Granting divorce to an estranged couple, the Supreme Court today pronounced that filing of even one false criminal complaint by either spouse is sufficient to constitute matrimonial cruelty, and thereby a ground for divorce.
The judgment, pronounced by the division Bench of Justices Vikramjit Sen and Prafulla Pant says that filing of false criminal complaint by either spouse is an issue that has seen great amount of litigation in the Supreme Court itself. It goes on to say, '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.'
In the present case, the husband had filed a divorce petition after his wife started living with her brother. The reply by the wife was in form of criminal complaint under S. 34, 148A, 384, 324 of the IPC, and Sections 4 and 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 against the husband and his family members, because of which they had to go to jail. The wife also filed a petition for restitution of conjugal rights.
In the year 2000, the local Court acquitted the husband and his family members. The family Court also denied the plea for restitution of conjugal rights. Against this, the wife approached the High Court, which accepted her plea.
Hearing the appeal, the Supreme Court in its judgment notes, '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 beenbestowed by our Constitution on any other Court. It is
for these reasons that we have confined arguments only tothe aspect of whether the filing of a false criminalcomplaint sufficiently proves matrimonial cruelty as wouldentitle 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. Itis, however, highly debatable whether, in the Indiansituation, where there is rampant oppression of women, sucha ground would at all be expedient. But that controversywill be considered by the Lok Sabha.'
In the Supreme Court, the counsel for wife pleaded that '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.' The counsel also tried to distinguish the present case by submitting that there were many cased lodged in K. Srinivas Rao vs. D.A. Deepa, whereas there was just one lodged in the present case.
The judgment further notes, 'The Respondent-Wife has admitted in her crossexamination 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"'
The judgment, mentioning the arguments put forward, says,'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.'
The judgment finally goes on to say, "We unequivocally find that the Respondent-Wife had filed a false criminal complaint, and even one such complaint is sufficient to constitute matrimonial cruelty."
More about matrimonial cruelty can be read here:
Asking wife to have intercourse with other men amounts to cruelty: Bombay High Court.
Denial of Sex to Husband for long time without any sufficient Cause amounts to Mental Cruelty; SC grants Divorce
More about S. 498-A can be read here
Read the Judgment here