Raj Talreja v. Kavita Talreja(2017): Supreme Court on Mental Cruelty.

Case NameRaj Talreja v. Kavita Talreja
CourtBefore the Supreme Court of India
BenchA.K.Goel, Deepak Gupta, JJ.
Author of the judgementDeepak Gupta, J.
Counsel for AppellantMr. Gaurav Agrawal
Counsel for RespondentMs. Vibha Datta Makhija
Date of Judgement24.04.2017
AbstractIn the present case, there were false allegations made by the wife against the husband. Placing reliance on precedents, the court held that this amounts to mental cruelty for the spouse and can be a ground for divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act. The court has in detail discussed about the concept of mental cruelty in the instant case. The Honourable Supreme Court has also set aside the decisions of both trial court and the supreme court.
Author of the briefDarshan Patankar, Student at Gujarat National Law University.
KeywordsHindu Marriage Act, Divorce, Mental Cruelty.

Introduction: Mental Cruelty is a ground for divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act along with other grounds such as adultery, desertion, conversion, entering new religion, unsoundness of mind, etc. Prior to 1976 amendment, cruelty was not a ground to divorce in India. Cruelty is not defined in the Hindu Marriage Act. Cruelty can be of both physical cruelty and mental cruelty. Mere trivial quarrels between the spouse do not amount to cruelty. In the case of Naveen Kohli v Neelu Kohli, of the year 2004, the Supreme Court has held that ‘Cruelty’ is a consistent course of conduct inflicting immeasurable mental agony and torture.

Facts: – The Parties involved in the appeal got married in 1989 according to Hindu Rites. The Husband and the Wife lived with the parents of the husband until the year 1999 and in the year 1999, the couple shifted to their own residence. On 19.03.2000, the husband left the matrimonial home and thereafter, on 25.03. 2000, he filed a petition for grant of a decree of divorce. Subsequently, on 07.11.2000, certain news items appeared in the Newspapers in which serious allegations were made against the husband which were published on the intimation given by the wife. On 04.12.2000, the wife filed a complaint to the State Women Commission making serious allegations against the Husband. Thereafter, she also sent similar letters to the Chief Justice of the High Court and the Superintendent of Police and a complaint was made to the Chief Minister. On 16.03.2001, the complaints were found to be false. Thereafter, on 12.04.2001, a FIR was filed against the appellant husband under Sections 452, 323 and 341 of the Indian Penal Code. After an investigation, the police reached the conclusion that there was no merit in the FIR and that the wife had filed a false FIR. In view of the aforesaid, the Husband moved an amendment application in the divorce petition incorporating the above-mentioned facts and alleging that he had been subjected to cruelty by the wife due the filing of false complaints. The Trial Judge dismissed the divorce petition and the appeal filed by the husband were also dismissed. Hence, this appeal.

Issue: – Whether a decree of divorce can be granted?

Appellants Contention: – Mr Gaurav Agrawal, learned counsel for the Appellant contended that the acts of the wife in levelling defamatory allegations and filing false complaints against the husband amounted to cruelty.

Respondents Contention: – Ms Vibha Datta Makhija, learned Senior Counsel for the Respondent contended that her client was not at fault and the cruelty had not been proved and she submitted that the respondent is declared to be a legally married woman and that the appeal is dismissed.

Decision of the Court: – Authored by Deepak Gupta, J.

(1) The Court allowed the appeal and the Judgments of the High Court and the Family Court was set aside. The petition for divorce filed by the husband under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 was decreed and the marriage of the parties solemnised on 13.04.1989 was dissolved by a decree of divorce. Further, the Court held that the wife would be entitled to a permanent alimony of Rs. 50, 00, 000/- and a residential flat of the value of up to Rs. 1, 00, 00, 000.

(2) The Court opined that it was more than obvious that the allegations made by the wife were false. The Court made a reference to Para 16 of K.Srinivas Rao v. D.A. Deepa wherein the Supreme Court had held that making unfounded indecent defamatory allegations against the spouse or his or her relatives in the pleadings, filing of complaints or issuing notices or news items which may have adverse impact on the business prospect or the job of the spouse and filing repeated false complaints and cases in Courts against the spouse would amount to causing mental cruelty to the other spouse.

(3) The Court held that Cruelty could never be defined with exactitude and cruelty would depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. It was observed that in the instant case, the wife made reckless, defamatory and false accusations against the husband, his family members and colleagues and these allegations were patently false. This would amount to an act of cruelty.

(4) The Court disagreed with the findings of the High Court and the Family Court and they held that the High Court and the Family Court had decided based on observations which were not supported by any reliable or cogent evidence on record.

Ratio: – There can be no uniform definition of Cruelty for the purpose of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and cruelty will be decided as per the facts and circumstances of every case. As Lord Denning had held in Sheldon v. Sheldon (1963) that categories of cruelty in Matrimonial Cases are never closed.

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