Cruelty Is a Ground Of Divorce When Husband Is Acquitted Under Section 498A IPC: SC [Read Order]
Case Name: Rani Narasimha Sastry vs. Rani Suneela Rani
Case no.: Civil Appeal No. 8871 of 2019 (Supreme Court)
1. The marriage between the appellant (husband) and the respondent (wife) was solemnized in 2005. After marriage appellant and respondent lived together until 2007 and thereafter they have been living separately for more than 10 years.
2. The appellant has filed an application for dissolution of the marriage before the Trial Court, under Section 13(1)(i-a) [divorce on the ground of cruelty] and 13(1)(iii) [divorce on the ground of mental illness of respondent] of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. However, the petition was dismissed by the trial court and subsequently an appeal has been filed in the High Court. The appeal too has been dismissed by the High Court on against which appeal has been filed before the Apex Court.
Husband’s Argument (Appellant):
The appellant appearing in-person submitted that he has made out a case for grant of dissolution of marriage on the ground of cruelty but the Court below erred in law in rejecting the application. He submitted that false complaints have been filed by the respondent against the appellant and his family members and criminal cases (referring to to an FIR filed under Section 498A IPC, i.e., Husband or relative subjecting cruelty on wife. Inwhich CMM Court acquitted the husband and his family) have also been initiated which fully prove the cruelty on the part of the respondent.
Whether the ground for divorce under Section 13(1)(i-a) of Hindu Marriage Act 1955 [divorce on the ground of cruelty] has been made out or not, when person is acquitted under Section 498A IPC?
For clearing the doubts as to the laws in regard with the facts of the present case, the court referred to the case of Vijaykumar Ramchandra Bhate Vs. Neela Vijaykumar Bhate (2003) 6 SCC 334, in which Supreme Court answered as to whether the averments, accusations and character assassination of the wife by the appellant husband in the written statement constitutes mental cruelty for sustaining the claim for divorce under Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Act?
The Court said that: “The position of law in this regard has come to be well settled and declared that leveling disgusting accusations of unchastity and indecent familiarity with a person outside wedlock and allegations of extra marital relationship is a grave assault on the character, honour, reputation, status as well as the health of the wife. Such aspersions (attack on the reputation) of perfidiousness (being disloyal) attributed to the wife, viewed in the context of an educated Indian wife and judged by Indian conditions and standards would amount to worst form of insult and cruelty, sufficient by itself to substantiate cruelty in law, warranting the claim of the wife being allowed.”
While referring to the above case Supreme Court said that in the present case the wife (respondant) has made against the husband serious allegations under Section 498-A of IPC, in which the husband (appellant) had to undergo trial which ultimately resulted in his acquittal. Therefore, the SC said that the case set up by the appellant (husband) seeking decree of divorce on the ground of cruelty has been established.
Further, The High Court observation while rejecting the appeal of husband on the ground of Section 13(1)(i-a) has observed that “Merely because the respondent (wife) has sought for maintenance or has filed a complaint against the petitioner for the offence punishable under Section 498-A of IPC, they cannot be said to be valid grounds for amounting cruelty”. To which Supreme Court said that it is open for anyone to file complaint or lodge prosecution for redressal for his or her grievances and lodge a first information report for an offence also and mere lodging of complaint or FIR cannot ipso facto be treated as cruelty. But when a person undergoes a trial in which he is acquitted of the allegation of offence under Section 498-A of IPC, levelled by the wife against the husband, it cannot be accepted that no cruelty has meted on the husband.
In view of forgoing discussion, the Supreme Court conclude that the appellant has made a ground for grant of decree of dissolution of marriage on the ground as mentioned in Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
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