TITLE OF THE CASE: Narendra vs K.Meena on 6 October, 2016
CITATION: Civil Appeal No. 3253 Of 2008
COURT: The Supreme Court Of India
BENCH: Anil R. Dave, L. Nageswara Rao
RESPONDENTS: K. MEENA
This appeal has been filed by the Appellant husband, whose decree for divorce passed by the trial Court has been set aside by the impugned judgment by the High Court of Karnataka at Bangalore.
The appellant husband had married the respondent wife on 1992. Out of the wedlock, a female child named Ranjitha was born on 1993. Though the appellant had claimed that his wife did not live happily with the Appellant even for a month after the marriage. The reason for filing the divorce petition was that the wife had become cruel because of her highly suspicious nature and she used to level absolutely frivolous but serious allegations against him regarding his character and more particularly about his extra-marital relationship. Behaviour of the Respondent made life of the Appellant miserable and it became impossible for the Appellant to stay with the Respondent for the foretasted reasons. Moreover, the Respondent wanted the Appellant to leave his parents and other family members and to get separated from them so that the Respondent can live independently with appellant; and in that event it would become more torturous for the Appellant to stay only with the wife with her such nature and behaviour. The main ground was cruelty, as serious allegations were levelled about the moral character of the Appellant to the effect that he was having an extra- marital affair with a maid, named Kamla. Another important allegation was that the Respondent would very often threaten the Appellant that she would commit suicide. In fact, one day she picked up a quarrel with the Appellant, went to the bathroom, locked the door from inside and poured kerosene on her body and attempted to commit suicide. On getting smell of kerosene coming from the bathroom, the Appellant, his elder brother and some of the neighbors broke open the door of the bathroom and prevented the Respondent wife from committing suicide. The aforestated facts were found to be sufficient by the learned Family Court for granting the Appellant a decree of divorce dated 17th November, 2001, after considering the evidence adduced by both the parties.
Being aggrieved by the judgment and decree of divorce dated 17th November, 2001, the Respondent wife had filed Miscellaneous First Appeal, which has been allowed by the High Court on 8th March, 2006, whereby the decree of divorce dated 17th November, 2001 has been set aside. Being aggrieved by the judgment and order passed by the High Court, the Appellant has filed this appeal.
ISSUE: Whether the allegations, accusations and character assassination of the husband by the respondent in the written statement constitutes mental cruelty for sustaining the claim for divorce under Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Act?
ARGUMENT OF APPELLANT:
- The first contention from appellant side was that the High Court had committed a grave error in the process of re-appreciating the evidence and by setting aside the decree of divorce granted in favour of the Appellant. As there was no reason to believe that there was no cruelty on the part of the Respondent wife.
- Learned counsel highlighted the observations made by the Family Court and presented evidence, which was recorded before the Family Court. He drew attention to the depositions made by independent witnesses, neighbours of the Appellant, who had rescued the Respondent wife from committing suicide by breaking open the door of the bathroom when the Respondent was on the verge of committing suicide by pouring kerosene on herself and by lighting a match stick.
- He also stated the fact that serious allegations leveled against the character of the Appellant in relation to an extra-marital affair with a maid were absolutely baseless as no maid named Kamla had ever worked in the house of the Appellant. It was also stated that the Respondent wife was insisting the Appellant to get separated from his family members and on 12th July, 1995 i.e. the date of the attempt to commit suicide, the Respondent wife deserted the Appellant husband.
- According to the learned counsel, the facts recorded by the learned Family Court after appreciating the evidence were sufficient to show that the Appellant was entitled to a decree of divorce as per the provisions of Section 13(1)(ia) of the Act.
ARGUMENT OF RESPONDENT:
The learned counsel appearing for the Respondent was not present when the appeal was called out for hearing. The matter was kept back but for the whole day, the learned counsel for the Respondent did not appear. Even on an earlier occasion on 31st March, 2016, when the appeal was called out, the learned counsel appearing for the Respondent wife was not present and therefore, the Court had heard the learned counsel appearing for the Appellant
- By reading the high court judgement it was found that there was no cruelty meted out to the Appellant, which would enable him to get a decree of divorce, as per the provisions of the Act. The allegations with regard to the character of the Appellant and the extra-marital affair with a maid were taken very seriously by the Family Court, but the High Court did not give much importance to the false allegations made. The constant persuasion by the Respondent for getting separated from the family members of the Appellant and constraining the Appellant to live separately and only with her was also not considered to be of any importance by the High Court. No importance was given to the incident with regard to an attempt to commit suicide made by the Respondent wife. On the contrary, it appears that the High Court found some justification in the request made by the Respondent to live separately from the family of the Appellant husband. According to the High Court, the trial Court did not appreciate the evidence properly. For the aforestated reasons, the High Court reversed the findings arrived at by the learned Family Court and set aside the decree of divorce. This court did not agree with the manner in which high court has re-appreciated the evidences and has come to a different conclusion.
- By hearing the stated facts it inclines that to hold that the unsubstantiated allegations leveled by the Respondent wife and the threats and attempt to commit suicide by her amounted to mental cruelty and therefore, the marriage deserves to be dissolved by a decree of divorce on the ground stated in Section 13(1)(ia) of the Act. The persistent effort of the Respondent wife to constrain the Appellant to be separated from the family would be torturous for the husband and in our opinion, the trial Court was right when it came to the conclusion that this constitutes an act of ‘cruelty’. It is needless to add that such threats or acts constitute cruelty. Our aforesaid view is fortified by a decision of this Court in the case of Pankaj Mahajan v. Dimple Kajal (2011) 12 SCC 1, wherein it has been held that giving repeated threats to commit suicide amounts to cruelty.
- The Respondent wife wanted the Appellant to get separated from his family. The evidence shows that the family was virtually maintained from the income of the Appellant husband.. A son, brought up and given education by his parents, has a moral and legal obligation to take care and maintain the parents, when they become old and when they have either no income or have a meager income.
- It was also held in the case of Vijaykumar Ramchandra Bhate v. Neela Vijaykumar Bhate, 2003 (6) SCC 334 that leveling disgusting accusations of unchastity and indecent familiarity with a person outside wedlock and allegations of extramarital relationship is a grave assault on the character, honour, reputation, status as well as the health of the wife.
- Taking an overall view of the entire evidence and the judgment delivered by the trial Court, it is believed that there was no need to take a different view than the one taken by the trial Court. The behaviour of the Respondent wife appears to be terrifying and horrible. One would find it difficult to live with such a person with tranquility and peace of mind. Such torture would adversely affect the life of the husband.
- It is also not in dispute that the Respondent wife had left the matrimonial house on 12th July, 1995 i.e. more than 20 years back. Though not on record, the learned counsel submitted that till today, the Respondent wife is not staying with the Appellant. The daughter of the Appellant and Respondent has also grown up and according to the learned counsel, she is working in an IT company. We have no reason to disbelieve the aforestated facts because with the passage of time, the daughter must have grown up and the separation of the Appellant and the wife must have also become normal for her and therefore, at this juncture it would not be proper to bring them together, especially when the Appellant husband was treated so cruelly by the Respondent wife.
- Therefore, quash and set aside the impugned judgment delivered by the High Court. The decree of divorce dated 17th November, 2001 passed by the Principal Judge, Family Court, Bangalore is restored.
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