Monday, 25 November 2019

Supreme Court: Husband is entitled to get divorce on ground of cruelty if he is acquitted in prosecution U/S 498A of IPC

In the present case the prosecution is launched by
the respondent against the appellant under Section 498-A
of IPC making serious allegations in which the appellant
had to undergo trial which ultimately resulted in his
acquittal. In the prosecution under Section 498-A of IPC
not only acquittal has been recorded but observations have
been made that allegations of serious nature are levelled
against each other. The case set up by the appellant
seeking decree of divorce on the ground of cruelty has
been established. With regard to proceeding initiated by
respondent under Section 498-A of IPC, the High Court made
following observation in paragraph 14:
14.....Merely because the respondent has sought
for maintenance or has filed a complaint
against the petitioner for the offence
punishable under Section 498-A of IPC, they
cannot be said to be valid grounds for holding
that such a recourse adopted by the respondent
amounts to cruelty."
The above observation of the High Court cannot be
approved. It is true that it is open for anyone to file
complaint or lodge prosecution for redressal for his or
her grievances and lodge a first information report for an
offence also and mere lodging of complaint or FIR cannot

ipso facto be treated as cruelty. But when a person
undergoes a trial in which he is acquitted of the
allegation of offence under Section 498-A of IPC, levelled
by the wife against the husband, it cannot be accepted
that no cruelty has meted on the husband.

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO.8871 OF 2019

RANI NARASIMHA SASTRY Vs RANI SUNEELA RANI 

Dated:November 19, 2019

Leave granted.
Appellant appeared in-person. The respondent,
despite service did not appear. This Court, vide order
dated 16.09.2019, appointed Mr. Rana Mukherjee, learned
senior counsel, as amicus curiae on behalf of the
respondent.
We have heard the appellant appearing in-person as
well as Mr. Rana Mukherjee, learned amicus curiae on
behalf of the respondent.
The marriage between the appellant and the
respondent was solemnized on 14.08.2005 at Annavaram Sri

Veera Venkata Sathyanarayana Swamy Temple of East Godavari
District of Andhra Pradesh. After marriage appellant and
respondent lived together until 17.01.2007 and thereafter
they have been living separately for more than 10 years.
This appeal has been filed by the appellant
challenging the judgment of the High Court of Judicature
at Hyderabad for the State of Telangana and the State of
Andhra Pradesh dated 05.01.2017 in Civil Miscellaneous
Appeal No.1279/2011. The appellant has filed O.P.
No.109/2007 in the Court of Principal Senior Civil Judge,
R.R. District, L.B. Nagar under Section 13(1)(i-a) and
(iii) of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (hereinafter referred to
as the "Act") praying for dissolution of the marriage with
the respondent. The petition was filed basically on two
grounds, namely, cruelty as well as mental illness of the
respondent. In the petition the appellant appeared as PW-1
and one Upadhyayula Viswanadna Sarma has appeared as PW-2.
Documents Ext.P1 to P.29 were filed. The respondent was
examined as RW-1, one D. Nagabhushan Rao was also examined
as RW-2. Documents Ext.R1 to R3 were filed by the
respondent. The Trial Court framed following points for
determination:
"12. Now the points that arises for
determination are:
1) Whether the petitioner established and
proved that the respondent treated the

petitioner with cruelty?
2) Whether the petitioner established and
proved that the respondent has been incurable
unsound mind or has been suffering continuously
or intermediately from mental disorder?
3) Whether there are sufficient grounds to
grant decree of divorce as prayed by the
petitioner?
4) To what relief?"
The Trial Court decided both point no.1 and point
no.2 against the appellant and held that appellant failed
to prove that he was treated with cruelty by respondent.
With regard to second point Trial Court also held that
evidence adduced by the appellant was not at all
sufficient to come to conclusion that the appellant has
established the alleged mental disorder of respondent.
Resultantly, petition was dismissed on 05.09.2011 against
which the appeal has been filed in the High Court. The
appeal too has been dismissed by the High Court on
05.01.2017 against which this appeal has been filed.
The appellant appearing in-person submitted that he
has made out a case for grant of dissolution of marriage
on the ground of cruelty but the Court below erred in law
in rejecting the application. He submitted that apart from
various other instances, as mentioned in the application
as well as in evidence, a case was set up by the appellant
that false complaints have been filed by the respondent
against the appellant and his family members and criminal

cases have also been initiated which fully prove the
cruelty on the part of the respondent. He submitted that
FIR Criminal No.148/2007 in which charge-sheet No.672 of
2007 was submitted against the appellant and his sisterin-
law on the basis of which charge under Section 498-A of
Indian Penal Code (IPC) was framed and the appellant was
tried by the Court of Metropolitan Magistrate, Cyberabad.
It is submitted that the Court held the appellant not
guilty of offence under Section 498-A IPC and he was
acquitted which clearly establishes cruelty at the
instance of the respondent.
Mr. Rana Mukherjee, learned senior counsel,
submitted that Court below had rightly rejected the
petition of the appellant as he having failed to prove
cruelty as well as mental illness of the respondent.
Mr. Rana Mukherjee further submitted that there is a
daughter born to appellant with regard to whom an order of
maintenance has also been passed under Section 125 of Code
of Criminal Procedure.
We have considered the submissions of appellant-inperson
as well as learned senior counsel appearing for the
respondent.
The petition filed by appellant for dissolution of
marriage on the ground of cruelty and mental illness has

been rejected by the Court below. With regard to second
ground i.e. mental illness of the respondent, no serious
efforts have been made to question the findings of the
Court below which ground has rightly rejected by the Court
below. The Court below has also observed that respondent
is working as Sanskrit Lecturer, hence, there is no merit
in the submission of the appellant that respondent is
suffering from mental illness.
The ground which was pressed by the appellant before
the Trial Court and the High Court was ground of cruelty.
We need to only consider as to whether the ground for
divorce under Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Act has been made
out or not. Before the Trial Court, the appellant has
relied several incidents of cruelty allegedly meted out by
the respondent towards him and his family members. In
paragraph 25 of the judgment criminal case filed by the
wife under Section 498-A of IPC was referred to and
relied. The Trial Court has noted the ground of cruelty on
the basis of filing criminal case but Trial Court refused
to rely on the said allegation on the ground that criminal
case filed by the respondent in C.C. No.672/2007 is
pending for adjudication. The Trial Court's judgment was
delivered on 05.09.2011, which was questioned by the
appellant before the High Court by filing an appeal
no.1279/2011. During pendency of the appeal before the

High Court, the judgment in C.C. No.672/2007-The State of
AP through PS L.B. Nagar Vs. Rani Narasimha Sastry and
another was decided. Learned Metropolitan Magistrate held
that prosecution has failed to prove charge under Section
498-A of IPC. Paragraphs 32 and 34 of the judgment are as
follows:
"32. Having regard to the facts and
circumstances of the case and after careful
scrutiny of entire oral and documentary
evidence on record, it is the considered view
of this court that both the defactocomplaint/
PW1 and the accused seems as coming
from respectable families from a respectable
community, both are well educated, well brought
up has developed hat-redness towards each other
and the relationship between them is already
estranged and it is in irretrievable breakage
of marriage perhaps and probably due to some
egoistic problems and their hat-redness went to
the extent of throwing mud on each other before
the courts as PW1 alleged in her complaint that
the accused is trying marry one Valli the
sisters daughter of the accused, and as per the
suggestion given by the accused to PW1 during
her cross examination the accused is alleging
illicit relationship between PW1 and PW3 and
egoistic problem turned into pervertism against
each other adding bitterness further to see the
bad of each other. However, though Ex.P1
complaint given by PW1 against accused as A1
and his sister as A2 Smt. A. Surya Kumari, the
proceedings against A2 were already quashed by
the Hon'ble High Court of AP in vide Criminal
Petition No.5628/2008 dated 07-12.2011 issued
by the Hon'ble High Court of A.P. Hyderabad and
now in the present case against A1 also the
prosecution has failed to prove the same beyond
all reasonable doubt against A1 for the offence
punishable u/s. 498A IPC.
33. xxx xxx xxx
34. In the result, accused is found not guilty
of the offence punishable u/s.498A IPC and thus
I acquit him u/s.248(1) Cr.P.C. the bail bonds
of the accused and that of his sureties if any
shall stands cancel after expiry of appeal

time."
This Court has laid down that averments, accusations
and character assassination of the wife by the appellant
husband in the written statement constitutes mental
cruelty for sustaining the claim for divorce under Section
13(1)(i-a) of the Act. This Court in Vijaykumar Ramchandra
Bhate Vs. Neela Vijaykumar Bhat e1 has laid down following
in paragraph 7:
"7. The question that requires to be answered
first is as to whether the averments,
accusations and character assassination of the
wife by the appellant husband in the written
statement constitutes mental cruelty for
sustaining the claim for divorce under Section
13(1)(i-a) of the Act. The position of law in
this regard has come to be well settled and
declared that leveling disgusting accusations
of unchastity and indecent familiarity with a
person outside wedlock and allegations of extra
marital relationship is a grave assault on the
character, honour, reputation, status as well
as the health of the wife. Such aspersions of
perfidiousness attributed to the wife, viewed
in the context of an educated Indian wife and
judged by Indian conditions and standards would
amount to worst form of insult and cruelty,
sufficient by itself to substantiate cruelty in
law, warranting the claim of the wife being
allowed. That such allegations made in the
written statement or suggested in the course of
examination and by way of cross- examination
satisfy the requirement of law has also come to
be firmly laid down by this Court. On going
through the relevant portions of such
allegations, we find that no exception could be
taken to the findings recorded by the Family
Court as well as the High Court. We find that
they are of such quality, magnitude and
consequence as to cause mental pain, agony and
suffering amounting to the reformulated concept
of cruelty in matrimonial law causing profound
and lasting disruption and driving the wife to
1. (2003) 6 SCC 334

feel deeply hurt and reasonably apprehend that
it would be dangerous for her to live with a
husband who was taunting her like that and
rendered the maintenance of matrimonial home
impossible."
In the present case the prosecution is launched by
the respondent against the appellant under Section 498-A
of IPC making serious allegations in which the appellant
had to undergo trial which ultimately resulted in his
acquittal. In the prosecution under Section 498-A of IPC
not only acquittal has been recorded but observations have
been made that allegations of serious nature are levelled
against each other. The case set up by the appellant
seeking decree of divorce on the ground of cruelty has
been established. With regard to proceeding initiated by
respondent under Section 498-A of IPC, the High Court made
following observation in paragraph 14:
14.....Merely because the respondent has sought
for maintenance or has filed a complaint
against the petitioner for the offence
punishable under Section 498-A of IPC, they
cannot be said to be valid grounds for holding
that such a recourse adopted by the respondent
amounts to cruelty."
The above observation of the High Court cannot be
approved. It is true that it is open for anyone to file
complaint or lodge prosecution for redressal for his or
her grievances and lodge a first information report for an
offence also and mere lodging of complaint or FIR cannot

ipso facto be treated as cruelty. But when a person
undergoes a trial in which he is acquitted of the
allegation of offence under Section 498-A of IPC, levelled
by the wife against the husband, it cannot be accepted
that no cruelty has meted on the husband. As per pleadings
before us, after parties having been married on
14.08.2005, they lived together only 18 months and
thereafter they are separately living for more than a
decade now.
In view of forgoing discussion, we conclude that
appellant has made a ground for grant of decree of
dissolution of marriage on the ground as mentioned in
Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
We allow the appeal of the appellant and grant
decree of divorce. The learned amicus curiae appearing for
the respondent has lastly submitted that appellant be
directed to make payment of maintenance to the daughter
who is a minor. Appellant has willingly agreed that he
shall pay Rs.2000/- per month to the daughter as
maintenance. We direct the appellant to make payment of
maintenance for daughter of Rs.2000/- per month. Appellant
shall make the payment of Rs.2000/- per month in the bank
account of respondent with whom the minor daughter is
living as on date. The payment shall start from next month
i.e. December 2019. We, however, grant liberty to the

minor daughter to seek enhancement of the compensation in
accordance with law by filing appropriate application
before the Magistrate, if so advised.
The appeal is allowed to the above extent.
...................J.
(ASHOK BHUSHAN)
...................J.
(NAVIN SINHA)
New Delhi;
November 19, 2019

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