Removal Of Mangalsutra By Wife Mental Cruelty Of Highest Order: Madras HC

by Jul 16, 2022Blogs0 comments

In a very significant development which has a direct and a huge impact on the matrimonial life of husband and wife, the Madras High Court has in an extremely learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled C Sivakumar Vs A. Srividhya in C.M.A. No. 3249 of 2019 that was reserved on June 22, 2022 and then finally pronounced on July 5, 2022 held in no uncertain terms that removal of ‘thali’ (Mangalsutra) by an estranged wife would amount to subjecting the husband to mental cruelty of the highest order. We thus see that the Madras High Court so observed and then granted divorce to the aggrieved man who was earlier denied relief by the lower Family Court. A Division Bench of Hon’ble Ms Justice VM Velumani and Hon’ble Mr Justice S Sounthar made the observation while allowing a civil miscellaneous appeal from C Sivakumar who was working as a Professor in a medical college in Erode. He sought to quash the orders dated June 15, 2016 of the lower Family Court refusing to divorce him. It is a matter of common knowledge that no Hindu married woman would ever remove the thali at any point of time during the lifetime of her husband.

At the outset, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by Hon’ble Mr Justice S Sounthar for a Bench of the Madras High Court comprising of Hon’ble Ms Justice VM Velumani and himself sets the ball in motion by first and foremost noting clearly while mentioning explicitly about the prayer made that, “This Civil Miscellaneous Appeal is filed under Section 19 of the Family Court Act, to set aside the decree and the judgment dated 15.06.2016 rendered in H.M.O.P.No.604 of 2014, on the file of the Family Court at Erode, by allowing this Civil Miscellaneous Appeal.”

Needless to add, the Bench then states in para 1 that, “Aggrieved by an order dismissing the petition for divorce filed on the ground of cruelty by appellant/husband the present appeal is filed.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “The appellant/husband sought for divorce on the ground of cruelty in H.M.O.P.No.604 of 2014, on the file of the Family Court, Erode. According to him the marriage with the respondent took place on 10.11.2008. At the time of marriage he was working as a Lecturer in Vivekanandha Medical College and the respondent/wife was working as a Teacher in Government School. They lived together for 2 and 1/2 years in the parental home of the appellant and out of wedlock a female child Sreedhanya was born. According to appellant, the respondent/wife developed suspicion about the appellant’s conduct and character and humiliated him by connecting him with his female colleagues. A false complaint was preferred by respondent/wife against appellant/husband before Thiruchengodu All Women Police Station, and the same was marked as Ex.P.2 and thereafter on advise by the police both the parties set up nucleus family in the first floor of appellant’s parental home. The appellant/husband also averred in his petition that the respondent/wife with the evil intention of tarnishing the image of the appellant came to his work place (college) and had spoken ill of him by connecting him with other female lecturers. The respondent/wife also said to have given another complaint before Erode, All Women Police Station on 08.11.2011. On the advise of the police, the appellant/husband set up a separate new matrimonial home at Erode, but the respondent/wife made unreasonable demands and got separated from appellant/husband without any reasonable cause. Hence, according to appellant/husband they have been living separately from January 2011 onwards. The appellant also submitted that all his attempts for reunion resulted in failure and hence he was constrained to file the above petition for divorce on the ground of cruelty.”

As it turned out, the Bench then discloses in para 3 that, “The respondent filed her counter statement wherein she admitted that the appellant is working as a Professor in Thiruchengodu, Vivekanandha Medical College and the respondent was working as a Teacher in Government School. The respondent denied various allegations found in the petition for divorce. The respondent specifically raised a plea that the petitioner was having illegal intimacy with other working women and he used to talk with them through cell phone till mid night. According to the respondent, the petitions filed by her before police were only for reunion and she wanted to live with the appellant having welfare of female child in her mind. She also expressed her willingness to work as dutiful wife of the appellant and also give respect to the elders of the appellant’s family. On these pleadings she sought for the dismissal of the divorce petition.”

Simply put, the Bench then reveals in para 4 that, “Before the Family Court, the appellant was examined as P.W.1 and one Senthilkumar, colleague of the appellant working in the same college was examined as P.W.2. The respondent was examined as R.W.1. On behalf of the appellant, Exs.P1 to P6 were marked and no document was marked on behalf of the respondent.”

Truth be told, the Bench specifies in para 5 that, “The Family Court on consideration of the evidence available on record, came to the conclusion that the appellant failed to prove cruelty pleaded by him and dismissed the divorce petition and aggrieved by that the above appeal is filed by the appellant/husband.”

Briefly stated, the Bench then observes in para 12 that, “When the respondent was examined as R.W.1, she admitted that she had given a complaint against the appellant/husband as he had illegal relationship with another lady without naming her. She had specifically admitted that she did not know the specific name of the lady with whom her husband had illicit relationship. She further admitted that she went to the college in which the appellant was working. She also admitted that husband used to talk in cell phone and he had no other bad habits.”

Most remarkably, the Bench then discloses in para 13 which cannot be glossed over stating that, “The appellant/husband was examined as P.W.1 and he deposed in support of his pleadings in his divorce petition. In order to prove his allegations that the respondent visited the appellant’s work place and created scene there, he examined his co-employee working in Vivekanandha Medical College as P.W.2. He deposed that respondent came to college during the second week of June, 2011 at about 04.30. P.M. and scolded the appellant with filthy language in front of other teaching staffs and students. On going through the admissions of the respondent in her pleadings and also in her oral and documentary evidence, which was corroborated by the evidences of P.W.1 and P.W.2, we can safely infer that the respondent/wife visited the college in which the appellant/husband was working and she created a scene there by connecting the appellant with other female teaching staff in the presence of other staff members and students. Certainly this act of the respondent would amount to mental cruelty within the meaning of Section 13(1)(ia) of Hindu Marriage Act as explained by the Apex Court in the case law A. Jayachandra versus Annel kaur cited supra. We can also add that this act of respondent would certainly cause serious, irreparable injury to the image of the appellant in the minds of his colleagues and students.”

It is worth noting that the Bench then lays bare in para 14 that, “The respondent herself admitted in her pleadings, as well as, oral evidence that she had given a police complaint before All Women Police Station, connecting the appellant with other women employees of the college in which he was working without specifically naming anybody. Suspecting the character of other spouse and making complaint to police would certainly amount to mental cruelty, when it is not substantiated by any evidence. In the case on hand, the respondent herself admitted that she did not know the name of the lady with whom the appellant was allegedly having illegal intimacy. A careful reading of the oral testimony of the respondent/wife makes it clear that she assumed illegal intimacy only because appellant used to talk with his female colleagues over cell phone. From the facts culled out above, there is no difficulty for us to come to the conclusion, the doubt created in the mind of respondent is nothing but an assumption without any reasonable basis. It would be useful to refer to the observation of the Apex Court in a case law Dr. Anusha Versus Dr. Arjun, reported in 2017 (5) LW 165 relied on by the learned counsel for the appellant. The relevant observations are as follows:

“35………The respondent is admittedly holding a dignified post and such an incident in from his staff would have caused untold mental agony and physical discomfort to him. When the appellant herself admitted that such an incident had taken place when she visited the office of the respondent, the contention that none of the staff of the respondent were examined to prove the incident does not arise. It is needless to mention that facts which are admitted need not be proved by the other side


37. In the present case, admittedly, the appellant went to the work place of the respondent and caused commotion and chaos in the midst of the staff working with the respondent. During the conversation, according to the respondent, the appellant pulled his spectacles and when it had fallen on the ground, she stamped it with her legs. Of course, such a statement was denied by the appellant. However, the fact remains that the appellant went to the work place of the respondent on the relevant day and she also apologised for what has happened by way of an e-mail to the respondent. This incident, undoubtedly, would have developed a deep scar in the mind of the respondent. While that be so, we hold that the respondent has established that he was subjected to cruelty at the hands of the appellant.””

Be it also noted, the Bench then deems it apposite to state in para 15 that, “It is appropriate to refer to the observations of the Apex Court in a case law, K.Srinivas Rao Versus D.A.Deepa, reported in (2013) 5 Supreme Court Cases 226, and the same is as follows:

“16………..Making unfounded indecent defamatory allegations against the spouse or his or her relatives in the pleadings, filing of complaints or issuing notices or news items which may have adverse impact on the business prospect or the job of the spouse and filing repeated false complaints and cases in the Court against the spouse would, in the facts of a case, amount to causing mental cruelty to the other spouse”.”

Quite significantly, the Bench then mentions in para 16 that, “The impact of baseless and reckless allegations about the extra marital affair was explained by the Apex Court in a case law, Narendra Versus K. Meens, reported in 2016 (6) CTC 440. The relevant observations of the Apex Court is as follows:

“12……..We have carefully gone through the evidence but we could not find any reliable evidence to show that the Appellant had an extra-marital affair with someone. Except for the baseless and reckless allegations, there is not even the slightest evidence that would suggest that there was something like an affair of the Appellant with the maid named by the respondent. We consider leveling of absolutely false allegations and that too, with regard to an extra-marital life to be quite serious and that can surely be a cause for mental cruelty.””

As a result, the Bench then mandates in para 17 that, “In the light of the decisions referred above, we have no hesitation in holding that in the present case, the respondent /wife caused mental cruelty to husband by suspecting his character and making false allegations of extra marital affair in the presence of his colleagues and students and also before the police. We are given to understand that the appellant and the respondent are living separately from 2011 onwards and there is no evidence available on record to show that respondent has made any attempt for reunion during this period.”

Bluntly put, the Bench then expounds in para 18 that, “Hence in the facts and circumstances of the case and also in view of our finding that the respondent /wife by her act caused mental cruelty to the husband, we propose to put a full stop to the marital tie by granting decree dissolving the marriage between the petitioner and the respondent that took place on 10.11.2008.”

Most significantly, what forms the real cornerstone of this learned judgment is then lucidly encapsulated in para 19 wherein it is held that, “When the respondent/wife was examined as R.W.1, she admitted that at the time of separation, she removed her thali chain (Sacred chain worn by wife as a token of having married). Though she proceeded to explain that she retained thali and only removed the chain, the act of removing thali chain had its own significance. The learned counsel for the respondent by taking us to ceremonious for Hindu Marriage referring to Section 7 of Hindu Marriage Act submitted that tying of thali is not a necessary one and hence removal of thali by respondent, even assuming it was true, would not have any impact on the marital tie. But, it is a matter of common knowledge that tying of thali is an essential ritual in marriage ceremony that takes place in this part of the world. It is useful to refer, the observations of a coordinate Bench of this Court in Vallabhi Vs. R.Rajasabahi reported in 2017 (1) MWN (Civil) 128. The Observations of the Division Bench of this Court is as follows:

“33. From the materials available on record, it is also seen that the petitioner has removed the “Thali” (Mangalsutra) and it is also her own admission that she has kept the same in Bank locker. It is known fact that no Hindu married woman would remove the “Thali” at any point of time during the lifetime of her husband. “Thali” around the neck of a wife is a sacred thing which symbolises the continuance of married life and it is removed only after the death of Husband. Therefore, the removal of “Thali” by the petitioner/wife can be said to be an act which reflected Mental Cruelty of highest order as it could have caused agony and hurted the sentiments of the respondent.”

Most forthrightly, the Bench then minces no words whatsoever to state upfront in para 20 that, “The removal of thali chain is often treated as an unceremonious act. We don’t say for a moment that removal of thali chain per se sufficient to put an end to the marital knot, but the said act of respondent is a piece of evidence in drawing an inference about the intentions of the parties. The act of respondent in removal of thali chain at the time of separation coupled with various other evidences available on record, compel us to come to a definite conclusion that the parties have no intention to reconcile and continue the marital knot.”

Finally and as a corollary, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 21 that, “In the light of the above discussions the Civil Miscellaneous Appeal is allowed and the fair and decretal order passed by the Family Court, Erode in H.M.O.P.No.604 of 2014 is set aside. The decree for divorce is granted in favour of appellant/husband by dissolving the marriage that took place between the appellant and the respondent on 10.11.2008. In the facts and circumstances of the case there is no order as to costs.”

In a nutshell, the Madras High Court has made it indubitably clear that removal of “thali” (Mangalsutra) by an estranged wife would amount to subjecting the husband to mental cruelty of the highest order. So it follows from this that no Hindu married woman should ever remove the thali at any point of time during the lifetime of her husband. It also thus merits no reiteration that all the Hindu married women must always pay heed to what the Madras High Court has held so very clearly, cogently and convincingly in this leading case!

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