Wife, separated for years, cannot sue husband for torture: Apex court


New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ruled that a woman, living separately from her husband for years without taking divorce, cannot accuse him of torturing her after years of separation.

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A bench of Justice Mukundakam Sharma and Justice B.S. Chauhan gave the ruling while upholding the conviction and sentence of an Assam government official on charges of bigamy.

But the bench set aside the conviction for physical and mental torture allegations levelled by the estranged wife, who had been living separately for years.

The bench adjudicated Manju Ram Kalita’s appeal against judgements of three Assam courts – all convicting him for bigamy and mentally torturing his wife Minati Das.

“In view of the concurrent findings on the question of bigamy by the three courts, we are not inclined to interfere with the conviction and the quantum of punishment on the count of bigamy,” said the apex court bench in its ruling delivered May 29 but released later.

The bench, however, said the a case cannot be lodged against the husband for causing physical and mental torture to the wife, “who had left the matrimonial home and started living with her father” years ago.

“In our opinion, all the three courts erred in and failed to consider the case in correct perspective. Their findings does not bring home the charge under Section 498-A IPC.”

Minati married Kalita in February 1992. But soon the relationship deteriorated to the extent that a pregnant Minati left her husband’s house and began living with her father from early 1993.

She gave birth to a male child in 1993 while living at her father’s home.

The couple continued to live separately without getting a formal divorce and Kalita married for the second time in February 1997.

Minati filed a complaint against her husband, accusing him of bigamy and physical and metal torture.

On Minati’s complaint, Kamrup’s additional chief judicial magistrate convicted Kalita on charges of practising bigamy and torturing her wife in 1999.

On the first count, the magistrate sentenced him to three years in jail while on the second he was sentenced to two years.

Later the sessions court in 2000 and the Gauhati High Curt in 2001 dismissed Kalita’s appeal, confirming the magisterial court ruling, which was finally modified by the apex court.