Bombay HC: Labelling Husband as ‘Alcoholic’, ‘Womaniser’ Without Proof Amounts to Cruelty

Sakina Tashrifwala

Published on: October 26, 2022 at 18:47 IST

The Bombay High Court has ruled that cruelty occurs when a wife makes baseless claims against her husband in court, labelling him as an “alcoholic” and a “womaniser.”

An appeal filed by the appellant/wife contesting the family court’s decision to issue divorce order to her husband was dismissed by a division bench of Justice Nitin Jamdar and Justice Sharmila U Deshmukh.

“We find that the Petitioner has consistently asserted character assassination charges against the Respondent in both rounds of litigation. The Petitioner’s continued unjustified, false, and unsubstantiated claims about the Respondent’s character, labelling him as an alcoholic and womaniser, has shattered his reputation in society.”

“In such circumstances, and in light of the Respondent’s standing in society, the Respondent’s position that he could not put up with the Petitioner’s defamation of him in the society where he was carrying out social work, and that he cannot continue with the matrimonial relationship in the face of such allegations, cannot be said to be unjustified.”

The appellant petitioned the Family Court for restitution of conjugal rights in 2005.

The respondent/husband filed his reply as well as a counterclaim for divorce. In a counterclaim response, the wife claimed that the respondent is an alcoholic, a womaniser, and used to physically and mentally torment the petitioner.

The appellant’s petition was denied by the family court, and a divorce decree was issued.

The appellant filed a petition with the High Court. The respondent died while the appeal was pending, and his legal heir took over the matter.

The appellant’s lawyer, Vikas Shivarkar, contended that the family court erred in granting divorce because the appellant’s claims constituted cruelty.

He stated that the appellant made the identical accusations in the prior round of litigation between the parties in 2002, and it was not found to constitute cruelty.

Advocate Onkar Kulkarni for the respondent supported the family court’s judgement to award divorce and contended that the appellant’s charges amounted to cruelty.

The court noticed that the appellant’s sister did not verify her story and merely testified that her husband used to drink. The judge stated that the wife had no proof to back up her claims.

“The petitioner claims that the respondent used to visit her sister on various pretexts, but the evidence of the petitioner’s sister is devoid of specifics. The petitioner’s evidence on record fails to prove the charges she made in her pleadings “, the court stated in its decision.

According to the respondents, the petitioner caused him mental anguish by levelling false and defamatory charges against him.

According to the respondent, the wife approached personnel of the institution where he was doing social work and made the same claims against him. He further claimed that the petitioner has cut him off from his children and grandchildren.

The court noted that there is no proof in this case that the respondent’s case against the petitioner is false.

The petitioner, on the other hand, has failed to support the charges she made in her reply to the counterclaim, according to the court.

The court noted that the identical charges were not found to be cruel in an earlier round of litigation between the parties. In this case, however, the respondent has presented a specific case in which his wife has defamed him in society by making fearful false charges about him and causing him mental anguish.

According to the court, while examining a party’s behaviour in the context of cruelty, the state of society to which the party belongs is also significant.

The court noticed that the respondent retired as a Major and is from the highest strata of society with a good reputation.

The court ruled that the petitioner murdered the respondent’s character, causing him to lose his respect in society. The court ruled that the respondent’s claim that he couldn’t put up with the petitioner’s behaviour was not unjustified.

The court ruled that the petitioner’s actions constituted cruelty under Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act,

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