Divorce is the breakage or dissolution of marriage with the help of law, which is available for both the spouses. There are many grounds laid under Hindu law for divorce like- Adultery, Desertion, Cruelty, Conversion, Insanity, Renunciation etc. Cruelty is referred as the behavior of a person which causes physical or mental harm to another, especially a spouse, whether intentionally or not.
Before the 1976 amendment, 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 the 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”.
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”.
Cruelty can be divided into two kinds:
- The crude brutal kind i.e, Physical Violence and
- where there is no physical violence or hardly any, But the conduct of the respondent is such as to affect the petitioner’s mental health.
Physical cruelty means causing any bodily injury whereas mental cruelty means causing mental agony to the aggrieved spouse. The conduct by either of the spouse should be of such a nature which should fall in the ambit of cruelty under the Matrimonial Law.
Other Provisions under the law –
Section 498A of IPC deals with the offence of cruelty against a wife by her husband and/or in-laws.
Ingredients of Section 498A
- The woman must be legally married to her husband.
- The woman must have been subjected to some sort of cruelty or marital abuse.
- Such cruelty must be done by her husband himself or the relatives of the husband and here the terms relative only includes the husband’s parents, brothers and sisters and nobody other than them, not even any close friend or any distant relatives.
- However, if the husband commits such cruelty he shall be liable for imprisonment which may extend to three years with fine.
In a landmark judgement of Mayadevi v Jagdish Prasad, In this case, the respondent filed an application for divorce on the ground of cruelty alleging that because of the acts of cruelty on several occasions perpetuated by the appellant, the respondent was under apprehension that it would not be desirable and safe to stay with the appellant and to continue their marital relationships. The Supreme Court held that, mental cruelty faced by the husband can act as a ground for divorce.
In Samar Ghosh v. Jaya Ghosh, (2007) 4 SCC 511, Court considered the concept of cruelty and referring to Oxford Dictionary defines “cruelty’ as “the quality of being cruel; disposition of inflicting suffering; delight in or indifference to another’s pain; mercilessness; hard-heartedness’.
In Smt. Nirmala Manohar Jagesha vs Manohar Shivram Jagesha, The Court held that “case for divorce, false, baseless, scandalous, malicious and unproven allegations made in the written statement may amount to cruelty to the other party and that party would be entitled to get a decree of divorce on that ground”.
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