Taunting person for being handicapped most inhumane kind of cruelty: Punjab & Haryana HC

Holding that taunting a person for their handicap constitutes the most inhumane kind of cruelty that could be meted out to any disabled person, the Punjab and Haryana High Court dissolved a marriage, putting an end to a nearly two-decade old dispute of a polio afflicted man, who had sought divorce on the grounds of mental and physical cruelty by wife.

“Taunting a person for his handicap, and pushing him around to throw him on the ground when he is helpless and unable to defend himself, constitutes the most inhumane kind of cruelty which can be meted out to any disabled person,” a division bench of Justices Ritu Bahri and Nidhi Gupta observed, while setting aside an order of a family court in Hoshiarpur, which had declined the man’s plea for divorce on the ground of cruelty and desertion.

The bench was hearing an appeal filed by the husband against the order of the family court refusing to grant him divorce. The couple had married in March 2004 and a son was born to them December 2004 at the house of the woman’s parents, where she had been residing since September that year.

Within a month of the wedding, the husband found out that the wife had lied about her age, an earlier marriage and the fact that she had a son.

The man submitted before the HC that he is handicapped and afflicted by polio since childhood. He stated that only after about 8-10 days of the marriage, his wife
started insulting and mocking him publicly and in front of his family for his physical disability. He further said that as a result of bad behavior on the part of his wife, his parents disinherited him from their property and told him to live separately. The appellant further stated that despite the separation, the behavior of his wife did not improve and she continually taunted him regarding his virility, and even used to snatch his crutches and physically throw the appellant on the ground in the presence of his friends and relatives. He alleged that his wife had treated him with cruelty, and also deserted him without reasonable cause or excuse. As such, he was left with no alternative but to file the petition before a Hoshiarpur court seeking divorce.

The family court had refused to accept his contentions on the ground that he had failed to point to the exact date and place where the alleged incidents of pushing or taunting by the wife took place.

His wife, in HC, denied that she had treated him with cruelty and or insulted him. She said that since 2005, she is living with her parents and her husband filed divorce petition by leveling false allegations.

The counsel for the applicant, Advocate Navjot Singh, contended that lower court had committed grave error in overlooking the testimonies of the witnesses wherein each of them have categorically deposed that the respondent (wife) used to insult her husband in their presence and use derogatory words and taunts against him.

He also informed the bench that the the woman had filed complaint against her husband, and his parents accusing them of cruelty and demanding dowry. A trial court had convicted the trio in 2014. The husband, however, challenged the trial court order before an Additional Sessions Judge Court, where the conviction was set aside in 2016. The appellant then filed a case of defamation against his wife wherein she was convicted under Section 500 (defamation) of IPC.

After hearing the arguments, the bench noted that the family court failed to appreciate evidence in a proper manner and was “strangely silent regarding testimonies…no mention is made in the impugned order regarding the statements of witnesses”.

It said that there was sufficient evidence on record in form of mentioned testimonies where it is established that the woman ill-treated her husband for his handicap.

“The respondent’s (wife’s) such actions amount to her inflicting both physical and mental cruelty on the appellant (husband),” the bench observed, while reversing the findings of the family court.

Noting that the marriage had irretrievably broken down as both the parties were living separately since 2005, the HC allowing the plea of the applicant, held that though the acts of the wife amount to cruelty against the husband, “we are not oblivious to her requirements, and that of the son born of the parties’ wedlock”.

Accordingly, the court directed the husband to pay Rs 15 lakh to the wife as one-time permanent alimony and Rs 10 lakh to the son.

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