Unsubstantiated allegations made by wife in a court of law during divorce proceedings about her husband's extramarital relations amounts to cruelty, the Bombay high court has ruled, while allowing dissolution of marriage on these grounds.
The ruling was delivered recently by a bench which quashed a Pune family court order of July 11 dismissing a divorce petition filed by a man on the grounds of cruelty.
Hearing an appeal of husband against the impugned order, justices GS Patel and OS Oka allowed dissolution of marriage between Mahesh and Mohini Paigude.
The husband had filed a petition in the family court seeking a decree of divorce on the grounds of cruelty. One of the grounds pressed by him was an unsubstantiated allegation made by his wife that he was having extramarital relationship.
The high court held that making such unsubstantiated allegations amounts to causing mental cruelty to the husband.
"Therefore, we have no manner of doubt that unsubstantiated allegations made by the respondent wife in paragraph 6 of the written statement amounts to assault on character and reputation of the Appellant and the same constitutes a mental cruelty which entitles the Appellant to claim a decree of divorce," the judges noted.
The high court observed that the finding of this aspect has been recorded in paragraph 16 of the impugned judgment.
"In fact, in paragraph 16, the learned family court Judge has accepted that there are baseless allegations in the written statement. However, the learned Judge has observed that the Appellant has no grievance about it."
"Perhaps the said finding is based on incorrect reading of the statement made by husband in cross-examination that he was demanding divorce mainly on two grounds (refusal of the Respondent to maintain sexual relationship with him and that she used to threaten that she would commit suicide if he had sexual relations with her)."
"The observation of the judge that the allegation in the statement is not torturous and, therefore, does not amount to cruelty, is completely erroneous," the bench noted.
"As we have already held, not only had the wife failed to substantiate allegation but in cross-examination, she has made it clear that she was entertaining a doubt about the character of appellant," the judges said.
The marriage was solemnised on March 13, 2001, in accordance with Hindu Vedic rites. Various allegations of cruelty were levelled in the petition.
The main allegation made by the appellant in the petition as regards cruelty was that his wife had complained that he had extramarital relations with other women, which was vehemently denied by him.
The petitioner submitted that the said allegation was totally false and that it made mental cruelty to him.
The petitioner argued that he had no any illicit relations with any woman till date. Because of the said false allegations persistently made by his wife before relatives, he was defamed and his prestige lowered down, the court was told.
UB Nighot, counsel for the appellant, urged that one of the specific grounds pleaded in the petition was that the wife used to repeatedly allege that the appellant was maintaining extra-marital relationship with other women.
He invited the court's attention to the written statement of wife wherein she reiterated the said allegation by stating that she has repeatedly noted extra-marital relationship maintained by the appellant.
The counsel submitted that perusal of evidence of the wife and her brother showed that she could not substantiate the allegation. He argued that the allegation was of very serious nature and persistently making such unsubstantiated allegations will amount to mental cruelty.
The judges said that the respondent wife had made no attempt to substantiate what she has stated in her written statement about extra-marital relations of her husband with other women.
The judges noted that the wife had said in cross-examination that she was not aware about her husband's character. She further stated that she had not made any inquiry about his character.
"Thus, not only the respondent had not made any attempt to substantiate the allegations of very serious nature made by her, but the answer given to a question in her cross-examination clearly indicates that she wanted to suggest that she was entertaining a doubt about the character of the appellant," the judges observed.