Saturday, February 23, 2013

SC allows couple to settle marital cruelty cases - admits 498a misuse and false cases filed by wife, but still orders husband to pay 15 Lac alimony ! A reward to unscrupulous judicial abuser wife ?


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO. 1794 OF 2013
      (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 4782 of 2007)

K. SRINIVAS RAO                   …          APPELLANT


D.A. DEEPA                        …          RESPONDENT



1.    Leave granted.

2.     This appeal, by special leave,  has  been  filed  by  the  appellant-
husband, being aggrieved by the judgment and order  dated  8/11/2006  passed
by the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Civil  Miscellaneous  Appeal  No.797/03,
setting aside the decree of divorce granted in his favour.
3.    The appellant-husband is working as Assistant Registrar in the  Andhra
Pradesh High Court. The  marriage  between  the  appellant-husband  and  the
respondent-wife was solemnized on 25/4/1999 as per Hindu rites and  customs.
Unfortunately, on the very next day disputes arose  between  the  elders  on
both sides which resulted in their abusing each other and  hurling  chappals
at each other. As a consequence, on 27/4/1999, the newly married couple  got
separated  without  consummation  of  the  marriage   and   started   living
separately.  On 4/10/1999, the respondent-wife lodged a  criminal  complaint
against the appellant-husband before  the  Women  Protection  Cell  alleging
inter alia that the appellant-husband is harassing her for more dowry.  This
complaint is very crucial to this case.  We  shall  advert  to  it  more  in
detail a little later.  Escalated acrimony led  to  complaints  and  counter
complaints. The respondent-wife filed a petition  under  Section  9  of  the
Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for  restitution  of  conjugal  rights  before  the
Family Court, Secunderabad.  The  appellant-husband  filed  a  counter-claim
seeking dissolution of marriage on  the  ground  of  cruelty  and  desertion
under Section 13(1)(i-a) and (b) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

4.    The Family Court while dismissing  the  petition  for  restitution  of
conjugal rights and granting decree of divorce  inter  alia  held  that  the
respondent-wife stayed in the appellant-husband’s house only for a day,  she
admitted that she did not have any conversation with anyone  and  hence  any
amount of oral evidence adduced by her will not support her  plea  that  she
was harassed and driven out of the house; that the story that the appellant-
husband made a demand of dowry of Rs.10,00,000/- is false;  that  by  filing
false complaint against  the  appellant-husband  and  his  family,  alleging
offence under Section 498-A  of  the  IPC  in  the  Metropolitan  Magistrate
Court, Hyderabad and by filing complaints against the  appellant-husband  in
the High Court where  he  is  working,  the  respondent-wife  caused  mental
cruelty to the appellant-husband and that reunion  was  not  possible.   The
Family Court directed the appellant-husband to repay  Rs.80,000/-  given  by
the respondent-wife’s father to him with interest at 8% per annum  from  the
date of the marriage till payment.

5.    By the impugned judgment the High Court allowed the appeal carried  by
the respondent-wife against the said judgment and set aside  the  decree  of
divorce granted in favour of the appellant-husband.  The  High  Court  inter
alia observed that the finding of the Family Court that lodging a  complaint
with  the  police  against  the  appellant-husband  amounts  to  cruelty  is
perverse because it is not a ground for divorce  under  the  Hindu  Marriage
Act, 1955.  The High Court further held that the appellant-husband  and  the
respondent-wife did not live together for a long time  and,  therefore,  the
question  of  their  treating  each  other  with  cruelty  does  not  arise.
According to the High Court, the conclusion that the respondent-wife  caused
mental cruelty  to  the  appellant-husband  is  based  on  presumptions  and

6.    Mr. Jayanth  Muth  Raj,  learned  counsel  for  the  appellant-husband
assailed  the  conduct  of  the  respondent-wife  and  submitted   that   it
disentitles her from getting any relief from this Court.   Counsel  took  us
through the complaint lodged by the respondent-wife with the  Superintendent
of Police, Women Protection Cell, Hyderabad, making  defamatory  allegations
against the mother of the appellant-husband and drew our  attention  to  the
various legal proceedings initiated by  her  against  the  appellant-husband
and his family.  Counsel submitted that she also lodged complaints with  the
High Court asking for the removal of the  appellant-husband  from  his  job.
Counsel submitted that by lodging such false complaints the  respondent-wife
caused extreme mental cruelty to the appellant-husband.   Counsel  submitted
that the High Court fell into a grave error in observing  that  because  the
respondent-wife did not live with the appellant-husband for long  she  could
not have  caused  mental  cruelty  to  him.   Counsel  submitted  that  this
observation is erroneous and is contrary  to  the  law  laid  down  by  this
Court.  False and defamatory allegations made  in  the  pleadings  can  also
cause  mental  cruelty.    Counsel   submitted   that   the   marriage   has
irretrievably broken down and, therefore, it is necessary to dissolve it  by
a decree of divorce.  In support of his submissions counsel placed  reliance
on G.V.N. Kameswara Rao  vs.  G.  Jabilli[1],  Parveen  Mehta  vs.  Inderjit
Mehta[2],  Vijayakumar  R.  Bhate  vs.  Neela  Vijayakumar  Bhate[3],  Durga
Prasanna  Tripathy  vs.  Arundhati  Tripathy[4],  Naveen  Kohli  vs.   Neelu
Kohli[5] and Samar Ghosh vs. Jaya Ghosh[6].

7.    Mr. D. Rama Krishna Reddy, learned counsel  for  the  respondent-wife,
on the other hand, submitted that the  father  of  the  respondent-wife  had
given Rs.80,000/- and 15 tolas of gold as dowry to  the  appellant-husband’s
family.  However, they demanded additional cash of Rs.10,00,000/-.   Because
this demand could not  be  met,  the  respondent-wife  and  her  family  was
humiliated and ill-treated. Therefore, the parents  of  the  respondent-wife
had to return to their house along  with  her  immediately  after  marriage.
The father of the respondent-wife made efforts to  talk  to  the  appellant-
husband’s family, but, they did not respond to his efforts.  They  persisted
with their demands and, therefore, the respondent-wife  had  no  alternative
but to lodge complaint against them under Section 498-A of  the  IPC  before
the Metropolitan Magistrate, Hyderabad.   The  appellant-husband  thereafter
gave a false assurance that he will  not  harass  her  and,  therefore,  she
withdrew the complaint and went to  the  matrimonial  house.   However,  the
approach of the appellant-husband and his family did not change. She had  to
therefore renew her complaint.  Counsel submitted that only because  of  the
obstinate and uncompromising  attitude  of  the  appellant-husband  and  his
family that the respondent-wife had to take recourse to  court  proceedings.
Counsel submitted that the respondent-wife values the matrimonial tie.   She
wants to lead a happy married life with  the  appellant-husband.   She  had,
therefore, filed a petition for restitution of conjugal rights which  should
have been allowed  by  the  Family  Court.   Counsel  submitted  that  after
properly evaluating all the circumstances the High  Court  has  rightly  set
aside the decree of divorce and granted a decree of restitution of  conjugal
rights.  The High Court’s judgment, therefore, merits no interference.

8.    The matrimonial dispute started with a quarrel between the  elders  of
both sides in which initially the appellant-husband and the  respondent-wife
were not involved.  The  ego  battle  of  the  elders  took  an  ugly  turn.
Parties  were  dragged  to  the  court  and  the  inevitable  happened.  The
relations between the two families got strained. With a fond  hope  that  we
could bring about a settlement we requested  the  counsel  to  talk  to  the
parties and convey our wishes that they should bury the  hatchet  and  start
living  together.  We  also  tried  to  counsel  them  in  the  court.   The
respondent-wife appears to be very keen to go back to the  matrimonial  home
and start life afresh, but the appellant-husband is  adamant.   He  conveyed
to us through his counsel that by filing repeated false  complaints  against
him and his family the respondent-wife has caused extreme  cruelty  to  them
and therefore it will not be possible to take her back.  In view of this  we
have no option but to proceed with the case.

9.    The High Court has taken a view that since the  appellant-husband  and
the respondent-wife did not stay together, there is  no  question  of  their
causing  cruelty  to  each  other.   The  High  Court  concluded  that   the
conclusion drawn by the Family Court that the respondent-wife caused  mental
cruelty to the appellant-husband is erroneous.  We are unable to agree  with
the High Court.

10.   Under Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955,  a  marriage
can be dissolved by a decree of divorce on a petition  presented  either  by
the husband or the wife on the  ground  that  the  other  party  has,  after
solemnization of the marriage, treated the petitioner with  cruelty.   In  a
series of judgments  this  Court  has  repeatedly  stated  the  meaning  and
outlined the scope of the term ‘cruelty’.   Cruelty  is  evident  where  one
spouse has so treated the other and manifested such feelings towards her  or
him as to cause in her or his mind reasonable apprehension that it  will  be
harmful or injurious  to  live  with  the  other  spouse.   Cruelty  may  be
physical or mental.

11.   In Samar Ghosh this Court set out illustrative cases  where  inference
of ‘mental cruelty’ can be drawn.  This list  is  obviously  not  exhaustive
because each case presents it’s own peculiar factual  matrix  and  existence
or otherwise of mental cruelty will have to be judged  after  applying  mind
to it.  We must quote the  relevant  paragraph  of  Samar  Ghosh.   We  have
reproduced only the instances which are relevant to the present case.

      “101. No uniform standard can ever be laid down for guidance,  yet  we
      deem it appropriate to enumerate some  instances  of  human  behaviour
      which may be relevant in dealing with the cases of  “mental  cruelty”.
      The  instances  indicated  in  the  succeeding  paragraphs  are   only
      illustrative and not exhaustive:

      (i) On consideration of complete  matrimonial  life  of  the  parties,
      acute mental pain, agony and suffering as would not make possible  for
      the parties to live with  each  other  could  come  within  the  broad
      parameters of mental cruelty.

      (ii) On comprehensive appraisal of the entire matrimonial life of  the
      parties, it becomes abundantly clear that situation is such  that  the
      wronged party cannot reasonably be asked to put up with  such  conduct
      and continue to live with other party.

      (iii)                  xxx   xxx  xxx

      (iv) Mental cruelty is a state of mind. The feeling of  deep  anguish,
      disappointment, frustration in one spouse caused  by  the  conduct  of
      other for a long time may lead to mental cruelty.

      (v) A sustained course of abusive and humiliating treatment calculated
      to torture, discommode or render miserable life of the spouse.

      (vi) Sustained unjustifiable  conduct  and  behaviour  of  one  spouse
      actually affecting physical and mental health of the other spouse. The
      treatment complained of and the resultant danger or apprehension  must
      be very grave, substantial and weighty.

      (vii)                  xxx   xxx  xxx

      (viii)                 xxx   xxx  xxx

      (ix)             xxx   xxx   xxx

      (x) The married life should be reviewed as a whole and a few  isolated
      instances over a period of years will not amount to cruelty.  The  ill
      conduct must be persistent for a  fairly  lengthy  period,  where  the
      relationship has deteriorated to an extent that because  of  the  acts
      and behaviour of a  spouse,  the  wronged  party  finds  it  extremely
      difficult to live with the other  party  any  longer,  may  amount  to
      mental cruelty.

      (xi)             xxx   xxx   xxx

      (xii)                  xxx   xxx  xxx

      (xiii)                 xxx   xxx  xxx

      (xiv) Where there has been a long period of continuous separation,  it
      may fairly be concluded that the matrimonial bond  is  beyond  repair.
      The marriage becomes a fiction though supported by  a  legal  tie.  By
      refusing to sever that tie, the law in such cases, does not serve  the
      sanctity of marriage; on the contrary, it shows scant regard  for  the
      feelings and emotions of the parties. In such like situations, it  may
      lead to mental cruelty.”

      It is pertinent to note that in this case the  husband  and  wife  had
lived separately for more than sixteen and a  half  years.   This  fact  was
taken  into  consideration  along  with  other  facts  as  leading  to   the
conclusion that matrimonial bond had been ruptured beyond repair because  of
the mental cruelty caused by the wife.  Similar view  was  taken  in  Naveen

12.   In V. Bhagat  v.  D. Bhagat[7]  in the divorce petition filed  by  the
husband the wife filed  written  statement  stating  that  the  husband  was
suffering from mental hallucination, that his was a morbid  mind  for  which
he needs expert  psychiatric  treatment  and  that  he  was  suffering  from
‘paranoid  disorder’.   In  cross-examination  her   counsel   put   several
questions to the husband suggesting  that  several  members  of  his  family
including his  grandfather  were  lunatics.   This  court  held  that  these
assertions cannot but constitute mental cruelty of such a  nature  that  the
husband cannot be asked to live with the wife  thereafter.   Such  pleadings
and questions it was held, are  bound  to  cause  immense  mental  pain  and
anguish to the husband.   In  Vijaykumar  Bhate  disgusting  accusations  of
unchastity and indecent familiarity  with  a  neighbour  were  made  in  the
written statement.  This  Court  held  that  the  allegations  are  of  such
quality, magnitude and consequence  as  to  cause  mental  pain,  agony  and
suffering amounting to the reformulated concept of  cruelty  in  matrimonial
law causing profound and lasting disruption and driving  the  wife  to  feel
deeply hurt and reasonably apprehend that it  would  be  dangerous  to  live
with her husband.  In Naveen Kohli the respondent-wife got an  advertisement
issued in a national newspaper that her husband was her employee.   She  got
another news  item  issued  cautioning  his  business  associates  to  avoid
dealing with him.  This  was  treated  as  causing  mental  cruelty  to  the

13.   In Naveen Kohli the  wife  had  filed  several  complaints  and  cases
against the husband.  This Court viewed her conduct  as  a  conduct  causing
mental cruelty and observed that the finding of the High  Court  that  these
proceedings could not be taken to be such which  may  warrant  annulment  of
marriage is wholly unsustainable.

14.   Thus, to the instances illustrative of mental cruelty noted  in  Samar
Ghosh, we could add  a  few  more.   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 the court against the  spouse  would,
in the facts of a case, amount  to  causing  mental  cruelty  to  the  other

15.   We shall apply the above principles to the present case.  Firstly,  it
is necessary to have a look at  the  legal  proceedings  initiated  by  both
sides against each other.  The facts  on  record  disclose  that  after  the
marriage, due to some dispute which arose between  the  elders,  both  sides
abused and virtually attacked each other.  The respondent-wife was taken  by
her parents to their house.  According to the  respondent-wife,  her  father
made efforts to bring about an amicable settlement but the  other  side  did
not respond favourably and, therefore, on 4/10/1999 she lodged  a  complaint
with the  Superintendent  of  Police,  Women  Protection  Cell  against  the
appellant-husband  and  members  of  his  family.    In  our  opinion,  this
complaint is, to a large extent, responsible for widening the  rift  between
the  parties.   In  this  complaint,  after   alleging   ill-treatment   and
harassment for dowry, it is alleged that  mother  of  the  appellant-husband
asked the respondent-wife  to  sleep  with  the  father  of  the  appellant-
husband. When she was cross-examined in the Family Court during the  hearing
of her petition for  restitution  of  conjugal  rights  the  respondent-wife
admitted that she had lodged the complaint. PW-2 her mother, in  her  cross-
examination stated  that  though  they  had  asked  her  not  to  lodge  the
complaint, the respondent-wife lodged  it.   She  told  them  that  she  had
lodged the complaint because the  appellant-husband  was  not  listening  to
her.  Thus, it appears that this complaint was  lodged  out  of  frustration
and anger and was a reaction to  the  appellant-husband’s  refusal  to  live
with her.  It was, perhaps, felt by her that  because  of  the  pressure  of
such a complaint the appellant-husband would take her  back  to  his  house.
Far from helping the respondent-wife, the complaint appears to  have  caused
irreparable harm  to  her.   It  increased  the  bitterness.   Perhaps,  the
respondent-wife was misguided by someone.  But,  such  evidence  is  not  on
record.  Even in this court, this complaint appears to  us  to  be  a  major
factor amongst others impeding settlement.  Pursuant to the said  complaint,
Crime No.8/2000 was registered by C.I.D.,  Hyderabad,  in  the  Metropolitan
Magistrate (Mahila Court), Hyderabad against the appellant-husband  and  his
family under Section 498-A of the IPC.  It  is  the  respondent-wife’s  case
that the appellant-husband gave an assurance before the police that he  will
not harass her.  She, therefore, withdrew the complaint.   The  police  then
filed a closure report.  According to the  respondent-wife,  the  appellant-
husband did not abide by the promise made by him and, therefore,  she  filed
a protest petition.  The Magistrate Court, Hyderabad, then, took  cognizance
of the case and renumbered the case as C.C.No.62/2002.

16.   In the meantime,  the  respondent-wife  filed  O.P.No.88/2001  in  the
Family  Court,  Secunderabad,  for  restitution  of  conjugal  rights.   The
appellant-husband filed a counter claim  for  divorce  on  27/12/2002.   The
Family Court dismissed the petition for restitution of conjugal  rights  and
allowed the counter claim for divorce filed by the  appellant-husband.   The
respondent-wife challenged the Family Court judgment in the High Court.   On
8/12/2006 the High Court reversed the Family Court’s order and  allowed  the
petition for restitution of conjugal rights.  The present  appeal  is  filed
by the appellant-husband against the said judgment.

17.   According to the respondent-wife, on 17/9/2007 when  she,  along  with
her mother, came out of the court after a case  filed  by  her  against  the
appellant-husband was adjourned, the appellant-husband beat her  mother  and
kicked  her  on  her  stomach.   Both  of  them  received  injuries.    She,
therefore, filed complaint for the offence punishable under Section  324  of
the IPC against the appellant-husband (C.C.No. 79/2009).  It may  be  stated
here that on 19/10/2009 the appellant-husband was acquitted in this case.

18.    On  24/6/2008  the  judgment  was  delivered  by   Additional   Chief
Metropolitan Magistrate,  Hyderabad  in  C.C.No.  62/2002.   The  appellant-
husband was convicted under Section 498-A of the IPC and  was  sentenced  to
undergo six months simple imprisonment.  He and his parents  were  acquitted
of  the  offences  under  the  Dowry  Prohibition  Act.   His  parents  were
acquitted of the offence  under  Section  498-A  of  the  IPC.   After  this
judgment the respondent-wife and her parents filed a complaint in  the  High
Court saying that since the appellant-husband was  convicted  he  should  be
dismissed from service.  Similar letters were sent to the High Court by  the
maternal uncle of the respondent-wife.

19.   On 14/7/2008 the appellant-husband filed Criminal  Appeal  No.186/2008
challenging his conviction  under  Section  498-A  of  the  IPC  before  the
Metropolitan Sessions Judge.  It is pertinent to note that  the  respondent-
wife filed Criminal Appeal No.1219/2008 in the High  Court  questioning  the
acquittal of the appellant-husband and his parents  of  the  offences  under
the Dowry Prohibition Act and also the  acquittal  of  his  parents  of  the
offence punishable under Section 498-A of the IPC.  This appeal  is  pending
in the High Court.  Not being content with this, the  respondent-wife  filed
Criminal Revision Case No.1560/2008 in the High  Court  seeking  enhancement
of punishment awarded to the appellant-husband  for  offence  under  Section
498-A of the IPC.

20.   According to the appellant-husband on 6/12/2009  the  brother  of  the
respondent-wife came to their house and attacked  his  mother.   His  mother
filed a complaint and the police registered a complaint  under  Section  354
of the IPC.  The brother of the respondent-wife also lodged a complaint  and
an offence came to be registered.  Both the cases are pending.

21.   On 29/6/2010 Criminal Appeal No.  186/2010  filed  by  the  appellant-
husband challenging his conviction for the offence under  Section  498-A  of
the  IPC  was  allowed  by  the  Metropolitan  Sessions  Judge  and  he  was
acquitted.  The respondent-wife has filed criminal appeal in the High  Court
challenging the said acquittal which is pending.

22.   We need to now see the effect of the above events.   In  our  opinion,
the first instance of mental cruelty is seen in the scurrilous,  vulgar  and
defamatory statement made by the  respondent-wife  in  her  complaint  dated
4/10/1999 addressed to the Superintendent of Police, Women Protection  Cell.
 The statement that the mother of the appellant-husband asked her  to  sleep
with his  father  is  bound  to  anger  him.   It  is  his  case  that  this
humiliation of his parents caused great anguish to him.  He and  his  family
were traumatized by the false and indecent statement made in the  complaint.
 His grievance appears to us to be justified. This complaint is  a  part  of
the record.  It is a part of the pleadings.  That this  statement  is  false
is evident from the evidence of the mother of the respondent-wife, which  we
have already quoted.  This statement cannot be  explained  away  by  stating
that it was made because the respondent-wife was anxious to go back  to  the
appellant-husband.  This is not the way to win  the  husband  back.   It  is
well settled that such statements cause mental  cruelty.   By  sending  this
complaint the respondent-wife has caused mental cruelty  to  the  appellant-

23.     Pursuant to this complaint,  the  police  registered  a  case  under
Section 498-A of the IPC.  The appellant-husband  and  his  parents  had  to
apply for  anticipatory  bail,  which  was  granted  to  them.   Later,  the
respondent-wife withdrew the complaint.  Pursuant  to  the  withdrawal,  the
police filed a closure report.   Thereafter,  the  respondent-wife  filed  a
protest petition.  The trial court took cognizance of the case  against  the
appellant-husband and his parents (CC No. 62/2002).  What  is  pertinent  to
note is that the respondent-wife filed criminal appeal  in  the  High  Court
challenging the acquittal of the appellant-husband and his  parents  of  the
offences under the Dowry Prohibition Act  and  also  the  acquittal  of  his
parents of the offence punishable under Section  498-A  of  the  IPC.    She
filed criminal revision seeking enhancement of  the  punishment  awarded  to
the appellant-husband for the offence under Section 498-A of the IPC in  the
High Court which is still pending.  When the criminal appeal  filed  by  the
appellant-husband challenging his conviction for the offence  under  Section
498-A of the IPC was allowed  and  he  was  acquitted,  the  respondent-wife
filed criminal appeal in the High  Court  challenging  the  said  acquittal.
During this period respondent-wife and  members  of  her  family  have  also
filed complaints in the High Court complaining about  the  appellant-husband
so that he would be removed from the job.  The conduct  of  the  respondent-
wife in  filing  a  complaint  making  unfounded,  indecent  and  defamatory
allegation  against  her   mother-in-law,   in   filing   revision   seeking
enhancement of the sentence awarded  to  the  appellant-husband,  in  filing
appeal questioning the acquittal of the appellant-husband and  acquittal  of
his parents indicates that she made all attempts to ensure that he  and  his
parents are put in jail and he is removed from his job.  We have  no  manner
of doubt that this conduct has  caused  mental  cruelty  to  the  appellant-

24.   In  our  opinion,  the  High  Court  wrongly  held  that  because  the
appellant-husband and the respondent-wife did not stay together there is  no
question of the parties causing cruelty to  each  other.   Staying  together
under the same roof is not a pre-condition for mental cruelty.   Spouse  can
cause mental cruelty by his or her conduct even  while  he  or  she  is  not
staying under the same roof.  In a given case, while staying away, a  spouse
can cause  mental  cruelty  to  the  other  spouse  by  sending  vulgar  and
defamatory letters or  notices  or  filing  complaints  containing  indecent
allegations or by initiating  number  of  judicial  proceedings  making  the
other spouse’s life miserable.  This is what has happened in this case.

25.   It is also to be noted that the appellant-husband and the  respondent-
wife are staying apart from 27/4/1999.  Thus,  they  are  living  separately
for more than ten  years.   This  separation  has  created  an  unbridgeable
distance between the two.  As held in Samar Ghosh, if  we  refuse  to  sever
the tie, it may lead to mental cruelty.

26.   We are also satisfied that  this  marriage  has  irretrievably  broken
down.       Irretrievable breakdown of marriage is not a ground for  divorce
under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.  But, where marriage  is  beyond  repair
on account of bitterness created by the acts of the husband or the  wife  or
of both, the courts have always taken irretrievable  breakdown  of  marriage
as a very weighty circumstance amongst  others  necessitating  severance  of
marital tie.  A marriage which is dead for all purposes  cannot  be  revived
by the court’s verdict, if the parties are  not  willing.  This  is  because
marriage involves human sentiments and emotions and  if  they  are  dried-up
there is hardly any chance of their springing back to  life  on  account  of
artificial reunion created by the court’s decree.

27.   In V. Bhagat this Court noted that divorce petition  was  pending  for
eight years and a good part of the  lives  of  both  the  parties  had  been
consumed in litigation, yet the end was not in sight.  The facts  were  such
that there was no question of reunion,  the  marriage  having  irretrievably
broken down.  While dissolving the marriage on the ground of mental  cruelty
this Court observed that  irretrievable  breakdown  of  marriage  is  not  a
ground by  itself,  but,  while  scrutinizing  the  evidence  on  record  to
determine whether the grounds alleged are made out and  in  determining  the
relief to be granted the said circumstance can certainly be borne  in  mind.
In Naveen Kohli, where husband and wife had been living separately for  more
than 10 years and a large number of criminal proceedings had been  initiated
by the wife against the husband, this Court observed that the  marriage  had
been wrecked beyond the hope of salvage and public interest and interest  of
all concerned lies in the recognition of the fact and to declare defunct  de
jure what is already defunct de facto.  It is  important  to  note  that  in
this case this Court made a recommendation to the Union of  India  that  the
Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 be amended to incorporate  irretrievable  breakdown
of marriage as a ground for the grant of divorce.

28.   In the ultimate analysis, we hold that the respondent-wife has  caused
by her conduct mental cruelty to the appellant-husband and the marriage  has
irretrievably broken down.  Dissolution of marriage will relieve both  sides
of pain and anguish.  In this Court the respondent-wife expressed  that  she
wants to go back to the appellant-husband, but, that is  not  possible  now.
The appellant-husband is not willing to take her back.  Even  if  we  refuse
decree of divorce to the appellant-husband, there are hardly any chances  of
the respondent-wife leading a happy life with the appellant-husband  because
a lot of bitterness is created by the conduct of the respondent-wife.

29.   In Vijay Kumar, it was submitted that if the decree of divorce is  set
aside, there may be fresh  avenues  and  scope  for  reconciliation  between
parties.   This  court  observed  that  judged  in  the  background  of  all
surrounding circumstances, the claim appeared to  be  too  desolate,  merely
born out of despair rather than based upon any  real,  concrete  or  genuine
purpose or aim.  In the facts of this case we feel the same.

30.   While we are of the opinion that decree of divorce  must  be  granted,
we are alive to the plight of the  respondent-wife.   The  appellant-husband
is working as an Assistant Registrar in the Andhra Pradesh High  Court.   He
is getting a good salary.  The respondent-wife  fought  the  litigation  for
more than 10 years.  She appears to be entirely  dependent  on  her  parents
and on her brother, therefore, her future must be secured by  directing  the
appellant-husband  to  give  her  permanent  alimony.   In  the  facts   and
circumstance of this case, we are of the opinion that the  appellant-husband
should be directed to pay a sum  of  Rs.15,00,000/-  (Rupees  Fifteen  Lakhs
only) to the respondent-wife as and by way of  permanent  alimony.   In  the
result, the impugned judgment  is  quashed  and  set  aside.   The  marriage
between the appellant-husband - K. Srinivas Rao and  the  respondent-wife  -
D.A. Deepa is dissolved by  a  decree  of  divorce.   The  appellant-husband
shall  pay  to  the  respondent-wife  permanent  alimony  in  the   sum   of
Rs.15,00,000/-, in three instalments.  The first instalment of Rs.5,00,000/-
 (Rupees Five Lakhs only) should be paid on  15/03/2013  and  the  remaining
amount  of  Rs.10,00,000/-  (Rupees  Ten  Lakhs  only)  should  be  paid  in
instalments of Rs.5,00,000/-  each  after  a  gap  of  two  months  i.e.  on
15/05/2013 and 15/07/2013 respectively.  Each  instalment  of  Rs.5,00,000/-
be paid by a demand draft drawn  in  favour  of  the  respondent-wife  “D.A.

31.   Before parting, we wish to touch upon  an  issue  which  needs  to  be
discussed in the interest of victims of  matrimonial  disputes.   Though  in
this case, we have recorded a finding that by her conduct,  the  respondent-
wife has caused mental cruelty to  the  appellant-husband,  we  may  not  be
understood, however, to  have  said  that  the  fault  lies  only  with  the
respondent-wife.   In matrimonial disputes there is hardly  any  case  where
one spouse is entirely at fault.  But,  then,  before  the  dispute  assumes
alarming proportions, someone must make efforts to make parties see  reason.
 In this case, if at the earliest stage, before  the  respondent-wife  filed
the complaint making indecent  allegation  against  her  mother-in-law,  she
were to be counselled by  an  independent  and  sensible  elder  or  if  the
parties were sent to a mediation centre or if they  had  access  to  a  pre-
litigation clinic, perhaps the bitterness would not have escalated.   Things
would not have come to such  a  pass  if,  at  the  earliest,  somebody  had
mediated between the two.  It  is  possible  that  the  respondent-wife  was
desperate to save the marriage.  Perhaps, in desperation, she  lost  balance
and went on filing complaints.  It  is  possible  that  she  was  misguided.
Perhaps, the appellant-husband should  have  forgiven  her  indiscretion  in
filing complaints in the larger interest of matrimony.   But,  the  way  the
respondent-wife approached the problem was wrong.  It portrays a  vindictive
mind.  She caused extreme mental cruelty to the appellant-husband.  Now  the
marriage is beyond repair.

32.   Quite often, the  cause  of  the  misunderstanding  in  a  matrimonial
dispute is trivial and can be sorted. Mediation as a method  of  alternative
dispute resolution has got legal recognition now.  We have referred  several
matrimonial disputes to mediation centres.  Our experience shows that  about
10 to 15% of matrimonial disputes get settled in this Court through  various
mediation centres.  We, therefore, feel that  at  the  earliest  stage  i.e.
when the dispute is taken up by the Family Court or by the  court  of  first
instance  for  hearing,  it  must  be   referred   to   mediation   centres.
Matrimonial disputes  particularly  those  relating  to  custody  of  child,
maintenance, etc. are preeminently fit  for  mediation.  Section  9  of  the
Family Courts Act enjoins upon the Family Court to make  efforts  to  settle
the matrimonial disputes and in these efforts, Family  Courts  are  assisted
by Counsellors.  Even if the Counsellors fail in their efforts,  the  Family
Courts should  direct  the  parties  to  mediation  centres,  where  trained
mediators are appointed to mediate between the parties.   Being  trained  in
the skill of mediation, they produce good results.

33.   The idea of  pre-litigation  mediation  is  also  catching  up.   Some
mediation centres have, after giving wide publicity, set up “Help Desks”  at
prominent places  including  facilitation  centres  at  court  complexes  to
conduct pre-litigation mediation.  We are informed that in Delhi  Government
Mediation and Conciliation  Centres,  and  in  Delhi  High  Court  Mediation
Centre, several matrimonial disputes are  settled.   These  centres  have  a
good success rate in pre-litigation mediation.   If  all  mediation  centres
set up pre-litigation  desks/clinics  by  giving  sufficient  publicity  and
matrimonial disputes  are  taken  up  for  pre-litigation  settlement,  many
families will be saved of hardship if, at least, some of them  are  settled.

34.   While purely a civil matrimonial dispute can be amicably settled by  a
Family Court either by itself or by directing the  parties  to  explore  the
possibility of settlement through mediation, a complaint under Section  498-
A  of  the  IPC  presents  difficulty  because  the  said  offence  is   not
compoundable except in  the  State  of  Andhra  Pradesh  where  by  a  State
amendment, it has been made compoundable.  Though in  Ramgopal  &  Anr.   v.
State of Madhya Pradesh & Anr.[8], this Court requested the  Law  Commission
and the Government of India to  examine  whether  offence  punishable  under
Section 498-A of the IPC could be made compoundable, it has  not  been  made
compoundable as yet.   The  courts  direct  parties  to  approach  mediation
centres where offences are compoundable.  Offence punishable  under  Section
498-A being a non-compoundable offence, such a course  is  not  followed  in
respect thereof.  This Court has always  adopted  a  positive  approach  and
encouraged  settlement  of  matrimonial  disputes  and   discouraged   their
escalation.  In this connection, we must refer  to  the  relevant  paragraph
from G.V. Rao  v. L.H.V. Prasad & Ors.[9], where the complaint  appeared  to
be the result of matrimonial dispute, while refusing to interfere  with  the
High Court’s order quashing the complaint, this court  made  very  pertinent
observations, which read thus:

      “12. There has been an outburst  of  matrimonial  disputes  in  recent
      times. Marriage is a sacred ceremony, the main purpose of which is  to
      enable the young couple to settle down in life  and  live  peacefully.
      But little matrimonial skirmishes suddenly erupt  which  often  assume
      serious proportions resulting in commission of heinous crimes in which
      elders of the family are also involved with the result that those  who
      could have counselled and brought  about  rapprochement  are  rendered
      helpless on their being arrayed as accused in the criminal case. There
      are many other reasons which  need  not  be  mentioned  here  for  not
      encouraging matrimonial litigation so that the parties may ponder over
      their  defaults  and  terminate  their  disputes  amicably  by  mutual
      agreement instead of fighting it out in a court of law where it  takes
      years and years to conclude and in that process the parties lose their
      “young” days in chasing their “cases” in different courts.”

      In B.S. Joshi & Ors.  v.  State of Haryana & Anr.[10], after referring
to the above observations, this Court stated that the said observations  are
required to be kept  in  view  by  courts  while  dealing  with  matrimonial
disputes and held that complaint involving offence under  Section  498-A  of
the IPC can be quashed by the High Court in exercise  of  its  powers  under
Section 482 of the Code if the parties settle their dispute.   Even in  Gian
Singh  v.  State of Punjab & Anr.[11], this  Court  expressed  that  certain
offences which overwhelmingly and  predominantly  bear  civil  flavour  like
those arising out of matrimony, particularly relating to dowry, etc. or  the
family dispute and where  the  offender  and  the  victim  had  settled  all
disputes between them amicably, irrespective of the fact that such  offences
have not been made compoundable, the  High  Court  may  quash  the  criminal
proceedings if it feels that by not quashing the same, the ends  of  justice
shall be defeated.

35.   We, therefore, feel that though offence punishable under Section  498-
A of the IPC is not compoundable, in appropriate cases if  the  parties  are
willing and if it appears to the criminal court that  there  exist  elements
of settlement, it should direct the parties to explore  the  possibility  of
settlement through  mediation.   This  is,  obviously,  not  to  dilute  the
rigour, efficacy and purport of Section 498-A of  the  IPC,  but  to  locate
cases where the matrimonial dispute can be nipped in  bud  in  an  equitable
manner.  The judges, with their expertise, must ensure  that  this  exercise
does not lead to the erring spouse using mediation process  to  get  out  of
clutches of the law. During mediation, the  parties  can  either  decide  to
part company on mutually agreed terms or they may decide  to  patch  up  and
stay together.  In either case for  the  settlement  to  come  through,  the
complaint will have to be quashed.  In that event,  they  can  approach  the
High Court and get the complaint quashed.  If  however  they  chose  not  to
settle, they can proceed with the complaint.  In this exercise, there is  no
loss to anyone. If there is settlement, the parties will be saved  from  the
trials and tribulations of a criminal case and that will reduce  the  burden
on the courts which will be in the larger public interest.   Obviously,  the
High  Court  will  quash  the  complaint  only  if  after  considering   all
circumstances it finds the settlement to be equitable and genuine.   Such  a
course, in our opinion, will be beneficial to those who  genuinely  want  to
accord a quietus to their matrimonial disputes.  We would, however, like  to
clarify that reduction of burden of cases on the courts  will,  however,  be
merely an incidental benefit and not the reason for sending the parties  for
mediation.  We recognize ‘mediation’ as an effective method  of  alternative
dispute resolution in matrimonial matters and that  is  the  reason  why  we
want the parties to explore the possibility of settlement through  mediation
in matrimonial disputes.

36.   We, therefore, issue directions, which the  courts  dealing  with  the
matrimonial matters shall follow:

     a) In terms of Section 9 of the Family Courts Act, the  Family  Courts
        shall make all efforts to settle the matrimonial  disputes  through
        mediation.  Even if the Counsellors submit a  failure  report,  the
        Family Courts shall, with the consent of  the  parties,  refer  the
        matter to the mediation centre.   In  such  a  case,  however,  the
        Family Courts shall set  a  reasonable  time  limit  for  mediation
        centres to complete the process of mediation because otherwise  the
        resolution of the disputes by the Family Court may get delayed.  In
        a given case, if there is good chance  of  settlement,  the  Family
        Court in its discretion, can always extend the time limit.

     b) The criminal courts dealing with the complaint under Section  498-A
        of the IPC should, at any stage and particularly, before they  take
        up the complaint for hearing, refer the parties to mediation centre
        if they feel that there exist elements of settlement and  both  the
        parties are willing.  However, they should take care to see that in
        this exercise, rigour, purport and efficacy of Section 498-A of the
        IPC is not diluted.  Needless to say that the discretion  to  grant
        or not to grant bail is not in any way curtailed by this direction.
        It will be for the concerned  court  to  work  out  the  modalities
        taking into consideration the facts of each case.

     c) All mediation centres shall set  up  pre-litigation  desks/clinics;
        give them wide publicity and make  efforts  to  settle  matrimonial
        disputes at pre-litigation stage.

37.   The appeal is disposed of in the aforestated terms.

                                       (AFTAB ALAM)

                                              (RANJANA PRAKASH DESAI)
FEBRUARY 22, 2013.
[1]    (2002) 2 SCC 296
[2]    (2002) 5 SCC 706
[3]    (2003) 6 SCC 334
[4]    (2005) 7 SCC 353
[5]    (2006) 4 SCC 558
[6]    (2007) 4 SCC 511
[7]    (1994) 1 SCC 337
[8]    (2010) 13 SCC 540
[9]    (2000) 3 SCC 693
[10]   AIR 2003 SC 1386
[11]   (2012) 10 SCC 303