancour between the parties.     Any reconciliation    is out of question. The question before us is what in all the facts and circumstances of the case, should we do? Three courses are open.    First is to look to the prayer in the application and reject it in view of     two earlier     directions to the same effect. Second, to make another request (third one) to the High Court to dispose of the matter expeditiously and


third,    to explore whether any solution can be found to     the predicament in which the parties are now placed. So far as the first two alternatives are concerned, it may be noted, there have been two such directions by this Court earlier, one in the year 1987 and the other in the year     1991.     The advisability of a third such direction    request     is open to question. If two such requests/directions had no effect, it is doubtful that a third direction would yield     any better result.     It may be an exercise in futility besides being inadvisable. In the facts and circumstances of this case, we are inclined to explore the third alternative.

10.That     this is a rather unusual case can    hardly    be disputed. The divorce petition has been pending for    more than 8 years.    With a view to expedite its disposal it     was transferred from the District Court to the High Court.    This Court repeatedly requested (in 1987 and 1991) the High Court to try the matter on a day-to-day basis and dispose it of expeditiously.    The petition is still at the stage of trial. It is not possible for us to apportion the blame. Each side attributes it to the other. Five learned Judges of the High Court have tried their hand at the case, but it still remains at the stage of trial.    The cross-examination of the petitioner alone took one full year. The cross-examination of the     respondent is yet to begin. Having regard to     the number of allegations made by the petitioner in his divorce petition and the material relied upon by him, it may safely be presumed that the cross-examination of the respondent would take as much time as the cross-examination of     the petitioner, if not more. Each party, it appears, is out to punish the other for what the other is supposed to have said or done. This appears to be the single thought ruling their lives today. A good part of the lives of both the parties has been consumed in this litigation and yet the end is     not in sight. The assertion of the wife that she wants to    live with the husband even now, appears    to be    but a    mere assertion. After all the allegations made against her in the petition and the allegations levelled by her against the petitioner, living together     is out of     question. Rapprochement is not in the realm of possibility. For     the parties     to come together, they must be     superhumans, which they are not.     The parties have crossed the point of no return    long ago. The nature of the allegations levelled against     each other show the intense hatred and animosity each bears towards the other.    The marriage is over except in name. The desirability of allowing the continuation of the divorce proceedings in    the particular facts     and circumstances of this case, is open to grave    doubt.     The matter    may take more     than a year at the    minimum     to conclude in the High Court and then there is the right of appeal    to the losing party. Both the     parties are well- settled. The children are grown-up and are on     their    own. It is significant to note that this is not a     case where allegations are made only by one party against     the other; both have levelled serious allegations against     the other. The husband calls the wife an adulteress and the wife calls the husband a lunatic.

11.The question, however, is whether the allegations made by the respondent wife do constitute mental cruelty.     The allegations in     her written statement     and her counsel's explanatory statement in Court have already 345 been set out hereinabove. The respondent has asserted in    her written statement that     she "has every right to make correct statement of facts to defend herself against    the wanton, imaginary and irresponsible allegations".

12.Clause (i-a) of Section 13 specifies cruelty as one    of the grounds of divorce. Insofar     as relevant, Section     13 reads:

"13. Divorce.- (1) Any marriage     solemnised, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, may, on a petition presented by either the husband or the wife, be dissolved by a decree of divorce on the ground that     the other party-    (i-a)    has,    after     the

solemnization of     the marriage,    treated     the petitioner with cruelty; or"

13.Cruelty contemplated by the sub-clause is both physical and mental. We are concerned herein with the latter. It is not possible to define 'mental cruelty'     exhaustively.     As observed by Lord Reid in Gollins v. Gollins1: "No one     has ever attempted to give a comprehensive definition of cruelty and I do not intend to try to do so. Much must depend on the    knowledge and    intention of     the respondent, on the nature of his (or    her) conduct, and on the character and physical or mental weaknesses of the spouses, and probably no general statement is equally applicable in all cases except the requirement that     the party seeking relief must show actual or probable injury to life, limb or health.

It is easy to see that the origin of    this requirement is the decision in the well-known case of Russell v. Russell2."

To the same effect are the observations of Lord Pearce (at p. 695; All ER p. 992):

"It is impossible to give a comprehensive definition of cruelty, but when reprehensible conduct or departure from the normal standards of conjugal kindness causes injury to health or an apprehension of it, it is, I think, cruelty if a reasonable person, after taking due account of the temperament and all     the other particular circumstances would consider that the conduct complained of is such    that this spouse should not be called on to endure it.

I     agree with Lord Merriman whose practice in cases of mental cruelty was always to make up his mind     first whether there was injury or apprehended injury to health. In the light of that vital fact the court has then to decide whether the sum total of the reprehensible conduct was cruel. That depends     on whether the cumulative    conduct     was    sufficiently weighty to say that from a reasonable person's point of view, after a consideration of     any excuse which this respondent might have in the 1     1964 AC 644: (1963) 2 All ER 966

2     (1895-99) All ER Rep 1 :(1897) AC 395 346

circumstances, the conduct is such that    this petitioner ought not to be called on to endure it.

The particular circumstances of the home,     the temperaments and emotions of both the parties and their status and their way of life, their past relationship and almost every circumstance that attends the act or conduct complained of may all be relevant."

The reference    to "Injury to life, limb or health" in     the above passages     must be understood in the context of     the requirements of the divorce law then obtaining in the United kingdom.

14.The    change of law brought about by the Hindu Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976 deserves notice. Prior to     the said Amendment Act, cruelty was not a ground for claiming divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act. It was a ground    only for claiming judicial separation under Section 10. By     the said Amendment Act, cruelty was made a ground for divorce as well evidently in recognition of the changing mores of     the society. While doing so, it is significant, the words     "as to cause a reasonable apprehension in the mind of     the petitioner that it will be harmful or     injurious for     the petitioner to live with the other party," qualifying     the expression "cruelty" in Section 10(1)(b), were     omitted by Parliament. It is, therefore, not necessary for the party claiming divorce to prove that the cruel treatment is of such a     nature as to cause an    apprehension a reasonable apprehension in his/her mind that it will be     harmful or injurious for    him/her to live with the other    party.     Now what does this change mean? Surely, the deletion of     the said words could not have been without a purpose. The cruelty of the nature described in Section 10(1)(b) has been explained in this Court's decision in N.G. Dastane v. S. Dastane3. Chandrachud, J. speaking for the Bench, held that where an allegation of cruelty is made, the enquiry has to be

"... whether the conduct charged as cruelty is of such a character as to cause in the mind of the petitioner a reasonable apprehension    that it will    be harmful or injurious for him to live with the respondent".

The learned Judge held further: (SCC pp.    337- 38, paras 30-3 1)

"It is not necessary, as under    the English law, that the cruelty must be     of such a character     as to cause 'danger' to life,    limb or health or as to give rise to a reasonable apprehension of    such a     danger. Clearly, danger to life, limb or health or a reasonable apprehension of    it is a     higher     requirement than a reasonable apprehension    that it is harmful or injurious for one spouse to    live with the other. But under Section 10(1)(b), harm or    injury to health, reputation,     the working-career or the like, would be     an important consideration in determining whether the conduct of    the respondent amounts to cruelty.     Plainly, what we must determine is not whether the petitioner has     proved     the charge of cruelty having regard to     the principles of English law, but    whether     the petitioner

3 (1975) 2 SCC 326: AIR 1975 SC 1534


proves that the respondent has    treated     him with such cruelty as to cause a reasonable apprehension in    his mind that    it will be harmful or injurious for him to live with     the respondent."

This requirement is no longer present in Section 13(1)(i-a).

15. If so, the question arises what kind of cruel treatment does clause (i- a) contemplate? In particular, what is the kind of mental cruelty that is required to be    established? While answering these questions, it must be kept in    mind that the cruelty mentioned in clause (i-a) is a ground     now for divorce as well as for judicial separation under Section

10. Another circumstance to be kept in mind is that    even where the marriage has irretrievably broken down, the    Act, even after the 1976    (Amendment) Act, does     not permit dissolution of marriage on that ground. This    circumstance may have to be kept in mind while ascertaining the type of cruelty contemplated by Section 13(1)(i-a).

16. Mental cruelty in Section 13(1)(i-a) can     broadly be defined as that conduct which inflicts upon the other party such mental pain and suffering as would make it not possible for that party to live with the other. In other words, mental    cruelty     must be of such a nature that    the parties cannot reasonably be    expected to live together.     The situation must     be such that the wronged party cannot reasonably be asked to put up with such conduct and continue to live with the other party. It is not necessary to prove that the mental cruelty is such as to cause injury to     the health     of the petitioner. While    arriving at    such conclusion, regard must be had to    the social status, educational level of the parties, the society they move     in, the possibility or otherwise of the parties    ever living together in case they are already living apart and all other relevant facts     and circumstances which it    is neither possible nor desirable to set out exhaustively. What is cruelty     in one case may not amount to cruelty     in another case.    It is a matter to be Determined in each case having regard    to the facts and circumstances of that case. If it is a case of accusations and allegations, regard must    also be had to the context in which they were made.

17.At this stage, we may refer to a few decisions of this Court rendered under Section 13(1)(i-a). In Shobha Rani v. Madhukar Reddi4, Justice K. Jagannatha Shetty, speaking     for the Division Bench, held: (SCC pp. 108-09, paras 4 and 5) "Section    13(1)(i-a) uses the words 'treated the petitioner with cruelty'.     The    word 'cruelty'     has not been defined.     Indeed it could not have been defined. It has been used in relation to     human    conduct     or human behaviour. It is the conduct in relation to or in respect of matrimonial    duties     and obligations. It is a course of conduct of one which is adversely affecting the other.     The cruelty may be mental or physical, intentional or unintentional.     If it is physical the court will have no problem to determine it. It is a question of fact and degree. If it is mental the problem presents difficulty.     First,     the enquiry must begin as

4     (1988) 1 SCC 105:1988 SCC (Cri) 60


to the nature of the cruel treatment. Second, the impact of such treatment on the mind of the spouse. Whether it caused reasonable apprehension that it would be     harmful or injurious to live with the other.     Ultimately, it is a matter of inference to be drawn by taking into account the nature of the conduct and its    effect on the    complaining spouse. There may, however, be cases where the conduct complained of itself is bad enough and per se unlawful    or illegal. Then the impact or     the injurious effect on the other spouse need     not be enquired into or considered. In    such cases, the cruelty will be established if     the conduct itself is proved or admitted.

It will    be necessary to bear in mind    that there has been    marked change in the    life around us. In matrimonial    duties     and responsibilities in particular, we find a     sea change.    They are of varying degrees    from house to house or person    to person. Therefore, when a spouse makes complaint about the treatment of cruelty by the     partner in life or relations, the court should not search for standard in life.     A set of facts stigmatised as cruelty in one case may not be so in another case. The cruelty alleged     may largely depend upon the type of life     the parties are accustomed to or their economic and social conditions.    It may    also depend upon their culture and human values to which they attach importance.    We, the     judges     and lawyers, therefore, should not import our     own notions of life. We may not go    in parallel with them. There may be a generation gap a between us and    the parties. It would be better if we keep aside our    customs     and manners.     It would be also better if we    less depend upon precedents.     Because as    Lord Denning said in     Sheldon v. Sheldon'    'the categories of cruelty are not closed'.    Each case may     be different.     We deal with     the conduct of human beings who are not generally similar.    Among the human beings there is no limit to     the kind of    conduct     which may constitute cruelty. New type of cruelty     may crop up in any case depending upon the human behaviour, capacity or incapability     to tolerate    the conduct complained of. Such is the wonderful (sic) realm of cruelty.

" It was a case where the wife was     a postgraduate in biological sciences while the husband was a doctor.     The wife moved the court for divorce on the ground of cruelty. According to her, she had an amount of Rupees two lakhs in fixed deposit in a bank apart from a house property,    that her mother-in-law used to make constant demands of money, and that the    respondent husband supported    his mother therein. She did not report the same to her parents because she was afraid that if she informed her parents, something may be done to her. The respondent-husband himself admitted in a letter written to the wife that the demand for dowry by his parents was nothing wrong.     On the above facts, it     was held that the ground of cruelty was established and divorce was granted. The following further observations of Shetty, J. appear to us relevant: (SCC pp. 1 14-15, para 18) "Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act provides    that the party has after solemnization of the marriage treated the petitioner with

5 (1966) 2 All ER 257, 259: (1966) 2 WLR 993 349

cruelty. What     do these words mean? What should be     the nature of cruelty? Should it be only intentional, wilful or deliberate? Is it necessary to prove the intention in matrimonial offence? We think not. We have earlier    said that cruelty may be of any kind and any variety. It may be different in different cases.     It is in relation to     the conduct     of parties to a marriage. That conduct which is complained of as cruelty by one spouse may not be so for the other spouse.     There may be instances of cruelty by     the unintentional but inexcusable conduct of any    party.     The cruel treatment may also result by the cultural conflict of the spouse. In such cases, even if the act of     cruelty is established, the intention to commit     suicide cannot be established. The aggrieved party may not get relief. We do not think that was the intention with which the Parliament enacted     Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act.     The context and the set up in which the word 'cruelty' has    been used in the section, seems to us, that intention is not a necessary element in     cruelty. That word    has to     be understood in the ordinary sense of the term in     matrimonial affairs. If the intention to harm, harass or hurt could be inferred by the nature of the conduct or     brutal     act complained of, cruelty could be easily established. But the absence     of intention should not make any difference in     the case, if by ordinary     sense in human affairs, the     act complained of could otherwise be regarded as cruelty.     The relief    to the party cannot be denied on the    ground    that there has been no deliberate or wilful ill-treatment."

18.In Chanderkala Trivedi v. Dr S.P. Trivedi6 the husband sued for divorce on the ground of cruelty by wife. The wife filed a written statement wherein she attributed adultery to the husband. In reply thereto the husband    put forward another     allegation against the wife that she     was having undesirable association with young boys. Considering     the mutual    allegations, R.M. Sahai, J. speaking for Division Bench, observed: (SCC

p. 233, para 2)

"Whether    the allegation of the husband    that she was in the habit of associating with young boys and the findings recorded by the three courts are correct or not but what is certain is that once such allegations are made by     the husband and wife as have, been made in    this case then it is obvious that the marriage of the two     cannot     in any circumstance     be continued     any further. The marriage appears to be practically dead as from cruelty alleged by the husband it has turned out to be at least intimacy of the husband with a    lady doctor and unbecoming conduct    of a Hindu wife."

19.It was argued on behalf of the husband that     the wife has failed to establish the charge of adultery levelled against     him and that the charge of adultery must be proved beyond    reasonable doubt. Dealing with the argument,     the learned Judge observed: (SCC pp. 233-34, para 3) 6 (1993) 4 SCC 232 : 1993 SCC (Cri) II 54 : (1993) 3 Scale 541


"But we do not propose to examine it as we are satisfied     that the marriage is dead and     the findings of fact cannot be set aside by    this Court except that the appeal can be sent    back to the Division Bench to decide it again which would mean another exercise in futility leading to tortuous litigation and continued agony of the parties."

20.In the light of the principles enunciated hereinabove, we may now examinewhether the allegations made by the wife in her written statement and thequestions put     by her counsel     to the petitioner in cross-examination amount to mental    cruelty within the meaning of the said     sub-clause? The relevant portions of the written statement have already been set out by us hereinbefore. We have also set out in the said paragraph the explanatory statement made by     the respondent's counsel in court in Justification of     the questions put    by him     to the     petitioner in     his cross- examination. It is true that the said averments must be read in the context in which they were made. At the    same time, it must     be remembered that the wife     was merely defending herself against what are,     according to    her, totally     unfounded allegations and aspersions on     her character. It was not necessary for her to go beyond    that and allege that the petitioner is a mental patient, that he is not     a normal person, that     he requires psychological treatment to restore his mental health, that he is suffering from paranoid    disorder and mental hallucinations and to crown it all, to allege that he and all the members of     his family are a bunch of lunatics.     It is not as if these words were uttered in a fit of anger or under an emotional stress. They were made in a formal pleading filed in the Court     and the questions to that effect were put by her counsel, at her instructions,    in the     cross-examination. Even in     her additional written statement she has asserted her right     "to make correct statement of facts to defend herself against the wanton, imaginary and irresponsible allegations". These are not the mere protestations of an injured wife; they     are positive assertions of mental imbalance and streak of insanity in the mental build-up of the husband.     The husband is an Advocate practicing in this Court as well as in Delhi High Court. The divorce petition is being tried in the Delhi High Court itself. Making such allegations in     the pleadings and putting such questions to the husband while he is in the witness-box, is bound to cause him intense mental pain and anguish besides affecting his    career     and professional prospects. It is not as if the respondent is seeking     any relief on the basis of these assertions.     The allegations against her may not be true; it may also be true that the petitioner is a highly suspicious character     and that he assumes things against his wife which are not    well founded. But on that ground, to say that the petitioner has lost his normal mental health, that he is a mental patient requiring expert psychological treatment and above all to brand him and all the members of his family including     his grandfather as lunatics, is going far beyond the reasonable limits    of her defence.     It is relevant to notice that     the allegations of the wife in her written statement amount in effect    to "psychopathic disorder or any other disorder" within    the meaning of the Explanation to clause (iii) of sub-section (1) of Section 13, though, she has not chosen to say that on that account she cannot reasonably 351

be expected to live with the petitioner-husband nor has     she chosen    to claim any    relief on that ground. Even     so, allegations of 'paranoid disorder', ,mental patient', 'needs psychological treatment to make him act a normal person' etc. are there coupled with the statement that     the petitioner and all the members of his family are lunatics and that a streak of insanity runs    through     his entire family.     These     assertions cannot but constitute mental cruelty of such a nature that the petitioner, situated as he is and in the context of the several relevant circumstances, cannot    reasonably be asked to live with the respondent thereafter. The husband in the position of the petitioner herein would be justified in saying that it is not possible for him to live with the wife in     view of the    said allegations. Even otherwise the peculiar facts of this case show that the respondent is deliberately feigning a posture which is wholly unnatural and beyond the comprehension of a reasonable person. She has been dubbed as an    incorrigible adulteress. She is fully aware that the marriage is    long dead and over. It is her case that     the petitioner is genetically insane. Despite all that, she says that     she wants to live with the petitioner. The obvious conclusion is that she has resolved to live in agony only to make    life a miserable hell for the petitioner as well. This type of callous     attitude in the context of the facts of this case, leaves no manner of doubt in our mind that the respondent is bent upon treating the petitioner with mental cruelty.     It is abundantly clear that the marriage between the parties has broken down irretrievably and there is no chance of their coming together, or living together again. Having regard to the peculiar features of this case, we are of     the opinion     that the marriage between the     parties should be dissolved under Section 13(1)(i-a) of Hindu Marriage Act and we do so accordingly.    Having regard to the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case and its progress over     the last eight years detailed hereinbefore we    are of     the opinion     that it is a fit case for cutting     across     the procedural objections to give a quietus to the matter.

21.Before parting with this case, we think it necessary to append     a clarification. Merely because there     are allegations and counter-allegations, a decree     of divorce cannot follow.    Nor is mere delay in disposal of the divorce proceedings by itself a ground. There must be really    some extraordinary features to warrant grant of divorce on     the basis of pleadings (and other admitted material) without a full trial. Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is     not a ground by itself. But while scrutinising the evidence on record    to determine whether the ground(s) alleged is/are made out and in determining the relief to be granted,     the said circumstance can     certainly be borne in     mind.     The unusual     step as the one taken by us herein can be resorted to only to clear up an insoluble mess, when the court finds it in the interest of both the parties.

22.The    petition for divorce H.M. Case No. 1 of 1986 pending in the Delhi High Court is withdrawn to the file of this Court and is allowed. The marriage between the parties is dissolved.     In the circumstances, the     allegations levelled by the petitioner against the wife are held    'not proved'. The honour and character of the respondent    wife stands vindicated.

23. There shall be no order as to costs.