Sometimes family law decisions in foreign jurisdictions warrant commentary. This week we explore a decision out of India, in which the Bombay High Court dismissed a divorce application filed by a man who claimed, among other things, that his wife did not cook well enough, did not spend time with him, and wanted to drive his elderly parents (who lived with them) out of their home.
The Husband’s Position
The couple has been married since 2005. The husband worked at a bank and the wife was a teacher. They had no children, but the husband’s elderly parents resided with them.
The husband had applied for divorce in Family Court, which had denied his application in 2012 and refused to grant him a divorce decree. He appealed the decision to the High Court, claiming that the Family Court judge had erred.
On appeal, the husband claimed several things, including that:
- The wife had a negative attitude towards him and his parents;
- The wife abused, threatened, and insulted his parents;
- The wife abused him and his parents if they attempted to wake her in the morning;
- The wife returned home from work at 6pm, and first took a nap, not cooking dinner until about 8:30pm;
- “On the days that I returned home late from work, she would not even offer me a glass of water”; and
- The wife did not spend quality time with him.
The man argued that the wife’s actions (or, rather, her alleged failure to act a certain way) amounted to cruelty and submitted a statement from his father in support of his position.
The Wife’s Position
The wife denied all the husband’s allegations. She argued that:
- In the mornings she did not leave for work until she had cooked food for the entire family;
- In the evenings she would buy groceries on her way home from work, prepare tea for everyone upon her return, and then cook dinner;
- It was the husband and his parents who were ill-treating her and that his parents “never liked good relations” between the couple.
The wife also produced statements from the couple’s neighbours who said that she was “always doing some work” whenever they visited the couple’s home, and that the husband’s parents were always taunting her but she did not treat them with disrespect.
A bench of two justices concluded that the man’s allegations did not amount to any cruelty and could, therefore, not be grounds for divorce.
The court noted that the wife was a working woman, and yet, was the one who had the additional burden of buying groceries, cooking for the husband and his parents, and doing all other chores. The court stated:
It is difficult to believe that [the wife] was constantly abusing and threatening the petitioner and his parents. It is further the [husband’s] case that when he used to return home late, the respondent failed to cook well, or take care of his needs. That again cannot amount to cruelty.
The court went on to note:
The learned Family Court judge also rightly criticised the appellant for expecting a glass of water to be offered to him each time by the respondent.
The court ultimately dismissed the appeal, finding no merit in the husband’s position.
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