Hindu Marriage Law: Legal Implications of Desertion as a Ground for Divorce
Desertion is intentional and indefensible abandonment of responsibility towards a spouse. It is a willful abandonment or willful failure to provide for the care, protection or support of a person towards his/her spouse who is in necessitous circumstances. Simply put, legal desertion is a ground for divorce in Hindu marriage law.
Hindu marriage law mandates continuation of abandonment or separation for a particular period of time before the divorce proceedings can be started by the spouse who has been deserted. Another mandatory condition is that the abandonment by a spouse shall be without the consent of the deserted spouse.
Suppose Rahul marries Lakshmi and deserts her with her consent. Then, Lakshmi cannot use desertion as a valid ground to press for divorce because it was done with her consent. To prove desertion on the part of a spouse, it has to be proved that the desertion was voluntary and not compelled or provoked by the other spouse.
Hindu Marriage Law: Conditions for Legal Desertion
Here are some conditions laid down by the Supreme Court in a landmark case of Bipinchandra v. Prabhavati, AIR 1957 SC 176. The following conditions must be satisfied for desertion to be established in law:
- Factum of separation i.e. willfully staying separately from the deserted spouse.
- An intention to bring a permanent end to cohabitation.
- Absence of consent to the separation on the part of deserted spouse.
- Absence of any action by the deserted spouse providing justified reason to the spouse to leave the matrimony home.
Hindu Marriage Law: Can Desertion Apply if the Spouse Expresses an Intention to Rejoin?
Another famous case in Hindu marriage law pertains to Dhrubajaati v. Vila, AIR 1979 Ori. 93. In this case, the wife left the husband’s house in the second year of the marriage. She visited her matrimonial house after a long gap of four years, in the absence of her husband. She left before his arrival. The husband filed for divorce on the ground of desertion. The District Court held the desertion was put to an end after the wife’s visit to her matrimony home in absence of her husband. However, the High Court of Orissa observed that such a sudden appearance and disappearance cannot be considered as an intention to rejoin, so the desertion was continuing. It reserved the decision of the District Court.