A Division Bench of Chief Justice Ajai Lamba and Justice Soumitra Saikia of the Guwahati High Court has on in the matter of Rakhi Poul v. Amit Poul held that false accusations made by wife against husband can be treated as cruelty to husband and can be a ground for divorce.
Background of the case:
The appellant wife had filed an appeal against the judgment of District Judge, whereby the divorce was granted in the suit filed under Section 13(1) (ia) (cruelty) and 13(1) (ib) (desertion) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, by the respondent.
Case of the Husband:
The marriage was solemnized between the parties on November 11, 2010, according to Hindu religious rites. The husband used to own a small jewelry shop situated in Rangapara town from which he used to earn his livelihood. The couple was a follower of Shri Shri Anukul Thakur and used to visit frequently the Ashram at Deoghar at Jharkhand.
The wife used to insist on visiting the Ashram at Deoghar several times in a year and consequently, the husband had to spend about Rs.1,60,000/- towards those visits, within a year and a half after the marriage. The wife and her elder brother had requested husband to lend an amount of Rs. 2 lakhs with a promise to return it after 15 days.
The husband had managed to arrange the said amount by borrowing it from his well-wishers and handed over the money to the elder brother of the wife. However, instead of returning the loan amount, the brother of the wife, i.e. brother-in-law instigated the wife against the husband because he had requested for returning the borrowed amount.
When the brother-in-law failed to return the money, the husband had to sell out a plot of his hereditary land situated at Bardhaman, West Bengal for an amount of Rs.3,50,000/- for repaying the amount he had borrowed as a loan from his well-wishers. However, the wife had made a hue and cry and managed to gather people around and alleged that the husband was not known to her and that he had robbed her of her money.
Having no alternative, the husband had to hand over the entire amount of Rs.3,50,000/- to the wife. Thereafter she proceeded towards her parental home situated in Diphu in Assam.
The wife of her own volition had left the matrimonial home and started living separately in a rented house at Rangapara since October 2012. The husband and his family members had tried to bring back the wife to the matrimonial home, but she had refused to come. Consequently, the husband was deprived of his conjugal rights as the wife had deserted the husband for no fault of him and without any reasonable cause.
Case of the wife:
The wife had in written statement projected the case of cruelty by the husband and his family members as well as desertion by the husband, and therefore she contended that the husband was not entitled to a decree of divorce as prayed for.
The wife had also alleged that she was physically assaulted by the husband and there was consistent demand that the wife procure money from her father, which she refused. She also alleged that after she became pregnant in March 2011, the husband had repeatedly advised her for abortion, and ultimately the wife was forcibly compelled to abort her fetus at Gogoi Nursing Home at Tezpur.
She also alleged that since the date of her marriage, her name was not recorded in the voter's list, ration card, in the passbook of the husband as his nominee as well as in insurance policy which makes it evident that the husband had married her only as a means to recover his immovable property situated at Bardhaman.
Findings of the High Court:
The High Court thoroughly pursued the trial court record and the evidence produced by both parties. The allegation of the wife that, the husband had forcibly made her undergo an abortion was not supported by any evidence.
The Court also made a proposition that even if there was indeed an abortion undergone by the wife at the instance of the husband/his family members, the same ought to have been complained of by the wife before appropriate authorities by lodging appropriate complaints, but she had not complained so.
Based on this unfounded serious allegation, the Court concluded that the allegation of forcing her to undergo forcible abortion being a very serious allegation against the husband without corroboration would be construed to be an act of cruelty.
For this, the Court relied on the decision of the Supreme Court of India in the case of Vijaykumar Ramchandra Bhate vs. Neela Vijaykumar Bhate, reported in (2003) 6 SCC 334, where the Apex Court had held that mere questioning the integrity and character of the wife (or husband), judged by the Indian Standard would amount to the worst form of cruelty and insult, sufficient to substantiate cruelty in itself towards the husband (or wife) and their family members.
In Vijaykumar Ramchandra Bhate, the Supreme Court was dealing with slanderous accusations made by the husband against the wife. Although during the trial of the case, the husband had attempted to withdraw the accusations, however, the Supreme Court in categoric terms had held that a conscious and deliberate statement leveled with pungency and that too placed on record, through a written statement, cannot so lightly be ignored and brushed aside, to be of no consequence merely because it came to be removed from the record. Spirit of law, as declared by the Supreme Court of India is that injurious reproaches, accusations and taunts, humiliating and wounding the feeling of the wife to such an extent as to make it insufferable for the wife to live in the matrimonial home any longer with the husband, would per se constitute acts of cruelty.
If circumstances are inverse i.e. wife making accusations against the husband as is in the present case, will also attract the application of the above ratio. The High Court concluded that the wife had made specific accusations against the husband of subjecting her to forced abortion. Such imputations, according to the Court tantamount to an assault on the reputation and status of the husband and would have a stigmatic impact.
The Court upheld the trial court judgment whereby decree of divorce was granted the husband.