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The Allahabad High Court has affirmed the divorce granted by the lower court to a couple who lived separately for nearly 13 years. In the husband`s divorce petition, the lower court addressed the issue of desertion against him but ultimately granted the divorce based on the grounds of mental cruelty inflicted by the wife. Justices Vivek Kumar Birla and Donadi Ramesh, on the bench, asserted that cruelty extends beyond physical harm and recognized that in cases of mental cruelty, continuing  marital relationship might become impossible.

Prolonged separation as ground of divorce

Acknowledging the wife`s admission of not living together continuously, the court stated, “Apart from issue no. 2 of cruelty, the Court below appreciated that it is a case of irretrievable breakdown even if the desertion is not proved as per the definition of Section 13 (1)(ia) and (ib). Admittedly, at least 13 years have passed since both are living separately, which in itself amounts to cruelty under Section 13 (1)(ia) of the Act.”

Factual Background:
The marriage between the parties, solemnized in 2002 following Hindu rites, saw the wife residing at her paternal home for a period after marriage. She briefly lived with her husband but returned to her paternal home, eventually taking up employment in a different city from her husband. While the wife initially moved with her husband to Mumbai, she later relocated. The husband, in the divorce petition, claimed to have suffered both mental and physical cruelty, asserting desertion by his wife and the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
However, in the wife`s written statement, she alleged beating, torture, dowry demands, and adultery. Despite attempted conciliation during the divorce proceedings, the wife`s non-appearance led the court to proceed with evidence recording. The lower court concluded that the marriage had irretrievably broken down, even if desertion was not proven as per the definitions of cruelty and dissertation under Section 13 (1)(ia) and (ib). It also noted the wife`s failure to prove allegations of extramarital affairs against the husband and dismissed her claims of physical torture, citing the absence of an FIR and pre-existing eye problems.

High Court Verdict:

The High Court observed that living separately for over 13 years itself amounts to cruelty under Section 13(1)(ia). It cited precedents, such as Rakesh Raman vs. Smt. Kavita and Samar Ghosh vs. Jaya Ghosh, highlighting that prolonged separation without cause constitutes cruelty. The court emphasized that a long period of continuous separation may lead to an irreparable breakdown of the matrimonial bond. Further, reliance on Rajib Kumar Roy vs. Sushmita Saha supported the view that living separately for an extended period signifies a classic case of irretrievable breakdown of marriage.
In line with the Supreme Court`s decision in Samar Ghosh, the High Court concluded that undue harassment and mental cruelty were established in the lower court, justifying the grant of divorce in the case of Charu Chug Alias Charu Arora vs. Madhukar Chugh.