A JUDICIAL OFFICER (MUNSIF !!) GETS HIT WITH 498A
Pertinent facts : A Judicial officer’s marriage is rocked. Wife and Husband have a long list of allegations and counter allegations against each other. The Husband (munsif) had also filed a case of attempt to murder against the wife’s brother !! Wife seems to have publicized / advertised allegations against the husband in the local papers. Wife has demanded Rs. 10 Lakhs alimony. Theusual list of 498a etc all are also filed !!. The courts seem to have taken the view the the Munsif (husband ) was the innocent / affected party and the wife had acted cruelly .
Andhra High Court
D. Manga @ Mangamma vs D. Venkata Ramana on 9 September, 1999
Equivalent citations: I (2000) DMC 663
Author: M B Naik
Bench: M B Naik, A G Reddy
Motilal B. Naik, J.
1. Exposure of so much hatred and animosity aplenty in this case which culminated in the rocking of a matrimonial home of a Judicial Officer.
2. Appellant is the wife whose marriage with the respondent, a newly recruited Judicial Officer of the rank of District Munsif, took place on 18.5.1994. The respondent took charge as District Munsif, Amalapuram, which is his first posting, on 4.5.1994.
3. The respondent filed O.P. No. 108 of 1997 on the file of the Additional Senior Civil Judge, Rajahmundry (Old O.P. No. 42 of 1996 on the file of Sub-Court, Amalapuram) seeking dissolution of his marriage with the appellant under Section 13(1)(ia) and 13(1)(iii) of the Hindu marriage Act, 1955. Serious allegations and counter allegations have been levelled against each other by the respondent-husband and appellant-wife. However, we do not propose to trace those countless allegations in this judgment. We may only state few relevant facts for the purpose of disposal of this appeal.
4. For the purpose of convenience, the parties are addressed as petitioner-husband and respondent-wife as per their array in O.P. No. 108 of 1997 on the file of the Court below.
5. The marriage of the petitioner with the respondent was solemnised on 18.5.1994 at Kinnera Kalyana Mandapam, Srikakulam as per the customs to which the parties belong. The marriage was consummated soon after. Just two weeks prior to the marriage, the petitioner was appointed as a District Munsif at Amalapuram and joined office on 4.5.1994. The petitioner put up his family at Amalapuram on 23.5.1994 along with the respondent. As the petitioner was to undergo training at Hyderabad, he took the respondent also along with him and they both lived in Hyderabad city till the completion of his training, upto 12.10.1994. After completion of training, the petitioner was posted in the old station i.e., Amalapuram and he joined as II Additional District Munsif in the month of October, 1994. The petitioner put up his family with the respondent at Amalapuram and led conjugal life.
6. Petitioner alleged that as the family of the respondent is financially affluent and as one of her brothers viz., Sri Suryanarayana was working as a Divisional Forest Officer, the respondent had developed to lead as affluent style of living. However, petitioner being a Judicial Officer in the lower rung of the judiciary, with his salary, has to maintain his parents and other family members. Though the petitioner and respondent lived happily at Hyderabad during the training period of the petitioner, but after returning to Amalapuram, according to the petitioner, troubles started then onwards. As per the advice of the family members of the respondent in particular, the father and brother of the respondent, the respondent started harassing the petitioner requiring him to look to new avenues which fetch him additional revenue. But the petitioner withstood the pressure exerted by the respondent. Petitioner further alleged that the temptation and greed for money are so much in the respondent that she became desperate and started pestering the petitioner to procure wealth by any means using his official capacity.
7. Petitioner claimed that the respondent not only started harassing the petitioner but made his life miserable and used-to pick up frequent quarrels and was creating nuisance. He further alleged that the respondent used to complain to other Judicial Officers on flimsy grounds and at times she used to abuse the petitioner in. vulgar language even in the presence of staff members working in their house. The respondent, according to the petitioner, used to leave the house without even informing him, go to her parents house and from there, she used to give a telephonic message requiring the petitioner to make amendments. Even the brother of the respondent Mr. Suryanarayana used to threaten the petitioner on telephone that if he failed to act on his advice, his career will be ruined. Petitioner claimed that the threats, conuct and behaviour of the wife became so horrible that it became impossible for him to tolerate and concentrate on his judicial work.
8. The frequent quarrels and leaving the house by the respondent frustrated the petitioner on account of which he was unable to concentrate on his judicial functioning. He made efforts through the elders and mediators in order to bring about a change in the attitude of the respondent. Though the respondent realised her mistake and pleaded excuse, however, she again after a week or ten days used to pick up quarrels with the petitioner. The petitioner alleged that the respondent left his house without informing him and thereafter on 23.3.1995 wrote a letter seeking condonation of her lepses. At times, the respondent used to threaten to commit suicide as the petitioner was not heeding to her advice. She had even threatened to approach the police to file cases against the petitioner for dowry harassment. As a result of these activities, the petitioner had suffered a great deal of mental agony and all these acts of the respondent amounted to mental cruelty.
9. Petitioner stated that not only he was subjected to mental cruelty but also to physical cruelty. He stated that the respondent indulged in disorderly behaviour and made an attempt on his life with the help of a household knife and tried to stab him. Petitioner has also stated that she threw chappals at him in the presence of his staff members as he could not satisfy her lust for money.
10. Petitioner alleged that the hatred of the respondent against him reached such heights that she lodged complaint in the police station with the active support of her parents and brother and a case in Crime No. 25 of 1995 was registered under Section 498-A of I.P.C. in Ponduru Police Station. Apart from police complaint, petitioner alleged that the respondent has also got issued derogatory press statements against him in Telugu dailies depicting him as “Nararoopa Rakshasudu”. The respondent made attempts to depict the petitioner as a villain and unfit to be a Judicial Officer and tried to tarnish his image at all places wherever he worked. Petitioner claimed that the respondent even complained to the High Court against him to take action against him and also filed a writ petition in the High Court to place him under suspension. The respondent permanently stayed in her parents house leaving the society of the petitioner from 3.5.1995 and thereafter she made all sorts of wild allegations against the petitioner in the press, in the Bar Associations wherever the petitioner worked. On account of these acts of the respondent, petitioner realised that there is no charm left in his matrimonial life with the respondent and as such filed the O.P. seeking a decree of divorce.
11. The respondent wife filed a counter, running into several pages, denying the allegations made by the petitioner-husband. She alleged that the petitioner demanded more money from her parents and some amounts were given to him. However, he grew miser and miser and in his hunger to extract more money, started harassing the respondent to get more money. Respondent alleged that the petitioner went to the extent of killing her with a knife and also threatened to set her ablaze by pouring kerosene if his demand for more money is not met. The respondent claimed that in order to cover up his misdeeds, the petitioner created a scene to show that the respondent is a quarrelsome lady. She further stated that the petitioner demanded two acres of land from out of ten acres of land which belonged to somebody else. The respondent stated that the petitioner even lodged a complaint against her brother and got a crime registered under Section 307 of I.P.C. as if his brother tried to kill him. She further claimed that the petitioner used his official position and harassed not only the respondent but also her parents and other family members. It is in this background, respondent claimed, that she approached the police station and lodged a complaint against the petitioner under Section 498-A of I.P.C. She further claimed that during the period of nine months stay at Amalapuram, the mother of the petitioner threatened to kill the respondent with a knife while demanding several household articles including VCR etc., from her. Petitioner also demanded the entire gold and Kisan Vikas Patras worth abouty Rs. 80,000/- be given to him. The respondent finally pleaded that huge amounts are paid to the petitioner in cash and kind worth about Rs. five lakhs and yet he is not satisfied and it is he who is responsible for this state of affairs. Petitioner, according to the respondent, has no explanation for beating and torturing her. The respondent ultimately prayed for dismissal of the petition filed by the petitioner.
12. To substantiate their respective averments, the petitioner examined himself as P.W. 1 and also examined P.Ws. 2 to 10 and got marked Exs. A1 to A-35; the respondent got herself examined as R.W. 1 and also examined R. Ws. 2 to 6. Exs. B-1 to B-12 were got marked on her behalf.
13. The Court below, on the basis of oral and documentary evidence adduced by both the parties, came to the conclusion that the conduct of the respondent-wife was such that she made the life of the petitioner miserable. The evidence adduced by the petitioner reflected the conduct and the acts of the respondent and her relatives who got false and derogatory statements published against the petitioner in newspapers, amounted to the acts of cruelty. The Court below further came to the conclusion that there is no likelihood of the petitioner and respondent settling down in marital life. By holding so, the Court below allowed O.P. No. 108 of 1997 filed by the petitioner, on 26.10.1998 granting a decree of divorce, against which the present appeal is filed by the wife.
14. At the outset, it is stated by Smt. D.S.R. Krishna, Counsel for the appellant-wife who is the respondent in O.P. No. 108 of 1997 that the petitioner being a Judicial Officer, has used his official capacity and influenced various authorities including the witnesses and as such an amount of judicial prejudice against the respondent-wife is seen from the impugned order of the Court below. Counsel submitted that the appellant-wife is an innocent lady of tender age whose marriage with the petitioner was performed in the year 1994. Counsel contended, the conduct of the petitioner who is a Judicial Officer, was such that it became highly impossible for the wife to tolerate his greed for money. Counsel further contended that the petitioner alone is responsible for this state of affairs as he tortured the respondent which has resulted in the respondent leaving the society of the petitioner unable to bear the harassment.
15. Learned Counsel also stated before us that the Court below has not appreciated the evidence in the right perspective and has erroneously held that the petitioner suffered cruelty at the hands of the respondent and, therefore, pleaded that the impugned order and decree of the Court below are liable to be set aside. Learned Counsel nextly pleaded that the respondent-wife is ready and willing to join the society of the petitioner-husband even at this point of time and the wife could be permitted to join the society of the husband for leading a marital life.
16. Learned Counsel for the petitioner-husband Mr. S.R. Sanku, on the contrary stated before us that the voluminous record placed before the Court by the petitioner-husband reflect the conduct of the wife who acted cruelly but now she is sought to be projected as a very sincere and dutiful wife. Learned Counsel has taken us through the entire evidence of P.Ws. 1 to 10 and also Exs. A-1 to A-35 through which the Counsel sought to convince us that the respondent has made the life of the petitioner miserable and has depicted him as a villain. Learned Counsel, therefore, submitted that the Court below has taken into consideration all aspects of the matter and has rightly came to the conclusion that the respondent has acted in a cruel manner with the petitioner and granted a decree of divorce. Counsel pleaded that the well-considered judgment of the Court below requires no interference.
17. As observed by us in the opening paragraph itself, so much hatred and animosity is seen in the averments, evidence and through other material, however, we do not think it appropriate to trace the same in this judgment. We only dwell on the important aspect as to whether there is an element of cruelty in the conduct of the respondent-wife which entitles the petitioner-husband to seek a decree of divorce.
18. At the cost of repetition, we may say that “A House is Built with Bricks and Stones But a Matrimonial Home is Built with Love and Affection”. In this case, the mud-slinging activity indulged in by both the parties has reached to such a point that the damage caused to their marital life is beyond repair.
19. The evidence of the petitioner-husband as P.W. 1 and also P.W. 2 who is also a Judicial Officer does give an indication that the respondent-wife was in the habit of creating problems and was harassing the petitioner. The evidence of P.W. 5 who is a Court staff working with the petitioner at the relevant point of time also throws light on the fact that the respondent was ill treating the petitioner. P.W. 10 the landlady in whose house the petitioner was residing, has deposed that she had noticed the petitioner and the respondent frequently indulging in quarrels and beating each other. The petitioner in his evidence as P.W. 1 has deposed that on 4.5.1995 in the early hours the respondent came out of his house and beat him with a chappal by abusing in filthy language and that he pushed the respondent on account of which she fell on the flower plant and received a small injury. The petitioner has also deposed that on 2.5.1995 the respondent sustained small injury on her palm when she tried to attack him with kitchen knife.
20. As is evident from the finding of the Court below, the petitioner had sent the respondent to her parents house on 4.5.1995 along with the house owner, (husband of P.W. 10) and Court Attender (P.W. 5). From then onwards, both the petitioner and the respondent have been staying separately. It is also evident that on the basis of the complaints sent by the respondent against the petitioner-husband to the High Court, the High Court directed the Principal District judge, East Godavari at Rajahmundry to hold an enquiry and submit his report. The Principal District Judge accordingly held an enquiry and sent a report to the High Court observing that the allegations levelled by the respondent against the petitioner are ill-founded inasmuch as the respondent herself was causing trouble and harassing the petitioner. It is the specific case of the petitioner that the respondent not only was creating problems in the house but also making it impossible for him to concentrate on judicial work and systematically carrying out malicious propaganda against him through the press by making derogatory press statements depicting him as a villain. This allegation of the petitioner is amply proved through Exs. A-23 to A-26 which are marked on behalf of the petitioner. A reading of Exs. A-23 to A-26, newspaper reports in Telugu dailies, it is evident that the respondent wife has made those statements projecting the petitioner as a man hungry for dowry and in that direction he harassed her and even went to the extent of killing her. The statements made by her, which appeared in newspapers, undoubtedly have tarnished the image of the petitioner as a Judicial Officer and also show him in poor esteem. Though the respondent pleaded that she is not responsible for those news items Exs. A-23 to A-26, the petitioner examined P.Ws. 6 to 9 who are news reporters of the respective newspapers, who admitted that those news items were published at the behest of the respondent and her relatives. This fact amply proves that the respondent was bent upon creating all sorts of problems to the petitioner making his life miserable.
21. Adding insult to injury, one more aspect which has been found by us in the counter filed by the respondent, she has categorically mentioned that the petitioner had developed illicit intimacy with a lady Attender namely Chinnamma. When such a serious allegation is made, the respondent had to prove the same. Incidentally, though the respondent mentioned this aspect in her counter, neither she spoke about the same in her evidence nor any witnesses examined on her behalf said anything on this aspect. Therefore, this allegation, in our view, is a most unfounded allegation made against the petitioner by the respondent which is not found to be true.
22. Courts have held that cruelty could either be physical or mental. Petitioner is a Judicial Officer and he is expected to lead a disciplined life. He has been pleading that his wife with the connivance of her family members, in particular, with the aid of her brother who is an influential Forest Officer, has been insisting hi m to improve his financial position by any means, which is not to the liking of the petitioner. This is the root cause of the trouble between the parties. The brother of the respondent played an active role in this regard as is found through the evidence and he tried to use all methods to make the petitioner fall in his line of thinking to make illegal money. Towards that direction, he provoked his sister (respondent) against her husband as a result, the happiness in the married life of the petitioner and the respondent is short-lived.
23. Even without regard to the other allegations made by the petitioner to prove that his respondent-wife is cruel towards him, the statements Exs. A-23 to A-26 appeared in newspapers depicting the petitioner as a villain, which were issued at the behest of the respondent and her relatives as spoken to by P.Ws. 6 to 9, are sufficient to say that this act of the respondent which has got the potential of damaging the reputation and esteem of the petitioner, is very cruel than any other act. After all, the petitioner is working as a Judicial Officer whose duty is to decide the cases impartially. If the respondent who is the wife of the petitioner indulges in character assassination depicting him to be a person of dishonest and greedy, people may lose faith in him and stare at him with suspicion which ultimately tend to lower the prestige of the entire system.
24. Though the respondent-wife in her counter levelled a serious allegation against the petitioner that he was having illicit intimacy with a lady Attender Chinnamma, neither she deposed anything on this aspect nor any of her witnesses spoke about it. Courts have held that unfounded allegations when made by a spouse against the other spouse and such allegations are not proved, the other spouse against whom such allegations are made, is entitled to seek divorce on that ground alone. As discussed earlier, the respondent-wife has not spoken anything about the alleged illicit intimacy of the petitioner with one lady Attender Chinnamma, which she alleged in the Counter. When the respondent-wife failed to substantiate the same, this unfounded allegation has the element of character assassination of the petitioner and on his ground also, the petitioner is entitled to seek divorce.
25. We, therefore, say that the above two incidents which are brought on record, are sufficient for the petitioner to seek divorce from the respondent as these acts amount to cruelty. Though the petitioner has deposed that his wife threw chappals at him in the presence of Court staff, we do not propose to advert to this aspect as we find sufficient material facets of cruelty against the petitioner indulged in by the respondent, entitling him to seek a decree of divorce.
26. Though the learned Counsel for the respondent-wife pleaded before us that the wife is prepared to join the society of the petitioner-husband and would lead a marital life with him and prayed to set aside the impugned order and decree of the Court below, we do not think such a request could be accepted in a case of this nature where the behaviour of the respondent-wife is such that it is impossible for the petitioner-husband to share the marital life with her. Even in her evidence as R.W. 1, the respondent has admitted that she gave police complaints against the petitioner, and sent petitions against him to the High Court only with a view to create problems to the petitioner. This is a finding of fact by the Court below which shows that the respondent-wife is bent upon wreaking vengeance against the petitioner. The cumulative effect of these acts make it clear that the marital relationship of the parties has irretrievably broken down and there is no possibility to repair the damage already caused. When a matrimonial home collapses beyond repair, it cannot be rebuilt and the wounds cannot be healed unlike other physical wounds. Therefore, it is difficult for us in this background, to accept the request made on behalf of the respondent-wife that a chance be given to the wife to lead a marital life with the petitioner.
27. Though the petitioner has sought divorce on the grounds of cruelty as well as insanity under Sections 13(1)(ia) and 13(1)(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, in the absence of proper evidence, the ground of insanity pleaded by the petitioner is unacceptable to us. We are, however, satisfied that the petitioner has been amply justified in seeking divorce on the ground of cruelty.
28. For all the foregoing reasons, we dismiss this appeal and confirm the order and decree dated 26.10.1998 passed in O.P. No. 108 of 1997 by the Court below.
29. The appellant-wife has filed a petition under Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act seeking permanent alimony, in the event her appeal C.M. A. No. 3073 of 1998 is dismissed, of Rs. 10,00,000/- apart from return of ornaments and gold jewellery presented to her. The husband filed a counter admitting the fact of Rs 50,000/- being kept in joint account in State Bank of Hyderabad, Amalapuram and out of this amount certain household articles were purchased. The husband has also admitted that an amount of Rs. 48,000/- was kept in post office in the name of the wife and she is getting interest from the same and she is entitled for the said amount. The husband further admitted that the Kisan Vikas Patra of Rs. 50,000/- which has now doubled to one lakh rupees and which are kept in locker No. 60 in the name of the respondent in Indian Overseas Bank, Amalapuram, could also be given to her. The petitioner has also admitted that a Hero Honda motor cycle has been presented to him and he expressed his desire to return it to the father of the respondent.
30. It is needless to mention that the husband shall return the articles which were given to him as gifts by his parents-in-law at the time of the marriage. Likewise, the gold ornaments received by the wife at the time of marriage from the husband, she shall return the same to the husband. The petitioner-husband in his counter has stated that he is willing to return the items mentioned in column No. 1 in the petition. He has also stated that the respondent is at liberty to retain the amounts mentioned in column Nos. 2 and 3 of the petition. Since the petitioner-husband has volunteered to return the articles which belong to the respondent, he shall return all the items which belong to the respondent.
31. The respondent-wife has sought an amount of ten lakhs rupees towards permanent alimony from the petitioner. The petitioner is a Judicial Officer working in the lower rung of the judiciary as a District Munsif having been appointed in the year 1994. Taking into consideration the gross salary and carry-home salary of the petitioner, his middle class background and his obligation to maintain his parents and other dependents, we direct that an amount of Rs. 1,50,000/- (one lakh fifty thousands only) be paid to the respondent-wife towards permanent alimony by the petitioner-husband. This amount shall be paid to the respondent within a period of six months from today, in the form of a Bank Draft obtained in the name of the respondent under acknowledgement. Till such payment is made towards permanent alimony, the petitioner-husband shall pay an amount of Rs. 1,500/- (fifteen hundred only) per month to the respondent by way of Money Order before fifth day of every month. No costs.