News Details

False 498A case- Ground for divorce

 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

 

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

 

                       CIVIL APPEAL No. 1213  OF 2006

 

 

K.SRINIVAS                                   .….. APPELLANT

 

 

                       vs

 

 

K. SUNITA                                          ….. RESPONDENT

 

 

                               J U D G M E N T

 

 

 

 

VIKRAMAJIT SEN,J.

 

1     In this Appeal, counsel for the  Appellant  has  sought  to  draw  our

attention to all the arguments that  had  been  addressed  before  the  High

Court on behalf of  the  Appellant-Husband  in  support  of  his  claim  for

dissolution of his marriage to the Respondent by a decree of  divorce  under

Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu  Marriage  Act,  1955.    We  have,  however,

restricted him to the ground of alleged cruelty on account of the filing  of

a criminal complaint by the Respondent against  the  Appellant  and  several

members of his family under Sections 498A and 307 of the Indian  Penal  Code

(IPC).  We did this for the reason  that  if  this  ground  is  successfully

substantiated by the Petitioner, we need not delve any further i.e.  whether

a marriage can be dissolved by the Trial Court or  the  High  Court  on  the

premise that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.    This  nature  of

cruelty, in the wake of filing of a false criminal case  by  either  of  the

spouses, has been agitated  frequently  before  this  Court,  and  has  been

discussed so comprehensively and thoroughly that  yet  another  Judgment  on

this well-settled question of law, would be merely  a  waste  of  time.    A

complete discourse and analysis on  this  issue  is  available  in  a  well-

reasoned judgment in K. Srinivas Rao vs. D.A. Deepa,  2013(5)  SCC  226,  in

which numerous decisions have been cited and discussed.   It is  now  beyond

cavil that if a false criminal complaint is preferred by  either  spouse  it

would invariably and indubitably constitute  matrimonial  cruelty,  such  as

would entitle the other spouse to claim a divorce.

 

2     The marriage of the parties was celebrated according  to  Hindu  rites

at Hyderabad on 11th February, 1989.  A male child was born to  the  parties

on 8th May, 1991, after which the Respondent-Wife,  as  per  her  pleadings,

started suffering from Sheehan’s  syndrome.    On  the  night  of  29th/30th

June, 1995, the Respondent left the matrimonial house and  ever  since  then

she has been living with her brother, who is  a  senior  IAS  officer.    On

14th July, 1995, the  Appellant  filed  an  original  petition  praying  for

divorce on the ground of cruelty as well as of the  irretrievable  breakdown

of their marriage.   The  Respondent-Wife  retorted  by  filing  a  criminal

complaint against the Appellant as well as seven members of his  family  for

offences under Section 307 read with Sections 34,  148A,  384,  324  of  the

IPC, and Sections 4 and 6 of  the  Dowry  Prohibition  Act,  1961.    It  is

pursuant to this complaint that  the  Appellant-Husband  and  seven  of  his

family members were arrested and incarcerated.    The  Respondent-Wife  also

filed a petition under Section  9  of  the  Hindu  Marriage  Act,  1955  for

restitution of conjugal rights.    On  30th  June,  2000,  the  Learned  Vth

Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge, Mahila Court,  Hyderabad,  acquitted

the Appellant and his family members, and this Order has attained  finality.

 Meanwhile, by its Judgment dated 30th December, 1999, the Family  Court  at

Hyderabad, granted a divorce to the Appellant on the ground  of  cruelty  as

also irretrievable breakdown  of  marriage;  it  rejected  the  Respondent’s

petition under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act.     The  Respondent-Wife

successfully appealed against the said Judgment in the High  Court,  and  it

is this Order dated 7th November, 2005 that is impugned before us.

 

3     Irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground for  divorce  has  not

found  statutory  acceptance  till  date.   Under   Article   142   of   the

Constitution, the Supreme Court has plenary powers “to pass such  decree  or

make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in  any  case  or

order pending before it”.  This power, however, has  not  been  bestowed  by

our Constitution on any other Court.    It is  for  these  reasons  that  we

have confined arguments only to the aspect of whether the filing of a  false

criminal complaint sufficiently proves matrimonial cruelty as would  entitle

the injured party to claim dissolution of marriage.   It  will  be  relevant

to mention that the Law Commission of India in its Reports in 1978  as  well

as in 2009 has recommended the introduction of  irretrievable  breakdown  of

marriage as  a  ground  for  dissolution  of  marriage;  the  Marriage  Laws

(Amendment) Bill of 2013 incorporating the  ground  has  even  received  the

assent of the Rajya Sabha.  It is, however,  highly  debatable  whether,  in

the Indian situation, where there is rampant oppression  of  women,  such  a

ground would at all be expedient.   But that controversy will be  considered

by the Lok Sabha.

 

4.    In the case in hand,  learned  counsel  for  the  Respondent-Wife  has

vehemently contended that it is not possible to label  the  wife’s  criminal

complaint detailed above as a false or  a  vindictive  action.     In  other

words, the acquittal  of  the  Appellant  and  his  family  members  in  the

criminal complaint does not by itself, automatically and  justifiably,  lead

to the conclusion that the complaint was false; that only one complaint  was

preferred  by  the  Respondent-Wife,  whereas,  in   contradistinction,   in

K.Srinivas Rao a series of complaints by the wife had been preferred.    The

argument was premised on the averment that the investigation may  have  been

faulty or the prosecution may have been  so  careless  as  to  lead  to  the

acquittal, but the acquittal would not always indicate that the  Complainant

had intentionally filed a false case.  What should be kept  in  perspective,

it is reasonably  argued,  that  the  Complainant  is  not  the  controlling

conductor in this Orchestra, but only one of the musicians who must  deliver

her rendition as and when and how she is  called  upon  to  do.    Secondly,

according to the learned counsel, the position would have  been  appreciably

different if a specific  finding  regarding  the  falsity  of  the  criminal

complaint was returned, or if the Complainant or a  witness  on  her  behalf

had  committed  perjury  or  had  recorded  a  contradictory  or  incredible

testimony.   Learned counsel for the  Respondent-Wife  states  that  neither

possibility has manifested itself here and, therefore, it  would  be  unfair

to the Respondent-Wife to conclude  that  she  had  exhibited  such  cruelty

towards the Appellant and her in-laws that would justify the dissolution  of

her marriage.

 

5     The Respondent-Wife has admitted in  her  cross-examination  that  she

did not mention all the incidents on which her Complaint is  predicated,  in

her statement under Section 161 of the Cr.P.C.   It is  not  her  case  that

she had actually narrated all these facts to the Investigating Officer,  but

that he had neglected to mention them.   This, it seems to  us,  is  clearly

indicative  of  the  fact  that  the  criminal  complaint  was  a  contrived

afterthought.    We affirm the view of the  High  Court  that  the  criminal

complaint was “ill advised”. Adding thereto is  the  factor  that  the  High

Court had been informed  of  the  acquittal  of  the  Appellant-Husband  and

members of his family.  In these circumstances,  the  High  Court  ought  to

have concluded that the Respondent-Wife knowingly and intentionally filed  a

false complaint, calculated to embarrass and incarcerate the  Appellant  and

seven  members  of  his  family  and  that   such   conduct   unquestionably

constitutes  cruelty  as  postulated  in  Section  13(1)(ia)  of  the  Hindu

Marriage Act.

 

6     Another argument which has been articulated on behalf of  the  learned

counsel for the Respondent is that the filing of the criminal complaint  has

not been pleaded in the  petition  itself.   As  we  see  it,  the  criminal

complaint was filed by the  wife  after  filing  of  the  husband’s  divorce

petition, and being subsequent events could have been  looked  into  by  the

Court.   In any event, both the parties were fully aware of  this  facet  of

cruelty which was allegedly suffered by the  husband.    When  evidence  was

lead, as also when arguments were addressed, objection had not  been  raised

on behalf of the Respondent-Wife that this aspect of cruelty was beyond  the

pleadings.   We are, therefore, not impressed by  this  argument  raised  on

her behalf.

 

7     In these circumstances, we find that the Appeal is  well  founded  and

deserves to be allowed.  We unequivocally find that the Respondent-Wife  had

filed a false criminal complaint, and even one such complaint is  sufficient

to constitute matrimonial cruelty.

 

8     We, accordingly, dissolve the marriage of the  parties  under  Section

13(1)(ia) of  the  Hindu  Marriage  Act.    The  parties  shall  bear  their

respective costs.

 

                       ...............................J.

                       [VIKRAMAJIT SEN]

 

 

 

                       ...............................J.

                       [PRAFULLA C. PANT]

New Delhi;

19th November, 2014.