The Supreme Court on Friday held that malicious complaints levelled by a wife against her husband, damaging his reputation, amount to mental cruelty against the husband for the purpose of seeking divorce.
A bench, headed by Justice S.K. Kaul and comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy, said the Uttarakhand High Court committed error, as it described couple’s broken relationship as “normal wear and tear” of the middle class.
The bench noted that the explanation of the wife that she made those complaints in order to protect the matrimonial ties would not, in its view, justify the persistent effort made by her to undermine the dignity and reputation of the husband.
“It is a definite case of cruelty inflicted by the respondent (wife) against the appellant (husband) and as such, enough justification is found to set aside the impugned judgment of the High Court and to restore the order passed by the Family Court,” it said in the judgment.
Citing these circumstances, the bench said the wronged party cannot be expected to continue with the matrimonial relationship and there is enough justification for him to seek separation. It emphasised that the allegations are levelled by a highly educated spouse and they do have the propensity to irreparably damage the character and reputation of the husband.
The man, who is in the Army, moved the top court seeking divorce, alleging mental cruelty by his wife who is holding a faculty position in a government PG College.
The bench noted that husband suffered adverse consequences in his life and career following the allegations made by his wife. “The legal consequences must follow and those cannot be prevented only because no court has determined that the allegations were false,” it said.
The High Court, however, felt that without any definite finding on the credibility of the wife’s allegation, the wronged spouse would be disentitled to relief. But the top court said: “This is not found to be the correct way to deal with the issue.”
The bench noted that the materials in the present case reveal that the wife had made several defamatory complaints to the husband’s superiors in the Army for which a Court of inquiry was held by the Army authorities against the appellant, and his career progress got affected.
“The respondent was also making complaints to other authorities, such as the State Commission for Women and has posted defamatory materials on other platforms. The net outcome of above is that the appellant’s career and reputation had suffered,” it said.
The couple had got married in 2006 and lived together for few months, but differences emerged then and they began to live separately since 2007. The wife also filed a petition against the husband for restitution of conjugal rights and for resumption of matrimonial life.
“The appellant is accordingly held entitled to dissolution of his marriage and consequently, the respondent’s application for restitution of conjugal rights stands dismissed. It is ordered accordingly,” the top court said.