Divorce Case: Mrs. Christine Lazarus Menezes v. Mr. Lazarus Peter Menezes

 A case of Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage and mental cruelty by wife in the form of false allegations against the husband


The husband and wife were married as per Christian rites on 28/12/1987. They had two daughters. In 2005, husband filed a petition for divorce on the grounds of cruelty and desertion.

He said that the wife had falsely accused him of having illicit relationship with one Beryl who was staying in his parents’ building and with the maid servant. She further accused him of having relationship with his maternal uncle’s daughter and she also went to the extent of accusing him of sleeping with their younger daughter.

Wife also filed an FIR against the husband under Section 498A (husband or relative of husband subjecting her to cruelty) and Section 406 (criminal breach of trust) of IPC.

In the FIR, she accused her husband of stealing her gold ornaments and demanding Rs. 2 lakhs from her to buy a car.

Family Court’s Order:

After examining the evidence, the Family Court passed an order granting them divorce. It said The marriage between the Petitioner-Lazarus Peter Menezes and the respondent-Christine Lazarus Menazes solemnized on 28-12-1987 is hereby dissolved by a decree of dissolution of marriage.’

‘As regards the claim of maintenance of the Petitioner is concerned, it is rejected. The Respondent shall pay Rs.1,000/- per month to each of the daughters payable from the date of this order.’

The prayer of maintenance to the wife was rejected.

Appeal before Bombay High Court:

Therefore, this Family Court Appeal and Civil Revision Application is filed by the wife challenging the family court Judgement dated 26 May 2008 before the Bombay High Court.

The High Court first dealt with the issue of ‘cruelty’ with the help of various case laws as cruelty is not defined in the Divorce Act, 1869. The court made reference to Samar Ghosh v. Jaya Ghosh, wherein the Apex Court held that human mind is so complex and the concept of cruelty is subjective, so much so that it is impossible to define or have a strait-jacket formula about what cruelty entails.

However, it laid down certain illustrative instances that could be considered as cruelty. However, these are not exhaustive. Some of the instances are:

  • acute mental pain, agony or suffering making it impossible for the parties to live with each other.
  • Frequent rudeness of language, petulance of behaviour, indifference and neglect to a degree that makes it intolerable for the spouse.
  • Behaviour that wronged party cannot be reasonably expect to put up with.

There are various other instances listed down by the court.

The court also referred to K.Srinivas Rao v. D.A. Deepa and Naveen Kohli’s Case wherein Supreme Court had held that even though irretrievable breakdown of marriage is not a ground for divorce under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the courts have considered it where the marriage is beyond repair due to bitterness created by either spouse or both.

In Naveen Kohli’s case, the couple had been living separately for 10 years and a large number of criminal proceedings were initiated by the wife against the husband, wherein the court ordered that the marriage had been wrecked beyond hope and recommended irretrievable breakdown of marriage to be added as a ground for divorce.

Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage as a ground for divorce has been extensively discussed on Legal Parley in this previous post.

Besides, the wife in this case admitted that she filed the criminal complaint to bring back her husband to their house. She also admitted that her relationship with her husband’s family was cordial until she filed the criminal complaint. She also did not deny her husband’s statement that she had come under the influence of her friends and got her husband arrested by the Goa Police. It was due to these reasons that the Family Court had recorded that the complaint filed by the wife was false, which was sufficient to grant decree of dissolution of marriage to husband on the ground of cruelty.

Further, during cross examination she also deposed that her allegations against her husband having illicit relationships were false. The three witnesses that the wife had produced in support of her case also went back on their words stating that they had not really seen the husband being involved in any sort of inappropriate behaviour as previously claimed or never seen him torture the wife in any manner.

High Court’s Decision:

Therefore, the court held that the wife was unable to substantiate her allegations.

However, the couple has been living separately for 12 years and the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The court was also of the opinion that the husband was subject to mental cruelty owing to the wife’s false allegations which is a ground for divorce under Section 10(1)(x) of Divorce Act, 1869 as ground of cruelty.

Hence, the divorce was granted and the Order of the Family Court was partly upheld as the Divorce was granted only on the ground of cruelty and not desertion as in order to constitute desertion, the husband had to be deserted for at least two years. In this case, the husband was thrown out of the matrimonial house in 2004 and the case for divorce was filed in 2005.

The court also upheld that the wife is not entitled to maintenance as she has own source of income from the matrimonial house at Bandra and she is exclusively occupying the flat at Thane that belongs to her husband. With regard to maintenance to daughters, the court held that they are not entitled to the same as they have both attained majority.

Picture Courtesy: The Blue Diamond Gallery


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