False character assassination allegation constitutes Matrimonial Cruelty

Delhi High Court: While upholding a decree of divorce that has been granted to the respondent husband by the Family Court on grounds of cruelty the Division Bench of Pradeep Nandrajog, Pratibha Rani, JJ. held that if a false character assassination allegation is made by either spouse it would invariably constitute matrimonial cruelty to entitle other spouse to seek divorce.

As per the husband the wife used to indulged in some tantrik activities, made an attempt to strangulate him, and avoided physical relations. He also produced two witnesses who had visited the husband and were insulted by his wife. On the other hand, the wife pleaded that her husband had relations with other women, he always came late at night in a drunken state and did not share bed with her. She also claimed that his husband was previously married and his first wife committed suicide because of the torture caused to her. She also filed a FIR under Section 498-A IPC contending that she was severely beaten by her in-laws on non-fulfilment of the dowry demand.  The Family Court concluded that the allegations regarding demands of dowry by the wife were vague, there was no evidence of her husband being earlier married and the wife had tarnished the reputation of the husband by assassinating his character and thereby granted a decree of divorce on the ground of cruelty. The wife preferred an appeal contending that the witnesses did not depose about any rumour being heard by them which had the effect of adversely affecting the character of the husband and the legal recourse taken by her does not amount to cruelty.

The High Court noted that the witnesses were produced by the husband not to prove that his character has been assassinated but to bring on record the conduct of his wife even with the guests visiting their house. So far as character assassination of the husband was concerned, the wife had made several accusations in the written statement and the FIR, while failing to adduce any evidence in support of those allegations, and has thereby caused mental cruelty to him and his entire family. The decree of divorce granted by the Family Court was accordingly upheld. [Santosh Sahay v. Hanuman Sahay, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 5503, decided on  07.10.2016]

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