Filing even one false criminal case against a husband or his family constitutes mental cruelty, and entitles him to divorce on that ground, the Bombay High Court has ruled.
“Embarrassment, humiliation and suffering caused on account of arrest of appellant (husband) and his family members in a false case, does constitute mental cruelty,” ruled the division bench of Justice A P Deshpande and Justice R P Sondurbaldota.
The judges also held that the husband was entitled to seek divorce solely on this ground, while reversing an order by the Pune family court, which had dismissed a divorce petition filed by a Khed resident.
He married in March 2001, but the couple lived together for only two years. A few days after she left him in May 2003, when he asked her to return, she lodged a criminal case against him, his parents and three close relatives.
The husband sought divorce on grounds of cruelty at the hands of his wife, contending that her filing a false criminal case amounted to cruelty. The family court had dismissed the petition saying: “A singular complaint filed by the wife under section 498A of IPC against the husband and his family cannot indicate she is making false allegations.”
The high court discarded the family court's opinion. “We fail to understand the logic behind the reasoning adopted by the family court,” observed the high court, adding: “It is illogical that more than one complaint needs to be filed to constitute mental cruelty.”
In another case, the same bench dissolved the marriage of another Pune-based couple, which also involved the apparent misuse of section 498A, on the same ground. In this case, they were married in December 2000, and the husband's relatives were acquitted of the charge of cruelty to the wife.
The wife did not stop at the complaint filed under 498A - she filed another complaint in a local court after the husband and his family were acquitted in the first case. The second case also resulted in an acquittal.
The high court inferred that the wife had filed the criminal cases only with a view to harass the husband and his family. “The said criminal cases, which ultimately ended in acquittal, must have caused utmost mental cruelty to the husband," the judges observed.