March 07, 2018
In a recent case taken up by the Delhi High Court, the Court delved into the issue whether leveling of false allegations against spouse amounts to cruelty and is a ground for divorce.
Brief Facts of the case: In this case, the husband had filed a Petition for divorce against the wife on the ground that she always used to pick up quarrels with him and his relatives. One of the main allegations of the husband in the case was that his wife used to always threaten to commit suicide. The Family Court in the case dissolved the marriage of the parties.
The appellant wife has however denied all the allegations and has averred that petitioner had illicit relations. She had further contended that the husband and his family members had treated her badly and tried to get excuses for their illicit relations and misdeeds. She alleged that since she had objected to her husband’s illicit relationship with his Bhabhi they had all joined hands to get rid of her.
The Delhi High Court in the case dismissed the appellant wife’s appeal on the following grounds:
- The Court in the case noted that while appreciating the evidences in matrimonial matters, it is the totality of the circumstances which are to be considered. The contemporaneous nature of evidences is important. In context of the present case, the Court noted that the wife had levelled unsubstantiated allegations whereas the contemporaneous evidences in the form of complaints filed by the husband with the Police against his wife’s behavior supported the husband’s case.
- That the wife’s allegations about having illicit relations with Bhabhi certainly fell within the category of grave and weighty cruelty. These unsubstantiated allegations were of the nature to cause mental suffering to a person against whom such allegations are levelled. The appellant has not only levelled such bald allegations against her husband, but also against her sister-in-law (wife of elder brother of the respondent) and thereby maligning her reputation as well.
- That leveling of false allegations of illicit relations of such nature and magnitude causes mental pain, agony and suffering to the husband. Such allegations causes profound and lasting disruptions in the relationships and also causes deep hurt and reasonable apprehension that it would be dangerous to live with a wife, especially when she is also threatening to commit suicide.
The case can be accessed here.
Other Judicial decisions which throw light on cruelty particularly mental cruelty as a ground for divorce are as under:
Vijaykumar Ramchandra Bhate vs. Neela Vijaykumar Bhate– The Supreme Court in the case while elucidating on the aspect of mental cruelty observed that that the requirement for mental cruelty will not depend upon the numerical count of such incidents or only on the continuous course of such conduct, but really go by the intensity, gravity and stigmatic impact of it when meted out even once and the deleterious effect of it on the mental attitude, necessary for maintaining a conducive matrimonial home. If the taunts, complaints and reproaches are of ordinary nature only, the Courts perhaps need consider the further question as to whether their continuance or persistence over a period time render, what normally would, otherwise, not be a so serious an act to be so injurious and painful as to make the spouse charged with them genuinely and reasonable conclude that the maintenance of matrimonial home is not possible any longer.
Difference between mental cruelty and physical cruelty– In the case of Shobha Rani v. Madhukar Reddi, the Supreme Court has held that “cruelty may be mental or physical, intentional or unintentional. It is not difficult to determine the physical cruelty. However, the determination of mental cruelty poses a difficulty. The cruelty alleged may largely depend upon the type of life the parties are accustomed to or their economic and social conditions. It may also depend upon their culture and human values to which they attach importance. We, the judges and lawyers, therefore, should not import our own notions of life. We may not go in parallel with them. There may be a generation gap between us and the parties.
What is mental cruelty?– V. Bhagat v. D. Bhagat– the Apex Court has held that mental cruelty is result of “conducts which inflicts upon the other party such mental pain and suffering as would make it not possible for that party to live with the other.” In Savitri Pandey v. Prem Chandra Pandey, the Apex Court observed that normal wear and tear of the family life does not constitute cruelty. The Court further held that “it cannot be decided on the basis of the sensitivity of the petitioner and has to be adjudged on the basis of the course of conduct which would, in general, be dangerous for a spouse to live with the other.”
Baseless and reckless allegation of extra marital affair is mental cruelty– In Narendra v. K. Meena, the Supreme Court with reference to the facts of the case observed that except for the baseless and reckless allegations, there was 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. Hence, levelling of absolutely false allegations and that too, with regard to an extramarital life to be quite serious and that can surely be a cause for mental cruelty.
Threats to commit suicide is mental cruelty– In Narendra v. K. Meena case, the Apex Court additionally observed that threats of committing suicide constituting an act of cruelty. In this context, reference can also be made to the case of Mahajan v. Dimple, wherein it has been held that giving repeated threats to commit suicide amounts to cruelty.
 AIR 2003 SC 2462
 (1988) 1 SCC 105
 (1994) 1 SCC 337
 (2002) 2 SCC 73
 (2016) 9 SCC 455
 (2011) 12 SCC 1