Divorce on grounds of a False Case by wife: Supreme Court 2017

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REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 10719 OF 2013
Raj Talreja … Appellant(s)
Versus
Kavita Talreja …Respondent(s)
J U D G M E N T
DEEPAK GUPTA, J.
Parties to the appeal got married in 1989 according to
Hindu rites. Out of this wedlock a son was born in the year
1990. It is not disputed that till the year 1999 both husband
and wife lived together with the parents of the husband. In the
year 1999, the couple shifted to their own residence. On
19.03.2000, the husband left the matrimonial home and, soon
thereafter, on 25.03.2000, filed a petition for grant of a decree
of divorce dissolving the marriage.
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2. It is not disputed that the wife filed a suit praying for
injunction that the husband should not be permitted to enter
the matrimonial home. On 07.11.2000, certain news items
appeared in the newspapers in which serious allegations were
made against the husband. These newspaper reports were
based on the intimation given by the wife. On 04.12.2000, the
wife filed a complaint to the State Women Commission making
serious allegations against the husband. Thereafter, on
05.12.2000, she sent a similar letter to the Chief Justice of the
High Court as well as the Superintendent of Police. Finally, on
07.12.2000, she made another complaint to the Chief Minister.
On 16.03.2001, these complaints were found to be false. On
12.04.2001, a First Information Report (for short the ‘FIR’) was
registered at the instance of the wife against the appellant
husband under Section 452, 323 and 341 of the Indian Penal
Code. The police investigated the matter and filed a report on
30.04.2001 stating that there is no merit in the FIR. According
to the police, the injuries on the person of the wife were self
inflicted and she has filed a false FIR. It was recommended
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that the criminal proceedings be initiated against her under
Section 182 of the Indian Penal Code (for short ‘IPC’). It is not
disputed that till 16.03.2001, such criminal proceedings were
initiated against the wife.
3. The husband moved an amendment application in the
divorce petition incorporating all these facts and alleging that
due to filing of the false complaints before various authorities
he had been subjected to cruelty by the wife. This is the only
issue raised before us. The learned trial Judge dismissed the
petition. The appeal filed by the husband was also dismissed.
Hence, this appeal.
4. It would be pertinent to mention that in the year 2012,
11 years after the police had submitted its report and after
proceedings had been initiated against the wife, the wife filed a
protest petition against the cancellation of FIR against the
husband, in which notice was issued by the court below.
However, on a revision being filed by the husband, the
revisional court allowed the revision petition and quashed the
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order of the trial court. As a result, there are no criminal
proceedings pending against the husband.
5. We have heard Mr. Gaurav Agrawal, learned counsel for
the appellant and Ms. Vibha Datta Makhija, learned senior
counsel for the respondent.
6. Mr. Agrawal, learned counsel has contended that the acts
of the wife in levelling defamatory allegations and filing false
complaints against the husband amounts to cruelty. On the
other hand, Ms. Makhija, learned senior counsel has submitted
that her client is not at fault and cruelty has not been proved.
She further submits that her client wants the status of being a
legally married woman and she prays that the appeal be
dismissed.
7. We may now refer to the evidence relied upon by the
husband. The first is a newspaper report dated 07.11.2000, in
which it is reported that the wife had alleged that she was
beaten by her husband and his family members many times for
not fulfilling the demand of dowry. There were allegations that
she was kept like an orphan and twice attempts had been made
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to set her on fire. These allegations were made in a letter sent
by the wife to the police. Thereafter, the wife sent a similar
complaint to various authorities including the State Women
Commission, Rajasthan. She sent a telegram to the Chief
Justice of the Rajasthan High Court again alleging that her
husband and in-laws had attempted to burn her and engaged
goondas to eliminate her. Complaint was also made to Chief
Minister of Rajasthan. The matter was referred to the police.
On investigation by the police, the allegations were found to be
totally false. Thereafter, the wife filed a complaint against her
husband and 3 other persons alleging house trespass against
them and that she had been assaulted and threatened to leave
the house. In this case also, the final report of the police is that
the complaint is baseless and false and the injuries were
self-inflicted.
8. As noted above, these findings of the police have attained
finality and as on date there is no criminal case pending
against the husband. It is more than obvious that the
allegations levelled by the wife are false. It may be true that
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these allegations were levelled after the divorce petition had
been filed and the wife may have been in an agitated state of
mind. However, that did not give her a right to make
defamatory statements against the husband. The falseness of
the allegations is borne out from the fact that the police did
not even find it a fit case to be tried. After the police filed its
cancellation report, the wife kept silent and after 11 years she
filed a protest petition.
9. This Court in Para 16 of K. Srinivas Rao v. D.A. Deepa1
has held as follows:
“16. Thus, to the instances illustrative of mental cruelty
noted in Samar Ghosh v. Jaya Ghosh, 2007 (4) SCC 511, we
could add a few more. Making unfounded indecent defamatory
allegations against the spouse or his or her relatives in the
pleadings, filing of complaints or issuing notices or news items
which may have adverse impact on the business prospect or the
job of the spouse and filing repeated false complaints and cases
in the court against the spouse would, in the facts of a case,
amount to causing mental cruelty to the other spouse.”
In Ravi Kumar v. Julmidevi2
, this Court while dealing
with the definition of cruelty held as follows:
“19. It may be true that there is no definition of cruelty under
the said Act. Actually such a definition is not possible. In
matrimonial relationship, cruelty would obviously mean absence
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2013 (5) SCC 226.
2
2010 (4) SCC 476.
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of mutual respect and understanding between the spouses which
embitters the relationship and often leads to various outbursts of
behaviour which can be termed as cruelty. Sometime cruelty in a
matrimonial relationship may take the form of violence, sometime
it may take a different form. At times, it may be just an attitude
or an approach. Silence in some situations may amount to
cruelty.
20. Therefore, cruelty in matrimonial behaviour defies any
definition and its categories can never be closed. Whether the
husband is cruel to his wife or the wife is cruel to her husband
has to be ascertained and judged by taking into account the
entire facts and circumstances of the given case and not by any
predetermined rigid formula. Cruelty in matrimonial cases can be
of infinite variety—it may be subtle or even brutal and may be by
gestures and words. That possibly explains why Lord Denning in
Sheldon v. Sheldon, (1966) 2 WLR 993 held that categories of
cruelty in matrimonial cases are never closed.”
10. Cruelty can never be defined with exactitude. What is
cruelty will depend upon the facts and circumstances of each
case. In the present case, from the facts narrated above, it is
apparent that the wife made reckless, defamatory and false
accusations against her husband, his family members and
colleagues, which would definitely have the effect of lowering
his reputation in the eyes of his peers. Mere filing of
complaints is not cruelty, if there are justifiable reasons to file
the complaints. Merely because no action is taken on the
complaint or after trial the accused is acquitted may not be a
ground to treat such accusations of the wife as cruelty within
the meaning of the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 (for short ‘the
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Act’). However, if it is found that the allegations are patently
false, then there can be no manner of doubt that the said
conduct of a spouse levelling false accusations against the
other spouse would be an act of cruelty. In the present case,
all the allegations were found to be false. Later, she filed
another complaint alleging that her husband along with some
other persons had trespassed into her house and assaulted
her. The police found, on investigation, that not only was the
complaint false but also the injuries were self inflicted by the
wife. Thereafter, proceedings were launched against the wife
under Section 182 of IPC.
11. We have perused the judgment of the High Court. The
High Court while dealing with the plea of false complaints held
that there was no reason to hold that the criminal complaint
filed by the respondent-wife was false and mala fide. We are
unable to agree with this finding of the High Court and the
court below. Both the courts below relied upon the statement
of the wife that her husband had often visited her house and
she fulfilled her marital obligations. These observations are
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not based on any reliable or cogent evidence on record. It is
not disputed before us that the wife continues to live in the
house which belongs to the mother of the husband whereas
the husband lives along with his parents in a separate house
and the son and daughter-in-law of the parties live with the
wife. The son is working with the husband. We may note that
Ms. Makhija has very fairly stated before us that the husband
had always fulfilled his paternal obligations to his son and is
continuing to pay maintenance to his wife as fixed by the
court.
12. Though we have held that the acts of the wife in filing
false complaints against the husband amounts to cruelty, we
are, however, not oblivious to the requirements of the wife to
have a decent house where she can live. Her son and
daughter-in-law may not continue to live with her forever.
Therefore, some permanent arrangement has to be made for
her alimony and residence. Keeping in view the status of the
parties, we direct that the husband shall pay to the wife a sum
of Rs.50,00,000/- (Rupees Fifty Lakhs only) as one time
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permanent alimony and she will not claim any further amount
at any later stage. This amount be paid within three months
from today. We further direct that the wife shall continue to
live in the house which belongs to the mother of the husband
till the husband provides her a flat of similar size in a similar
locality. For this purpose, the husband is directed to ensure
that a flat of the value up to Rs.1,00,00,000/- (Rupees One
Crore Only) be transferred in the name of his wife and till it is
provided, she shall continue to live in the house in which she
is residing at present.
13. The appeal is accordingly allowed. The judgment and
order dated 01.03.2013, passed by the High Court in D.B.
Civil Miscellaneous Appeal No.1432 of 2004 and the judgment
and decree dated 05.08.2004, passed by the Family Court,
Udaipur in Civil Case No. 56 of 2000 are set aside. The
petition for divorce filed by the husband under Section 13 of
the Act is decreed and the marriage of the parties solemnized
on 13.04.1989 is dissolved by a decree of divorce. The wife
shall be entitled to permanent alimony of Rs. 50,00,000/-
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(Rupees Fifty Lakhs Only) and a residential flat of the value of
up to Rs.1,00,00,000/- (Rupees One Crore Only), as directed
hereinabove. Pending application(s), if any, stand(s)
disposed of.
…………………………………..J.
(ADARSH KUMAR GOEL)
…………………………………..J.
(DEEPAK GUPTA)
New Delhi
April 24, 2017