Holding the wife guilty of cruelty on her husband by filing false cases against him, the Supreme Court today granted the husband divorce and directed him to give her a flat worth Rs 1 crore and Rs 50 lakh as one- time permanent alimony.
The apex court said that cruelty can never be defined “with exactitude” and what it is, will depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case.
“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.
“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,” a bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Deepak Gupta said.
The couple had got married in 1989 according to Hindu rites and a son was born out of the wedlock in 1990. They stayed together till 1999 but on March 19, 2000, the husband left the matrimonial home and filed a plea for divorce.
The husband claimed the wife had lodged false cases against him alleging that she was beaten up by him and his family members for not fulfilling the demand of dowry.
He claimed that she had also alleged in various media reports that she was kept like an orphan and twice attempts were made to set her on fire and she also wrote to police, State Women Commission, Chief Justice of High Court and Chief Minister of the state.
After the complaints were referred to the police, on investigation, the allegations were found to be totally false.
The bench said that the wife later filed another complaint alleging that her husband along with some others had trespassed into her house and assaulted her.
It noted that the findings of the police were never challenged till a FIR cancellation report was filed by it and 11 years the wife filed a protest petition against the report.
“It is more than obvious that the allegations levelled by the wife are false. It may be true that 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 bench said, adding that after the police filed its cancellation report, the wife kept silent and after 11 years she filed a protest petition.
It said that after conducting investigation, the police found that not only the complaint was false but also the injuries were self-inflicted by the wife. The wife was booked for giving false information and prosecution was launched.
“The petition for divorce filed by the husband under Section 13 of the Act is decreed and the marriage of the parties solemnized on April 13, 1989 is dissolved by a decree of divorce. The wife shall be entitled to permanent alimony of Rs 50 lakh and a residential flat of the value of up to Rs 1 crore,” the bench said.
The apex court said that though it has held that the acts of the wife in filing false complaints against the husband amounts to cruelty, it is oblivious to the requirements of the wife to have a decent house where she can live.
It said as her son and daughter-in-law may not continue to live with her forever and for this some permanent arrangement was to be made for her alimony and residence.
The court directed the husband to pay the alimony within three months and barred the wife from claiming any further amount at any later stage.
The bench granted to liberty to wife to continue to live in the house which belongs to her mother in-law 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 crore 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,” it said.
It also set aside the orders of Rajasthan High Court and trial court which had held that criminal case filed by wife was not “false and malafide”.
“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 not based on any reliable or cogent evidence on record,” it said.
The court noted that wife resided with her son and daughter-in-law at the house of her mother in law while her husband resided along with his parents separately.