A husband sought divorce from his wife on grounds of mental cruelty, claiming that he had been denied a sexual relationship and that his wife was not interested in living with him. He claimed that his wife abandoned him, prioritized her coaching center over him, and was not interested in indulging in a physical relationship with him. In his appeal, the husband argued that the wife had untruthfully indicted him and lodged an FIR against him, which could be considered cruelty. However, a bench led by Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva and Justice Manoj Jain stated that deprivation of sex might be regarded as a form of mental cruelty when it is constant, deliberate, and for an extended period.
The court’s ruling:
The court had said that the husband had failed to prove any mental cruelty to him because
The marriage was consummated; they had their first child in 1998.
Despite the allegation that the wife suggested he live as Ghar Jamai, the couple lived together in their rented marital house.
Though the wife filed an FIR, the husband was granted the benefit of the doubt.
The court dismissed the husband's divorce petition, stating that his testimony does not appear convincing enough to indicate cruelty on the part of his wife. The division bench argued that the case was simply a case of marital wear and tear and that minor irritations should not be mistaken for mental cruelty.
This is not the first instance of such a case. In September 2023, a newlywed husband made similar allegations after 35 days of marriage, as the marriage was not consummated and the wife had deserted him and returned to her family home. The Delhi High Court bench headed by Justice Suresh Kumar Kait rejected the wife's appeal against the family court order granting a divorce on the grounds that denial of conjugal rights after marriage is cruelty, and the judges had stated that marriage devoid of sex is odious as well as that there was not anything detrimental to marriages but regret in a sexual relationship.
Clinical Psychiatrist, Dr. Devashish Palkar, MD Psychiatry, was interviewed to get the psychological perspective of the issue. When asked about the psychological impact of the issue on oneself, he said, “When partners start to refuse to have sexual activity, that can lead to a lot of marital conflicts. That itself can be a big stress. At the same time, the lack of sexual activity could be the result of something not going right in the marriage, or it could be because the person might be experiencing some psychological problems or some other health-related problems. This needs to be talked about. If a partner is actively refusing to participate in sexual activity and it is something that has happened only recently, then they have to sit down and discuss it openly and possibly take the help of a psychiatrist or a counselor to solve those issues rather than taking just the legal step.” He further added that he is not one to advise going for legal action without assessing the cause behind the lack of sexual interests, and he does not have any particular opinion regarding this case and did not comment on it.
The importance of intimacy in a marital relationship:
“It depends on the couple. Some couples may want to have frequent sexual interactions, while others may not. Some couples may be okay with not having sex, as it depends on the couple. And, rather than one person deciding it, it has to be mutually decided. It has to be based on consent, and it has to be discussed openly. The problem happens in our society when these things are not openly discussed. When one of the partners has expectations different from the other, that is when the relationship struggles. This is because of a lack of clarity and communication. This matter has to be focused on,” said Dr. Devashish Palkar.
Secondly, the doctor was asked about when a couple should seek help from a psychiatrist. The doctor replied, “They have to seek help when there is a problem, either when they are unable to perform properly, when they are not satisfied with each other, or when there are some emotional barriers. Or when there are male-related sexual problems like erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, or when the female partner is not able to experience orgasm, they should seek help.”
And when asked how to approach the psychiatrist, the doctor answered, “We have to approach the psychiatrist on these matters just like we approach a general physician”. He further emphasized that one has to be very open with the psychiatrist when discussing such problems and said,” The more openly you talk about it, the more openly you ask questions about it, the better solutions you get”.
The case and the court ruling have recently caused a stir in the media because it involves a very sensitive issue still considered taboo in many households. As mentioned by the psychiatrist, seeking help may resolve the issue, mend bonds, and move the relationship forward. Furthermore, couples facing such issues should not be embarrassed to seek help, as these matters are crucial in a relationship. Therefore, getting timely help can increase trust between partners and motivate them to work out difficulties hand in hand.