Removal Of ‘Mangalsutra’ By Wife Mental Cruelty Of Highest Order: Madras High Court

Chennai: Removal of ‘thali’ (Mangalsutra) by an estranged wife would amount to subjecting the husband to mental cruelty of the highest order, the Madras High Court observed while granting divorce to an aggrieved man.

A division bench of Justices VM Velumani and S Sounthar made the observation while allowing a civil miscellaneous appeal from Professor C Sivakumar, working in a medical college in Erode recently. He was seeking to quash the orders dated June 15, 2016, of the local Family Court, refusing divorce to him, news agency PTI reported.

The woman admitted that at the time of separation, she removed her thali chain (sacred chain worn by the wife as a token of having married). Though she proceeded to explain that she retained the thali and only removed the chain, the act of removing it had its own significance.

Her counsel, by referring to Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act submitted that tying of thali is not necessary and hence its removal by the wife, even assuming it was true, would not have any impact on the marital tie.

But, it is a matter of common knowledge that tying of thali is an essential ritual in marriage ceremonies that takes place in this part of the world, the bench pointed out.

The court also cited the orders of a division bench of the High Court, which stated that “from the materials available on record, it is also seen that the petitioner has removed the thali and it is also her own admission that she had kept the same in a bank locker. It was a known fact that no Hindu married woman would remove the thali at any point of time during the lifetime of her husband.

“Thali around the neck of a woman was a sacred thing which symbolises the continuance of married life and it is removed only after the death of the husband. Therefore, its removal by the petitioner/wife can be said to be an act which reflected mental cruelty of the highest order as it could have caused agony and hurt the sentiments of the respondent,” the bench had said.

Applying the same yardstick, the present bench said the removal of thali chain is often treated as an unceremonious act. “We don’t say for a moment that removal of thali chain per se is sufficient to put an end to the marital knot, but the said act of the respondent (wife) is a piece of evidence in drawing an inference about the intentions of the parties. The act of the respondent in removing the thali chain at the time of separation coupled with various other evidences available on record, compel us to come to a definite conclusion that the parties have no intention to reconcile and continue the marital knot,” the bench said.

Besides, the bench noted that she had made allegations of extramarital affairs against the man with his women colleagues in the presence of co-workers, students and also before the police. In the light of the decisions of the Supreme Court and the High Courts, the judges said they have no hesitation in holding that the wife had caused mental cruelty to the husband by suspecting his character and making false allegations of an extramarital affair in the presence of others, the report added.

“We are given to understand that the appellant and his wife are living separately from 2011 onwards and there is no evidence on record to show that the wife has made any attempt for reunion during this period. Hence in the facts and circumstances of the case and also in view of our finding that the wife by her act caused mental cruelty to the husband, we propose to put a full stop to the marital tie by granting decree dissolving the marriage between the petitioner and the respondent (wife) that took place in November, 2008,” the bench said, set aside the lower court order and granted divorce to the petitioner.

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