Delhi High Court Holds That False Allegation of Impotency Against Husband Constitutes Cruelty Under Hindu Marriage Act

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A false allegation of impotency against the husband would amount to cruelty under the Hindu Marriage Act. The written submissions would be considered, even if it was made as a counter-allegation.

Brief Facts

An appeal preferred by the Appellant- wife was being dealt with in the court. This was against an order of the Family Court allowing the Respondent-husband’s petition. It was about the grant of divorce under Section 13(1) (i a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (HMA).

Before the HC, the Appellant- wife sought the setting aside of the divorce order. The wife prayed for her petition of restitution of conjugal rights to be heard and decided based on the merits.  Advocates Manish Sharma, Ninad Dogra, Jigyasa Sharma represented the Appellant.  Advocate Prabhjit Jauhar represented the Respondent.

Contentions

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The Appellant had pleaded that the Respondent was suffering from impotence /erectile dysfunction. The Appellant -wife had been reinforcing the allegation of impotence throughout the litigation. This was the reason due to which the marriage had remained non-consummated. Another argument of the wife was that the manner in which the impugned order was passed was arbitrary.  She specified that she wanted to save the matrimonial alliance. Allegations were made in a written statement and the relief of divorce was pleaded for. 

The Respondent husband contended that the allegations made were false, reckless and venomous. He argued that the allegations made against him in the written submissions amounted to cruelty. He further contended that no person would continue in a matrimonial alliance with a partner who does not respect the other’s self-respect. 

Court’s Observations

A Division Bench of Justices Manmohan and Sanjeev Narula was set up.  The family court had previously rejected the allegation of the Appellant -wife.  This was noted by the HC. This was on the basis of the testimony of an expert witness. Upon physical examination, the expert found that the husband was a normal male adult with no problem of impotence. The court analysed the testimony. It held that a false allegation of impotence in the written submissions was nothing but mental cruelty within the meaning of Section 13(1) (i a) of the HMA. 

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The Court specified that mental cruelty was primarily contextual. It was based on human behaviour or conduct with respect to matrimonial duties and obligations. It was essential to see whether the conduct of the party was that of a reasonable person who would not tolerate a similar act. The situation should be such that no individual would be expected to live with the other party under similar circumstances. The Court laid a lot of importance on the pleadings during matrimonial proceedings. It refused to accept the Appellant -wife’s stand that the allegations of impotence were only a counter.

The Court opined that unproven false accusations were bound to cause deep hurt and anguish to the Respondent. It would be reasonable for him to apprehend that it would be perilous to live with the appellant. The respondent has undergone mental pain, agony and suffering by the false accusations. Thus, he could not be asked to put up with the conduct of the Appellant and to continue to live with her.

The Court remarked that the averments made by a party before Court of law should be given due sanctity and treated with seriousness. The allegations made in the pleadings were brought in the public domain. Thus, the Court was expected to give its verdict on the basis of the allegations and the counter-allegations made by the parties. The recklessness of allegations cannot be considered as a reasonable ground for an excuse before a Court of Law.  The consequences of false assertions had to be followed. The HC considered the case of V. Bhagat. It stated that the Supreme Court had taken a strong view of false allegations. SC opined that such allegations made in a formal pleading filed in the Court went far beyond the reasonable limits of the wife’s defence.

The Court referred to Section 20 HMA with regards to treating averments during pleading as evidence. Hence, the court was empowered to act upon unfounded allegations made in pleadings.

Court’s Decisions

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The Court recognized that there was an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. It concluded that the Family Court’s order could not be faulted with. It specified that no infirmity could be found or observed and stated that allegation of impotence clearly comes under the concept of cruelty. The appeal was thus dismissed. 

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