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Is Mental Cruelty a ground for divorce?

Is Mental Cruelty a ground for divorce?

It is easy to know or interpret whether a victim has undergone physical cruelty or not. But the wound of mental cruelty could not be seen through naked eyes easily as it is always next to impossible to read the mind of the person. Most of the time it happens that the victim who undergo mental cruelty unwillingly live with the other party as he/she finds it difficult to prove mental cruelty before the court of which he/she is subjected to.

In reality it has much deeper impact on the lives of victim than physical cruelty but seems to be much neglected one.

In this article I will talk about mental cruelty, who all can avail the ground of mental cruelty for seeking divorce, ways and means to prove mental cruelty, can denial to have sexual intercourse also constitute mental cruelty.

What is mental cruelty?

The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (HMA) has specified certain grounds required for the plea of divorce. Cruelty as a ground for divorce was inserted after a Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976. It states that decree of divorce can be obtained by the either spouse if one spouse has treated the other with cruelty.

However, the word cruelty has not been defined anywhere in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 yet as it is next to impossible to give one precise definition.

Mental cruelty is a course of conduct on the part of one spouse which can endanger the mental health and cause apprehension in the mind of the other spouse to such an extent as to be injurious for him or her to further continue marital relation.

What all are considered as mental cruelty?

It is a subjective matter and usually depends on one's capability to tolerate such situation and carry on their relationship. Therefore, categories of mental cruelty are not closed. New categories arise in each case. Judicial interpretation plays a significant role. It is dealt according to the circumstances of that particular case. The Supreme Court in the case of Samar Ghosh v. Jaya Ghosh, 2007 has listed down certain illustrations of mental cruelty.

Few of them are listed below:

  • Severe mental pain, disappointment, frustration making it impossible for the other party to further continue matrimonial relationship would constitute mental cruelty.
  • The appellant must be subjected to mental cruelty continuously for a longer period.
  • The behavior of other spouse must cause apprehension in the mind of appellant. It must be grave and weighty
  • Mere annoyance doesn't constitute cruelty.
  • Abortion without the consent of appellant and sterilization without any medical reason may also constitute mental cruelty
  • Denial to have sexual intercourse after marriage for a considerable period even with the physical capacity to have sexual intercourse amounts to mental cruelty.
  • Separation for long considerably longer period
This is not an exhaustive list. The courts in a series of judgments have given different definition and added various categories of mental cruelty depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case. Demand for dowry, act affecting reputation of either party or also making unfounded allegations constitute mental cruelty.

Who can seek for divorce on the ground of cruelty?

Either of the spouses can seek the decree of divorce on the ground of cruelty that is to say the ground is available for both husband and wife and both can file a case against the other.

Divorce case is dealt in which court?

Generally, divorce petition is filed in the district court or family court where either of the partners resides. Later, the party not satisfied with the verdict of the family court can file appeal petition in the High Court and then in the Supreme Court if necessary.

What does an individual need to prove to get a decree of divorce on the ground of mental cruelty?

Cruelty is usually seen from the eyes of reasonable person after considering the temperament and ability to endure the acts and behavior of other. The appellant must present evidences of such a nature that corroborates the allegation placed. As usual for any divorce petition one needs to prove that he or she cannot live with other spouse any further.
  • The per-requisite of fault theory is to show that the other party (appellant) is totally innocent.
  • The appellant needs to prove further continuance of matrimonial relationship is harmful for the mental health along with the physical health of the appellant.
The party seeking divorce on the ground of cruelty can submit audio, video or written evidences. One can also back their allegation by presenting eye-witnesses before the court.

Important points to remember
  • Intention of the other party is immaterial:
    Despite no intention to cause cruelty if the act caused mental cruelty on the other spouse, the aggrieved party can file divorce petition and decree of divorce can be granted.
  • Wife working against the will of her husband does not amount to cruelty.
Written By: Prerna Prasad
For more information feel free to mail at: [email protected]

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