'Continued bitterness, dead emotion, long separation': SC dissolves marriage of couple

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Twelve years of separation is a sufficiently long period of time to have sapped all emotions that the two perhaps may have had once for each other, the bench noted

The Supreme Court has said that continued bitterness, dead emotions, and long separation, in a case, can be considered as "irretrievable breakdown of marriage", which is also a facet of cruelty.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia declared the marriage of a couple living separately for the last 12 years as broken down irretrievably after interacting with the husband and wife.

"Whatever may be the justification for the two living separately, with so much of time gone by, any marital love or.affection, which may have been between the parties, seems to have dried up. This is a classic case of irretrievable breakdown of marriage," the bench said.

The marriage of the couple was solemnised as per Hindu rites on May 12, 2007 at Gomti district in Tripura. Within three years of marriage, bitterness started creeping into their relationship. The wife left for her parental home in 2011, when she was pregnant and never returned to matrimonial home. The husband worked as Executive Engineer at Agartala, while the wife worked as a teacher in a school at Udaipur in Gomti. 

The husband first filed a plea for restitution of conjugal rights, which was dismissed by the family court. An appeal before the High Court was withdrawn. 

He then filed a petition for dissolution of marriage on the ground of cruelty and desertion. The family court rejected the plea. The High Court also dismissed it noting that though the couple were living separately for the last 10 years but that in itself could not be considered as cruelty.

"We find that the matrimonial bond is not ruptured beyond repair and moreover, we find that the parties were never at such bitterness of their relation that they cannot give a new lease of life to their relation," it had said.

Hearing the appeal by the husband, the Top Court bench said, "Nothing would give us more satisfaction if the two could work out their differences and decide to live together, if only for the sake of their child. But under the circumstances, with the rigid attitude of both the parties, who have failed to appreciate the beauty of compromise, we have been forced to convince ourselves, albeit regrettably, that the two cannot now live together."

Twelve years of separation, is a sufficiently long period of time to have sapped all emotions which the two perhaps may have had once for each other, the bench noted. 

"We therefore cannot take the same hopeful view as that of the High Court, which still believes that the matrimonial bond between the two has not ruptured beyond repair or that the two cannot still give a new lease of life to their relation. Frankly, no matter how much we would have liked this to happen but in reality, this is a possibility, which under the facts and circumstances of thecase, can only be called wishful," the bench said.

Citing the case of 'Rakesh Raman  v. Kavita' (2023), the bench pointed out that it was held that though in a given case cruelty as a fault, may not be attributable to one party alone and hence despite irretrievable breakdown of marriage keeping the parties together amounts to cruelty on both sides. 

Relying upon the Constitution Bench judgment in 'Shilpa Sailesh  v. Varun Sreenivasan' (2023), the bench in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution concluded, "We are of the considered opinion that this being a case of irretrievable breakdown of marriage must now be dissolved by grant of decree of divorce."

The court, however, directed the husband to deposit Rs 20 lakh in the account of wife within six months and pay Rs 15,000 per month to the mother and the child until then.