Saturday, October 8, 2016



                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.3253 OF 2008

NARENDRA                            … APPELLANT


K. MEENA                          … RESPONDENT

                               J U D G M E N T


1.    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 dated 8th March, 2006 passed by the  High  Court  of  Karnataka  at
Bangalore in Miscellaneous First Appeal No.171 of 2002 (FC).

  2.  The facts giving rise to the present appeal, in  a  nutshell,  are  as
under :

      The Respondent wife filed Miscellaneous  First  Appeal  under  Section
28(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act,  1955  (hereinafter  referred  to  as  “the
Act”) before the High Court as she was aggrieved by the judgment and  decree
dated 17th November, 2001, passed by  the  Principal  Judge,  Family  Court,
Bangalore in M.C. No.603 of 1995 under Section 13(1)(ia) of  the  Act  filed
by the Appellant husband seeking divorce.

3.    The  Appellant  husband  had  married  the  Respondent  wife  on  26th
February, 1992.  Out of the wedlock, a female child named Ranjitha was  born
on 13th November, 1993.  The case of the Appellant was that  the  Respondent
did not live  happily  with  the  Appellant  even  for  a  month  after  the
marriage.   The  reason  for  filing  the  divorce  petition  was  that  the
Respondent 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 wife made life of  the  Appellant
husband miserable and it became impossible for the Appellant  to  stay  with
the Respondent  for  the  aforestated  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;  and
in that event it would become more torturous for the Appellant to stay  only
with the Respondent 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, on 2th July, 1995, 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 neighbours 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.

4.    Being aggrieved by the judgment  and  decree  of  divorce  dated  17th
November, 2001, the Respondent wife had  filed  Miscellaneous  First  Appeal
No.171 of 2002 (FC), 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.

5.    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

6.    The learned counsel appearing for the  Appellant  submitted  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.  He submitted that there was no  reason  to  believe  that
there was no cruelty on the part of the  Respondent  wife.   He  highlighted
the observations made by the Family Court and took us through the  evidence,
which was recorded before the Family Court.  He drew our  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.   Our
attention was also drawn to  the  fact  that  serious  allegations  levelled
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.

7.    We have carefully gone through the evidence  adduced  by  the  parties
before the trial Court and we tried to find out  as  to  why  the  appellate
Court had taken a different view than the one  taken  by  the  Family  Court
i.e. the trial Court.

8.    The High Court came to the conclusion 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.

9.    We do not agree with the manner  in  which  the  High  Court  has  re-
appreciated the evidence and has come to a different conclusion.

10.   With regard to the allegations of cruelty levelled by  the  Appellant,
we are in agreement with the findings of the trial  Court.   First  of  all,
let us look at the incident with regard to an attempt to commit  suicide  by
the Respondent.   Upon  perusal  of  the  evidence  of  the  witnesses,  the
findings arrived at by the trial Court to the  effect  that  the  Respondent
wife had locked herself in the bathroom and had poured kerosene  on  herself
so  as  to  commit  suicide,  are  not  in  dispute.   Fortunately  for  the
Appellant, because of the noise and disturbance, even the neighbours of  the
Appellant rushed to help and the door of the bathroom was  broken  open  and
the Respondent was saved.  Had she been successful in her attempt to  commit
suicide, then one can  foresee  the  consequences  and  the  plight  of  the
Appellant because in that  event  the  Appellant  would  have  been  put  to
immense difficulties because of the legal provisions.  We  feel  that  there
was no fault on the part of the Appellant nor was there any reason  for  the
Respondent wife to make an attempt to  commit  suicide.   No  husband  would
ever be comfortable with or tolerate such an act by  his  wife  and  if  the
wife succeeds in committing  suicide,  then  one  can  imagine  how  a  poor
husband would get entangled into the clutches of law, which would  virtually
ruin his sanity, peace of mind, career and probably his  entire  life.   The
mere idea with regard to facing  legal  consequences  would  put  a  husband
under tremendous stress.  The thought itself is distressing.  Such a  mental
cruelty could not have  been  taken  lightly  by  the  High  Court.  In  our
opinion, only this one event was sufficient for  the  Appellant  husband  to
get a decree of divorce on the ground 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.

11.   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.  It  is  not  a  common  practice  or
desirable culture for a Hindu  son  in  India  to  get  separated  from  the
parents upon getting married at the instance of the  wife,  especially  when
the son is the only earning member in the family.  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 meagre income.  In  India,  generally  people  do
not subscribe to  the  western  thought,  where,  upon  getting  married  or
attaining majority, the son gets  separated  from  the  family.   In  normal
circumstances, a wife is expected to be  with  the  family  of  the  husband
after the marriage.  She becomes integral to and forms part  of  the  family
of the husband and normally  without  any  justifiable  strong  reason,  she
would never insist that her husband should get  separated  from  the  family
and live only with her.  In the  instant  case,  upon  appreciation  of  the
evidence, the trial Court came to the conclusion that  merely  for  monetary
considerations, the Respondent wife wanted  to  get  her  husband  separated
from his family.  The averment of the Respondent was to the effect that  the
income of the Appellant was also spent  for  maintaining  his  family.   The
said  grievance  of  the  Respondent  is  absolutely  unjustified.   A   son
maintaining his parents is absolutely normal in Indian  culture  and  ethos.
There is no other reason for which the Respondent wanted  the  Appellant  to
be separated from the family - the sole reason was to enjoy  the  income  of
the Appellant.  Unfortunately, the  High  Court  considered  this  to  be  a
justifiable reason. In the opinion  of  the  High  Court,  the  wife  had  a
legitimate expectation to see that the income of her  husband  is  used  for
her and not for the family members of the Respondent  husband.   We  do  not
see any reason to justify the said  view  of  the  High  Court.   As  stated
hereinabove, in a Hindu society, it is a pious  obligation  of  the  son  to
maintain the parents.  If a wife  makes  an  attempt  to  deviate  from  the
normal practice and normal  custom  of  the  society,  she  must  have  some
justifiable  reason  for  that  and  in  this  case,  we  do  not  find  any
justifiable reason, except monetary consideration of  the  Respondent  wife.
In our opinion, normally, no husband would tolerate this and  no  son  would
like to be separated from his old parents and other family members, who  are
also dependent upon his income.  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’.

12.   With regard to the allegations  about  an  extra-marital  affair  with
maid named Kamla, the re-appreciation of the  evidence  by  the  High  Court
does not appear to be correct.  There is sufficient evidence to  the  effect
that there was  no  maid  named  Kamla  working  at  the  residence  of  the
Appellant.  Some averment with regard to some relative has been relied  upon
by the High Court to come to a conclusion that there was a lady named  Kamla
but the High Court has  ignored  the  fact  that  the  Respondent  wife  had
levelled  allegations  with  regard  to  an  extra-marital  affair  of   the
Appellant with the maid and not with someone else.  Even if there  was  some
relative named Kamla,  who  might  have  visited  the  Appellant,  there  is
nothing to substantiate the allegations  levelled  by  the  Respondent  with
regard to an extra-marital affair.  True, it is very difficult to  establish
such allegations but at the same time, it is equally true that to suffer  an
allegation pertaining to one’s character of having an  extra-marital  affair
is quite torturous for any person – be it a husband  or  a  wife.   We  have
carefully gone through the evidence but  we  could  not  find  any  reliable
evidence to show  that  the  Appellant  had  an  extra-marital  affair  with
someone.  Except for the baseless and reckless  allegations,  there  is  not
even the slightest evidence that would  suggest  that  there  was  something
like an affair of the Appellant with the maid named by the  Respondent.   We
consider levelling of  absolutely  false  allegations  and  that  too,  with
regard to an extra-marital life to be quite serious and that can  surely  be
a cause for metal cruelty.

13.   This Court, in the  case  of  Vijaykumar  Ramchandra  Bhate  v.  Neela
Vijaykumar Bhate, 2003 (6) SCC 334 has held as under:-

“7.   The question that requires to be answered first is 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
position of law in this regard has come to  be  well  settled  and  declared
that  levelling  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. Such aspersions of  perfidiousness
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. That such  allegations  made
in the written statement or suggested in the course of  examination  and  by
way of cross-examination satisfy the requirement of law has also come to  be
firmly laid down by this Court. On going through the  relevant  portions  of
such allegations, we find that no exception could be taken to  the  findings
recorded by the Family Court as well as the High Court. We  find  that  they
are of such quality, magnitude and consequence  as  to  cause  mental  pain,
agony and suffering amounting to the  reformulated  concept  of  cruelty  in
matrimonial law causing profound and  lasting  disruption  and  driving  the
wife to  feel  deeply  hurt  and  reasonably  apprehend  that  it  would  be
dangerous for her to live with a husband who was taunting her like that  and
rendered the maintenance of matrimonial home impossible.”

14.   Applying the said ratio to the facts of this case, we are inclined  to
hold that the unsubstantiated allegations levelled 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.

15.   Taking an overall  view  of  the  entire  evidence  and  the  judgment
delivered by the trial Court, we firmly believe 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.

16.   We, 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  in  M.C.  No.603  of  1995  is
hereby restored.

17.   The appeal is, accordingly, allowed with no order as to costs.

                                        (ANIL R. DAVE)

                               (L. NAGESWARA RAO)
OCTOBER 06, 2016.

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