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Kerala HC sets aside family court order declaring marriage null and void

The bench also remitted back the original petition to the Family Court to reconsider it as fresh and dispose it according to the law.

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The Kerala High Court on Tuesday set aside a family court order, observing, “declaring a marriage null and void is a very serious matter because it wipes out a jural relationship”.

The appeal was filed by a Christian woman challenging the judgment of the Family Court dated 31-01-2018, declaring the marriage between the appellant and the respondent (Husband) null and void.

The respondent had filed the original petition in the Family Court under Section 10 (1)(x), 18 and 19 of the Divorce Act, 1869, seeking to declare his marriage with the appellant null and void.

The facts in the petition is that the respondent was married to the appellant on 11.5.2015 at St Mary’s Forane Church, Chunkam, Thodupuzha. The couple have no offspring. The respondent and the appellant are engineers by profession. The respondent is working in the United States of America. Right from the beginning of the marital life, the appellant behaved indifferently towards the respondent. The respondent found the appellant to be immature and she lacked manners in her words and deeds. The appellant was arrogant, short tempered and rough in her talks. The appellant made a hue and cry over trivial issues.

The appellant also levelled unsubstantiated allegations against the respondent’s family members. She even alleged that the respondent’s father was a mental patient. In some emails and messages sent to the respondent, the appellant admitted that her father was under medication for mental disorder and that her elder brother was suffering from unsoundness of mind and was under treatment. The above fact was suppressed from the respondent at the time of fixing the marriage. This act of suppression was a fraud perpetrated on the respondent and his family members, on such grounds the husband prayed to the Family Court for divorce.

The appellant then filed a written objection, refuting the allegations in the original petition. She admitted the marriage. According to the appellant,  the couple lived  together only for a period of 14 days. The respondent mentally and physically harassed the appellant. After the marriage, the respondent’s father demanded the appellant to keep all her gold ornaments in the matrimonial home. The respondent and his father used to turn violent if the appellant received any telephone calls from her mother. On one occasion, the respondent’s father asked whether the appellant was a mental patient and was under any medication. The respondent’s father harassed the appellant in every possible way, which clearly devalued the dignity of the appellant as a woman and human being. The respondent’s parents and sister continuously tortured the appellant by creating issues in the matrimonial home. The appellant was brutally harassed in the matrimonial home. 

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The respondent’s father behaved indecently towards the appellant. The appellant was shocked to receive a divorce notice after an incident that occurred in June 2016. The respondent is in a habit of watching X-rated movies on his mobile phone. Even though the appellant warned the respondent not to indulge in smoking and drinking, he did not adhere to her advice. The respondent seemed to be having obsessive compulsive disorder and he always doubted the appellant. Therefore, the appellant prayed for the petition to be dismissed. 

The Family Court, after analysing the pleadings and materials on record, by the judgment dated 31-01-2018  allowed the original petition by declaring the marriage between the appellant and the respondent null and void. Aggrieved by the judgment, the appellant approached the High Court.

The division bench of Justices A. Muhamed Mustaque and C.S. Dias found that the respondent has given more emphasis in his pleadings and evidence regarding the alleged instances of cruelty committed by the appellant. He also produced messages allegedly sent by the appellant to prove the ground of cruelty. Oral testimony of the appellant would also establish that the appellant had attempted to prove that the respondent had meted out cruelty on her and he has taken advantage of his own wrong.

“The Family Court went on a totally different tangent. The Family Court based on the alleged communication of the appellant to the respondent, that the appellant’s father and brother are suffering from unsoundness of mind, held that the non-disclosure of the mental illness of the brother and father was a fraud perpetrated by the appellant on the respondent, which vitiated the marriage and, therefore, the respondent was entitled to a decree of nullity,”

-the High Court opined.

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The Court also pointed out that the respondent has not proved that the appellant’s father and brother have mental illness, so as to vitiate the consent for the marriage. “In light of the decree of nullity granted, the alternative relief for divorce was not at all considered by the Family Court,” observed the Court.

“On a cumulative analysis of the entire pleadings and materials on record, we are of the opinion that the finding of the Family Court that the appellant had committed fraud on the respondent by not revealing the fact that her father and brother were persons of unsound mind is patently erroneous and unsustainable in law. Declaring a marriage null and void is a very serious matter because it wipes out a jural relationship. If such a decree has to be passed, there should be cogent materials, which according to us, is lacking in the case,”

-ordered the Court while setting aside the judgment of the Family Court .

The bench also remitted back the original petition to the Family Court to reconsider it as fresh and dispose it according to the law.

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