False accusation by spouse ground for divorce: SC

The Supreme Court on Wednesday held that filing false criminal complaints against one’s spouse amounts to “matrimonial cruelty” and creates sufficient ground for the aggrieved to seek divorce.

The court said that the legal position on this issue has been dealt with comprehensively in previous judgments. “It is now beyond cavil that if a false criminal complaint is preferred by either spouse it would invariably and indubitably constitute matrimonial cruelty, such as would entitle the other spouse to claim a divorce,” the bench said.

A bench of Justices Vikramjit Sen and P C Pant allowed a plea for divorce made by a man from Hyderabad, whose wife had filed false complaints against him and seven of his family members, which led to their incarceration.

In such a situation, the marriage could be dissolved under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, the bench reiterated. The couple was married for 25 years. The court, however, did not allow the man’s plea for divorce on the ground of “irretrievable breakdown of marriage”, as it had not got statutory acceptance till date.

“The Law Commission in its 1978 as well as 2009 reports had recommended the introduction of ‘irretrievable breakdown of marriage’ as a ground for dissolution of marriage; the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill of 2013 incorporating the ground has even received the assent of the Rajya Sabha. It is, however, highly debatable whether, in the Indian situation, where there is rampant oppression of women, such a ground would at all be expedient. But that controversy will be considered by the Lok Sabha,” the court justified. Under Article 142 of the Constitution, however, the Supreme Court has plenary power to pass a decree in this regard.

The couple had got married in 1989 and had a male child after four years of marriage. The wife developed Sheehan’s Syndrome, a post-partum complication, and has been living with her brother, an IAS officer, since 1995.

The husband filed a petition for divorce on the ground of cruelty. The court found merit in his contention for cruelty after going through the case.

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