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Published : September 16, 2015 | Author : gadhre
Category : family law | Total Views : 26538 | Rating :

Avinash Gadhre Administrative Officer Legal, National Insurance Co. Ltd.

Cruelty - as a ground for Divorce

Matrimonial matters are matters of delicate human and emotional relationship. It demands mutual trust, regard, respect, love and affection with sufficient play for reasonable adjustments with the spouse. The relationship has to conform to the social norms as well. The matrimonial conduct has now come to be governed by statute framed, keeping in view such norms and changed social order.

Divorce in general means the breakage or dissolution of marriage with the help of law, so that one can leave his or her spouse and become free from marital duties with some exceptions.

In this project I am going to deal with various aspects which are relevant for making any divorce but go in detail with one basis i.e. cruelty, that how Indian Hindu Law provide legal backup for this and what would be the consequences related to it. I will go with certain points like the legal provisions and basis for divorce under Hindu Law, some cases which will help us to understand the topic correctly. On basis of this I am going to form the conclusion and some opinions on basis of personal experiences in the H.C. during my internship that I have seen when judges were dealing with different divorce cases. I put a small bibliography also, from where I have taken help for my project report.

What Is Cruelty:

Every matrimonial conduct, which may cause annoyance to the other, may not amount to cruelty. Mere trivial irritations, quarrels between spouses, which happen in day-to-day married life, may also not amount to cruelty. Cruelty in matrimonial life may be of unfounded variety, which can be subtle or brutal. It may be words, gestures or by mere silence, violent or non-violent.

To constitute cruelty, the conduct complained of should be "grave and weighty" so as to come to the conclusion that the petitioner spouse cannot be reasonably expected to live with the other spouse. It must be something more serious than "ordinary wear and tear of married life". The conduct taking into consideration the circumstances and background has to be examined to reach the conclusion whether the conduct complained of amounts to cruelty in the matrimonial law. Conduct has to be considered, as noted above, in the background of several factors such as social status of parties, their education, physical and mental conditions, customs and traditions. It is difficult to lay down a precise definition or to give exhaustive description of the circumstances, which would constitute cruelty. It must be of the type as to satisfy the conscience of the Court that the relationship between the parties had deteriorated to such extent due to the conduct of the other spouse that it would be impossible for them to live together without mental agony, torture or distress, to entitle the complaining spouse to secure divorce. Physical violence is not absolutely essential to constitute cruelty and a consistent course of conduct inflicting immeasurable mental agony and torture may well constitute cruelty. Mental cruelty may consist of verbal abuses and insults by using filthy and abusive language leading to constant disturbance of mental peace of the other party.

Historical Position:

Hindu marriage is a holy sacrament in the life of a Hindu with other various sacraments, which are known as important for the complete life. Marriage is the valid way for male and female to live together and perform their duties and husband-wife are considered to be one in law. In 1869 the Indian Divorce Act was passed but it had remained in applicable to the Hindus and after the Independence on 18th may 1955 The Hindu Marriage Act has been passes which governs all the matters and situations related to Hindu marriages.

Impact of Physical and Mental Cruelty in Matrimonial Matters;

Prior to the 1976 amendment in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 cruelty was not a ground for claiming divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act. It was only a ground for claiming judicial separation under Section 10 of the Act. By 1976 Amendment, the Cruelty was made ground for divorce. The words, which have been incorporated, are "as to cause a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the petitioner that it will be harmful or injurious for the petitioner to live with the other party".

Legal Provisions:

The Hindu Marriage Act-1955 has given the legal provision for divorce on basis of cruelty under section – 13(1)(ia) 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”.

On basis of this section we can explain this legal basis for the divorce as anybody who is getting suffer from the other party in physical manner or a mental torture or any other type of harassment then the other can reach to the court with this base and claim for the divorce. And there are various cases where courts held that the intention to be cruel is not an essential element of cruelty as envisaged under this section.

Other Grounds For Divorce:

Apart from the cruelty there are several other bases for divorce on which one can claim divorce and some of those are as follows;
Entering new religion
Unsoundness of mind etc.

There are certain grounds, which are provided by law specially to the women;
Husband having more than one wife living
Marriage before attainment of fifteen years
Consent obtained by force etc.

So on these above grounds men and women can claim for decree of divorce in front of the law.

Cruelty In Eyes Of The Court:

There are various grounds for claim on basis of cruelty and types of cruelty, which are identified by the courts in their various judgements, and the courts provide a legal backup for the sufferer in this sense. They have given following explanation within the scope of cruelty under section 13(1)(ia);

· It is sufficient that if the cruelty is of such type that it becomes impossible for spouses to live together,

· The leveling of false allegation by one spouse about the other having alleged illicit relations with different persons outside wedlock amounted to mental cruelty,

· A husband cannot ask his wife that he does not like her company, but she can or should stay with other members of the family in matrimonial home. Such an attitude is cruelty in itself on the part of the husband,

· Social torture by anyone of the spouses to the other, found to be as the mental torture and cruelty.

· If the intention to harm, harass or hurt could be inferred by the nature of the conduct or brutal act complained of, cruelty could be easily established. But the absence of intention should not make any difference in the case. The cruel treatment may also result from the cultural conflict between the parties.

· A party can cause mental cruelty when the other spouse levels an allegation that the petitioner is a mental patient, or that he requires expert psychological treatment to restore his mental health.

There are various other forms of cruelty given by courts in different cases.

Case Laws:

Naveen Kohli Vs. Neelu Kohli [AIR 2004 All 1]


The appellant, Naveen Kohli got married to Neelu Kohli on 20.11.1975. Three sons were born out of the wedlock of the parties.

According to the appellant, the respondent is bad tempered and a woman of rude behaviour. After marriage, she started quarrelling and misbehaving with the appellant and his parents and ultimately, the appellant was compelled to leave the parental residence and started to reside in a rented premises from May 1994.

The appellant alleged that in the month of May 1994, when he along with the respondent and their children visited Bombay to attend the golden jubilee marriage anniversary of his father-in-law, he noticed that the respondent was indulging in an indecent manner and found her in a compromising position with one Biswas Rout. Immediately thereafter, the appellant started living separately from the respondent since May 1994. The appellant suffered intense physical and mental torture.

According to the appellant, the respondent had withdrawn Rs. 9,50,000/- from the Bank Account of the appellant and deposited the same in her account. The appellant alleged that the respondent got a false first information report registered against him under Sections 420/467/468 and 471 IPC, which was registered as Case No. 156 of 1995. According to him, the respondent again got a case under Sections 323/324 I.P.C. registered in the police station Panki, Kanpur City and efforts were made to get the appellant arrested.

Husband field for divorce on grounds of ‘cruelty’, Trial Court recorded specific finding about wife harassing and torturing husband, mentally, physically and financially. Decree of dissolution of marriage passed by Trial Court marriage under Section 13, Hindu Marriage Act.

Wife appealed in High Court and HC held evidence on record not properly appreciated by Trial Court. A finding that husband immorally cohabited with another lady recorded by the High Court. On that ground held, that it amounted to misconduct and was uncondonable for the purpose of Section 13(1)(a) of the Hindu Marriage Act and suit for divorce dismissed.
Hence, the husband is appealing in SC for the decree of divorce.


From the analysis and evaluation of the entire evidence, it is clear that the respondent has resolved to live in agony only to make life a miserable hell for the appellant as well. This type of adamant and callous attitude, in the context of the facts of this case, leaves no manner of doubt in our mind that the respondent is bent upon treating the appellant with mental cruelty.

The respondent against the appellant has filed number of cases including criminal complaints and every effort has been made to harass and torture him and even to put the appellant behind the bars by the respondent.

SC held that the word "cruelty" is used in Section 13(1)(i)(a) of the Act in the context of human conduct or behavior in relation to or in respect of matrimonial duties or obligations. Physical violence is not absolutely essential to constitute cruelty. A consistent course of conduct inflicting immeasurable mental agony and torture may constitute cruelty. Mental cruelty may consist of verbal abuses and insults by using filthy and abusive language leading to constant disturbance of mental peace of the other party. Hence SC set aside the judgment of the High Court and directs that the marriage between the parties should be dissolved according to the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

Yudhishthir Singh Vs. Smt. Sarita [AIR 2002 Raj. 382]

The marriage between the appellant-Yudhishter Singh and Sarita was solemnised on 9-12-1990 at Jodhpur.

After one year of the marriage, i.e. on 13-4-1992, Sarita had to file an application for restitution of conjugal rights in the Family Court at Jodhpur.

She averred that her husband, who was posted as Junior Engineer at Village Gotan was depriving her the company. She was kept at the ancestral house at Mandore instead at Gotan. He used to visit on weekend. Whenever she made a request to take her to Gotan, it was rejected on the ground that her father did not meet the demand of Scooter and Rs. 11,000/- in cash.

The efforts made by the relatives to drop the demand of Scooter and payment of cash did not succeed. She was asked to leave the house. The husband did not make any effort to bring her from her parents' house.

On the contrary with a view to contract a second marriage strategies were evolved including securing a decree for divorce. It is also alleged that whenever she visited her matrimonial home, she was not being accepted and sent back.

The husband in his written statement denied the allegations. The husband sought a decree for dissolution of marriage on the ground of cruelty. The instances of cruelty have been enumerated in the order of the learned Judge, Family Court, as follows: -

· The wife used to insist him to live separately in the locality known as Paota. She was not willing to stay with his parents. In order to mount pressure on him, on some pretext or the other, she used to stay at her parental house;
· In spite of the information she did not attend the marriage in the family of his aunt on 23-11-91;
· On 5-4-91 she visited his place of working at Gotan, threatened and mentally tortured him with a view to obtain a decree for divorce;
· In his absence (while he used to be at Gotan) she used to stay at her parents' house instead of matrimonial home. She used to visit the matrimonial home only on the week end.
· It is stated by the husband that after marriage in December, 1990 the wife started quarrelling with him in February, 1991. She was not prepared to stay in the joint family. Therefore, she insisted for separate residence in the locality known as Paota. She also refused to stay with him at the place of his posting at Gotan. It is also stated that she used to mostly stay at her parents' house. It is further stated that he used to visit Jodhpur on the weekend and she also used to visit the matrimonial home only on the week end. He has further stated that on 4-2-91 she left the matrimonial home along with her brother. Thereafter, when his elder brother Naresh and Bhabhi went to take her back she refused to accompany them saying that she was not in a mood to return.


The statement of husband does not find corroboration from the statement of his brother Naresh Chandra. He gave evasive reply denying knowledge as to the fact of insistence for separate house. The allegations made by the husband on this count are vague. They are not of conclusive nature.

There is evidence on record to show that the husband and his family members made a demand for the dowry stated above. It has also been admitted that in July 1991 the Scooter was purchased. Therefore, on the basis of the nature of evidence, which has come on record, it cannot be said that allegations of dowry demand were false and fabricated.

As regards, the instance of not attending the marriage in the family of his aunt, cannot be construed as cruelty in absence of evidence as to the exact relation, persuasion and obligation to attend the marriage.

The allegations, pertains to giving of threat of divorce on 5-4-91 at the place of his working. The wife has admitted that she visited Gotan on 5th but she denied that she took up quarrel with the husband. The husband to establish this part of the allegation has produced no independent evidence.

The allegation that the wife used to visit the matrimonial home only on weekend, at the first instance, the husband has failed to establish the absence of the wife at the house on days other than the weekend.

Even if it is true, it cannot be construed as cruelty. It is the case of the husband himself that he used to visit his house at Jodhpur only on weekend. If he was so keen to keep his wife at her matrimonial home, he could have taken her to Gotan the place of his working. A husband cannot ask his wife that he does not like her company, but she can or should stay with other members of the family in matrimonial home. Such an attitude is cruelty in itself on the part of the husband.

Therefore court had dismissed the appeal of the husband.

On basis of these various points we can say how in history there was no such law, which governs the matter of divorce in Hindu society but with the implementation of the Hindu Marriage Act-1955, this vacuum has been filled with proper directions and the law very well handling these matters with the help of the courts.

There are many grounds for the divorce provided by law but since we are mainly concerned to the cruelty and in context of this we have seen how the courts have interpreted cruelty within the boundaries of law according to the situation.

When we go for the interpretation of the section 13 (1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act-1955 we can find that the cruelty cannot be restricted in a boundary of physical harm but it has the meaning beyond that. As in the case of Naveen Kohli the court said physical violence is not absolutely essential to constitute cruelty, a consistent course of conduct inflicting immeasurable mental agony and torture may constitute cruelty and also in case of Yudhishthir Singh court has held that a husband cannot ask his wife that he does not like her company, but she can or should stay with other members of the family in matrimonial home, such an attitude is cruelty in itself on the part of the husband. It means the way for deciding the matter of cruelty the court can apply their own discretionary power.

At last we can conclude that anybody can reach the court for the divorce on basis of cruelty, but, the case will be decided by the mere facts of that case, court can extend or summarize the meaning of cruelty according to their own interpretation but within the boundary of the law.

In Addition:
On basis of these vary facts of the project I have constructed the conclusion for the project report, but I want to add something more for these type of cases; as I have seen in the High Court that laws are in such a manner that women are getting more of the benefits and the male is helpless in many matters but the balance must be maintained between spouses so that no body claim to be suffered. Hence for these types of cases Judges are taking humanitarian approach generally. They did not use the law till certain limit, when they feel that the matter can not be resolved then only they go for the decree of divorce, e.g. in two different cases where the allegations were same on the husband that he was making physical harm and mental torture to the wife, they found that on the part of female her maternal family members are involved in the matter and they are making allegations on behalf of the lady but she is not, hence judges have gone for the meeting with both the parties and found that the allegations those were put by them on husband are not true and those were put in the case on advice of the family members and lawyers of the parties, then judges resolved the cases as the settlement and gone for decree of divorce with the consent of women that they are taking back the allegations on their husband and those were made under pressure.

So we can see in the case of Kohli also there was the prestige of the man that is on gamble because if the criminal cases were proved then he will be behind the bars and what could be the social life of them after that. Hence for the cases of this type we must see for both faces of coin and then only go for any decision, so no body will claim to be misjudged.

# Laws of Marriage and Divorce (1999), by: H.K. Saharaj; Eastern Law House, Calcutta.
# Bare Act on Hindu Laws (2006), Universal Law Publishing Company Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi.
# Text Material given by Institute.

The author can be reached at: gadhre@legalserviceindia.com


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