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Cruelty as Ground of Divorce

This paper deals with the topic of Cruelty as a ground for divorce. The title itself explicitly tells about the main point of the paper that it will tell about the aspects of the grounds of the divorce. Then, it will explain about the Meaning of cruelty and the legal provisions related to it. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is the act that explains about the aspects of the Divorce. Then, it will deal with the other legal provisions related to the above said topic. It will also explain the given topic with the related case laws.

Objective and Scope of Study:
The main objective of this paper is to explain about the topic of the Cruelty as a ground for Divorce. It critically examines the topic with the related legal provisions and acts. The Scope of this study is that it will deal with only the Cruelty as a ground for Divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act,1955 only. It won;t discuss about the other grounds of the Divorce other than the cruelty.

Research Methodology:
The study is doctrinal in nature and analytical in approach. OSCOLA 2012 is used as the style of citation throughout. The study is based in various articles, online sources, acts etc.

Matrimonial matters are delicate matters, and they are related to human emotions. It demands human trust, emotion, respect, love and affection. Marital conduct has now been administered by the statutes and acts, keeping the social norms and changing social order in view. Divorce, in general, means breakage of the marriage with the help of law, so that it means the one can leave the other and become free from marital duties. This paper will provide the details about the grounds for divorce, in particular reference to the Cruelty case, how Indian Hindu Law gives legal breakup to this, and its consequences.

Review of Literature:
  1. Cruelty- as a ground for Divorce by Gadhre: In this article, the author aimed to discuss about the topi of the Cruelty as a ground for Divorce. The author started the study by telling the meaning and the historical position of the cruelty. Then, he discussed about the legal provisions and types of the cruelty. After that, he discussed about some case laws related to the study. Then at last, he concluded by telling that the cruelty is a good area for the divorce and it is still evolving till now.
  2. Cruelty as a ground for Divorce by Diva Rai: In this article, the author dealt with the topic of the Cruelty as a ground for Divorce. The author started with the introduction and meaning of the cruelty. Then, he discussed about the kinds of cruelty, other legal provisions like under the Section 498A of Indian Penal Code related to the cruelty. And then, he analyzed on the topic of how cruelty was established as a ground of divorce in India, with special reference to case laws. Then, he concluded that if people want to get the divorce under any grounds fall under the aspect of cruelty, then we need to consult a able lawyer or have a better approach over the legal statutes.

What is Cruelty?

Mere trivial irritations and quarrels between spouses, which happen in day-to-day life, may not be cruel. Cruelty in married life may be nay type, which is subtle or brutal; it may be of words, gestures, or by mere silence or violent acts etc. The actions which annoy each other will not amount to cruelty in every matrimonial conduct.

Cruelty refers to violent acts. Any act or conduct that amount to cruelty should be grave and severe. Physical violence and mental illness to either the spouse also come under cruelty. The behaviour should be 'grave and weighty' to conclude that the spouse cannot be reasonably expected to live with the other spouse. It must be more than the ordinary situations, and the conduct taking into consideration conclude that a person reasonably cannot live with other spouses.

Conduct has been examined by several factors such as parties' social status, education, physical and mental conditions, customs, and traditions. It is tough to define the term of cruelty, which will constitute a detailed description. Physical violence is not essential to include the cruelty, and also the mental agony and torture also constitute cruelty. Mental cruelty consists of verbal abuses, insulting with filthy language and continuous disturbance of the mental peace of the other party.

Historical Position:
Hindu marriage is a very holy sacrament on the life of the Hindu with other sacraments, which are essential for the complete life. Marriage is the correct way for males and females to lead their lives as a husband and wife are considered one in law. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 deals with all matters of Marriage, and it governs all the aspects and situations related to Hindu marriages.4

Grounds of Divorce:

The secular nature of the Indian Judicial system has created various laws regarding personal laws based on the different religious faiths. Hindus, Christians, and Muslims are governed under separated marriage acts and grounds for divorce in India.

Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 19555 deals with the Grounds of divorce; they are:
  1. Adultery:
    Adultery means the act of indulging in any sexual relationship outside marriage is termed adultery. A single act of adultery is enough for the petitioner to get the divorce.
  2. Cruelty:
    A spouse can file for divorce under cruelty when subjected to any mental or physical injury that causes danger to life and health. Series of acts done by either spouse like abusing or ill-treating include cruelty.
  3. Desertion:
    If one spouse leaves their partner for at least two years, the abandoned spouse can file a divorce case on the ground of desertion.
  4. Conversion:
    If either of the two converts into another religion, the other spouse can file for the divorce case based on this ground.
  5. Mental Disorder:
    Mental disorder can become a ground for divorce if the spouse suffers from mental illness and insanity and therefore cannot be expected to stay together.
  6. Leprosy:
    In case of 'virulent and incurable form of leprosy, a spouse can file for the divorce.
  7. Renunciation:
    A spouse is entitled to divorce if the other renounces all affairs by releasing from the entire religious order.

Cruelty as a ground for Divorce:

The day-to-day life and situations in the marital life create an ambiguity within the couples to lead their lives with each other happily. There is no exhaustive definition for cruelty that cover all the aspects of cruelty. But, by going through a case of marital abuse happening in the society, we can conclude some conditions such as:
  1. Physical violence on the spouse.
  2. Having affairs or committing adultery with not just spouse' knowledge, but even publicly accepting it.
  3. In cases where either of the partners is falsely accused of committing adultery.
  4. Constantly abusing or yelling at spouse, and agony, rage against each other.
  5. Restricting the spouse by being an independent individual and compelling the spouse to be in a marital relationship.
  6. Not disclosing any sexually transmitted diseases while they are actually in marital life, and the list goes on.

The act or conduct of either spouse should fall under the ambit of the cruelty under the Matrimonial law. The courts need to look after all the background information and circumstances because of which the couple need to be separated. The court needs to see the reason for the deterioration of the marriage.

Divorce, in general terms, means the dissolution of the marriage. One can go for divorce when they want to live apart from each other and be free from the existing relationship.

Legal Provisions:
The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 gives the legal provision for divorce based on the cruelty under section 13(1)(a) as follows, "Any marriage solemnized, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, may, on a petition presented by either the husband or the wife, be dissolved by a decree of divorce on the ground that the other party has, after the solemnization of the marriage, treated the petitioner with cruelty". This section means that the spouse can get a divorce, who is getting suffered from the other party in physical and mental torture or any other type of harassment, then the other party can reach court and get the divorce under cruelty.

Cruelty in the eyes of the Court:

There are various grounds in the cruelty, and there are also types of cruelty identified from the multiple judgments. This can be dealt with under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

The main points of this section are:
  • It is sufficient that the cruelty is of such type that spouses can't live with each other,
  • Mental cruelty means that the one spouse alleged illicit relations with the different persons outside wedlock,
  • If the husband asks his wife to stay away from him because he does not like her company, she should stay with other family members in a matrimonial home. Such an attitude also comes under cruelty on the part of the husband,
  • Social torture by any one of the spouses, found to be as the mental torture and cruelty,
  • A spouse can cause mental harm when the other spouse levels an allegation that the petitioner is a mental health condition or requires expert psychological treatment to restore his mental health.
So, these are various forms of cruelty given by courts in different cases.

Kinds of Cruelty:

  1. Physical Cruelty: Any Physical harm, bodily injuries, the threat to limb, health causing apprehension in the spouse's mind to constitute physical cruelty. Establishing physical cruelty as a ground for divorce is not much of a big task because it is the most common reason for divorce. It is about the Physical Cruelty.
  2. Mental Cruelty: Mental cruelty has some weightage compared with physical cruelty. The burden of proving the mental cruelty is much more difficult to the spouse than the physical cruelty. Mental cruelty means the spouse is continuously suffering from mental agony, and she has to compromise her mental peace, and it is apart from the physical harm. Mental strain can happen in various ways, so there are no specific criteria that could amount to mental cruelty.

Other Provisions under the law:

Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, deals with cruelty against the wife by her husband or his relatives.

The essential ingredients of this section are:
  1. The woman must be legally married to her husband,
  2. The woman is subjected to some cruelty or abuse,
  3. Such cruelty must be done by her husband himself or the relatives of the husband (include husband's parents, brothers and sisters).
  4. However, if the husband commits the crime of cruelty, then he is liable for the punishment of imprisonment for up to three years along with a fine.
The explanation to section 498A explains what amounts to cruelty:
  1. A willful conduct that is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or cause any grave injury or danger to the woman's life, limb, or mental or physical health.
  2. Harassment of a woman to coerce her or her relatives to meet unlawful demand for any property or valuable.

Related case laws:
  1. Reema Aggarwal v. Anupam and Ors:
    In the case of Reema Aggarwal v. Anupam and Ors, Reema was harassed by her husband Anupam, mother-in-law, brother-in-law and father-in-law for not getting the dowry. They forced Reema to put an acidic and poisonous substance in her mouth to die. Then, she was rushed to the hospital. The court held that the husband of the second wife who marries her during the subsistence of earlier legal marriage is not the husband within the meaning of section 498A because it was the second marriage of both Reema and Anupam; hence, the second wife cannot invoke this section. So, the respondents have acquitted of the charged offences under the above section.

    Section 13(1)(a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 talks about the behaviour of one spouse towards the other which results in a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the latter that it is not safe to stay or continue to live in that marital relationship anymore with the other.
  2. Mayadevi v. Jagdish Prasad:
    In the case of Mayadevi v. Jagdish Prasad, the Supreme Court held that any cruelty faced by either of the spouses, not just only women but men, can apply for divorce under the ground of cruelty. In this case, the respondent filed an application for divorce under cruelty by his wife, and as alleged by the husband, the wife did not provide him food to him and his children and blamed the husband and his family instead. Hence, a man is also entitled to divorce if inflicted with any cruelty.
Cruelty can be physical and Mental depending upon the circumstances and many other factors such as education and social background. The main point that amounts to all the acts is to safeguard the women's dignity in her matrimonial relationship. Marital relationships between the wife and husband with her husband and her husbands family members and their daily interactions determine the cruelty.

At last, we can conclude that anybody can reach the court for the divorce under the ground of cruelty, but the mere facts of that case will decide the case. The court can extend or summarize the meaning and scope of cruelty according to their interpretations, but within the ambit of law and without being prejudiced.


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