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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

cruelty means - In matrimonial relationship, cruelty would obviously mean absence 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. 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. ;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.- 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/- (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.

                                                                  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.
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  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 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 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  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. Deepa[1] 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. Julmidevi[2],  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  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
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 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 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/- (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
-----------------------
[1]    2013 (5) SCC 226.
[2]    2010 (4) SCC 476.


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