“Depriving Spouse Of Facebook, Instagram, Damaging Reputation May Amount To Cruelty In Divorce: Telangana HC

The Telangana High Court has determined that any act by one spouse that damages the other’s reputation, social standing, or work prospects constitutes “cruelty.”

Case Details

In a modern context, Justices Moushumi Bhattacharya and M.G. Priyadarshini suggested that depriving a spouse of access to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram could also be considered cruelty.

These insights were offered by the bench while approving a husband’s appeal for divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act. The Court emphasized that marriages cannot be forced upon individuals and that it should not act as a mediator or enforcer to compel couples to remain in a loveless marriage.

The Court also noted that mental cruelty is subjective and varies from person to person; what one individual perceives as mental cruelty might be seen by another as merely irritating or unwelcome behavior.

The case involved a couple married in 2010 who experienced severe marital discord shortly after their wedding. The wife left the matrimonial home in 2011 and subsequently filed five criminal cases against her husband, including allegations of cruelty and dowry harassment under Section 498A IPC. She briefly returned to live with him in May 2015 but left soon after and filed additional criminal cases. The husband was acquitted in some of these cases.

Case History

In November 2021, the Trial Court dismissed the husband’s divorce petition, stating he had failed to prove cruelty. The husband appealed this decision, arguing that his wife inflicted physical and mental cruelty by repeatedly filing criminal cases against him. He also claimed that she deserted him in 2011 and only returned briefly in 2015 before filing more cases.

The wife’s counsel contended that the husband should be responsible for her financial needs and that a divorce should not be granted without ensuring her maintenance.

After reviewing the facts and arguments, the High Court concluded that the wife’s actions amounted to mental cruelty and that the marriage had irretrievably broken down. The court stated, “Cruelty is just one of the splinters of a collapsing structure where the substratum of the marriage has broken down in a way in which the structure cannot be preserved or re-built.”

The Court cited multiple judgments and acknowledged that the concept of cruelty is dynamic and evolves with societal changes. It recognized that repeatedly filing false cases can constitute mental cruelty and serve as a valid ground for divorce.

In light of these findings, the Court allowed the husband’s appeal, noting that the foundation of the marriage had collapsed and that the parties could not be forced to reconcile and live together as husband and wife.

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About the Author: Meera Verma