A Bench of Justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan said divorce on grounds of cruelty can be granted only if it is established that there was sustained and unjustified reprehensible conduct by one of the spouses affecting the physical and mental well being of the other, including inordinate persistence of sexual demands.
"Making certain statements on the spur of the moment and expressing certain displeasure about the behaviour of elders may not be characterised as cruelty. 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 cruelty.
"Sustained unjustifiable and reprehensible conduct affecting physical and mental health of the other spouse may lead to mental cruelty," Justice Sathasivam writing the judgement said.
The apex court passed the judgement while dismissing the appeal of Gurbux Singh, Principal, ITI College, Sirhali, Amritsar, seeking divorce from his wife Harminder Kaur a Librarian in Government Institute DIET at Verka, Amritsar, on the ground of ‘cruelty’.
"It is true that even a single act of violence which is of grievous and inexcusable nature satisfies the test of cruelty. Persistence in inordinate sexual demands or malpractices by either spouse can be cruelty if it injures the other spouse. There is no such complaint by the appellant.
"In the case on hand, as stated earlier, the appellant has projected few instances in which, according to him, the respondent (wife) abused his parents,"Justice Sathasivam said.
The husband sought divorce under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, on the ground that his wife had insulted his aged parents during Lohri festival and used abusive words against them in front of friends and relatives.
However, the matrimonial court and the Punjab and Haryana High Court dismissed his plea, following which he appealed in the apex court.
Dismissing the appeal, the apex court said that barring the allegation of insult of his parents, Singh was not able to establish any other charge of cruelty by his wife.
"It is quite possible that a particular conduct may amount to cruelty in one case but the same conduct necessarily may not amount to cruelty due to change of various factors in different set of circumstances. Therefore, it is essential for the appellant, who claims relief, to prove that a particular/part of conduct or behaviour resulted in cruelty to him.
"No prior assumptions can be made in such matters. Meaning thereby that it cannot be assumed that a particular conduct will, under all circumstances, amount to cruelty, vis-à-vis the other party. The aggrieved party has to make a specific case that the conduct of which exception is taken amounts to cruelty.