Special Correspondent

Bench takes note of "baseless allegations" made by petitioner's wife

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has granted the divorce plea of a man, after finding merit in his submission that he and his kin suffered mental and physical cruelty at the hands his second wife.

A Division Bench comprising Justice R. Balasubramanian and Justice V. Dhanapalan passed the order after concluding that the "baseless allegations" made by the petitioner's wife, and the subsequent inquiry by the police, did "certainly constitute mental cruelty."

The petitioner, A. Viswanathan (72), said he married Shantha in 1961. The marriage lasted for over 30 years. The couple adopted a boy in November 1978. After her death, he married G. Lakshmi in August 1992.

Change in attitude

Claiming that Ms. Lakshmi's attitude towards himself, his aged mother and his adopted son changed from 1995 onwards, Mr. Viswanathan moved the Family Court for divorce. In April 1997, the Family Court rejected his plea saying he had not mentioned specific instances of cruelty by Ms. Lakshmi. As for his reference that she was a twice-divorced woman, the court said the earlier divorces were justified. Mr. Viswanathan submitted that Ms. Lakshmi had subjected him, his mother and son to constant harassment and torture. She had also lodged numerous police complaints. There was a threat of arrest. The relationship between him and his wife was damaged beyond redemption and the marriage, irretrievably broken.

Counsel for Ms. Lakshmi said the Family Court had given cogent and convincing findings observing that the acts of cruelty had not been specifically mentioned and that no specific instance had been described. The court had observed that from previous divorces she had not claimed any money and, therefore, she was not after money.

Writing the judgment for the Bench, Mr. Justice Dhanapalan pointed out that the 1976 amendment to the Hindu Marriages Act had made cruelty a ground for divorce.

Deposition of neighbours

Referring to the deposition of neighbours and a family friend of Mr. Viswanathan, the Bench said: "Unfounded and baseless allegations made by Ms. Lakshmi, time and again, do constitute an act of mental cruelty." The Bench said Ms. Lakshmi's allegation that Mr. Viswanathan's adopted son tried to misbehave with her was unfounded. "It can be clearly seen that the acts of cruelty had become routine day-to-day affairs, and not an isolated affair, since 1995, and were not restricted to isolated instances."

Greed to blame

The Bench said Ms. Lakshmi's challenge to the adoption of the boy and the settlement deed executed in his favour, besides her interest in the fixed deposits of Mr. Viswanathan, made it clear that her greed was behind her acts of inflicting mental and physical torture. Pointing out that the couple was living separately for over a decade, the Bench said it was not possible to reconcile and compromise. It then quashed the Family Court order.