Mental cruenlty as a ground for divorce

Every matrimonial act that annoys the other spouse may not be considered cruelty. Simple irritations and quarrels between spouses that occur in everyday marital life may not be considered cruelty. Cruelty in marriage can come in a variety of forms, from subtle to severe. It can be expressed by words, gestures, or silence and it can be aggressive or nonviolent.

To be considered cruel, the alleged behavior must be “grave and serious,” leading to the judgement that the petitioner spouse cannot fairly be expected to live with the other spouse. Something more serious than “normal wear and tear of married life” must be involved. To determine whether the conduct complained of amounts to cruelty under marriage law, the conduct must be assessed in light of the circumstances and background. As previously said, conduct must be evaluated against a backdrop of various criteria, including the parties’ social status, education, physical and mental health, and norms and traditions.

It’s difficult to give a clear definition of cruelty or a thorough description of the circumstances that would qualify as such. It must be of the kind to satisfy the Court’s conscience that the parties’ relationship had deteriorated to such an extent as a result of the other spouse’s actions that they could no longer live together without mental torment, suffering, or distress, allowing the complaining spouse to obtain divorce. Physical violence is not required to be cruel, and a pattern of behavior inflicting unimaginable mental suffering and anguish may well be considered cruel. Mental cruelty can take the form of verbal abuse and insults delivered through filthy and harsh language, causing the other party’s mental tranquilly to be constantly disturbed.


“Any marriage solemnised, 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 other party cruelly,” [1]

On the basis of this section, we can explain the legal foundation for divorce as follows: anyone who is being harassed by the other party in a physical or mental manner, or in any other way, can go to court and seek a divorce on this ground. In addition, courts have found in a number of cases that the desire to be cruel is not an essential part of cruelty as defined by this provisions.


The courts identify numerous grounds for claim on the basis of cruelty and varieties of cruelty in their various judgments, and the courts give legal support for the victim in this regard. Within the extent of cruelty under section 13(1)(ia), they have provided the following explanation:

  • It is necessary if the cruelty is of such a kind that it makes it difficult for spouses to cohabit.
  • The levelling of a false accusation by one spouse about the other’s supposed illegal relationships with various people outside of the marriage amounted to mental abuse.
  • A husband cannot tell his wife that he does not enjoy her company, but she can and should remain in the marriage house with other family members. Such an attitude on the husband’s behalf is harsh in and of itself.
  • Social torture by one of the spouses to the other has been found to be as harsh as mental torture.
  • Cruelty might be easily proven if the character of the conduct or harsh act complained of could be inferred to have the aim to damage, torment, or wound. However, in this circumstance, the lack of intent should make no difference. The severe behaviour could also be a result of the parties’ cultural differences.
  • When one spouse alleges that the petitioner is a mental patient or that he requires expert psychological care to regain his mental health, the other spouse is committing mental cruelty.
  • Courts have sanctioned a variety of other sorts of cruelty in certain instances.

On the basis of these various points, we can conclude that there was no such law in Hindu society in the past that governed the issue of divorce, but that this vacuum was filled with proper directions and the law very well handling these matters with the help of the courts with the implementation of the Hindu Marriage Act-1955.

There are various legal grounds for divorce, but since we’re primarily concerned with cruelty, we’ve seen how the courts have interpreted cruelty within the confines of the law according to the circumstances.

When we look at the interpretation of section 13 (1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act-1955, we can see that cruelty is not limited to bodily injury, but has a much broader connotation. In the case of Naveen Kohli, the court stated that while physical violence is not required to constitute cruelty, a pattern of conduct inflicting immeasurable mental agony and torture may do so, and in the case of Yudhishthir Singh, the court stated that a husband cannot tell his wife that he does not like her company, but she can or should stay with other family members. It refers to the method through which a court can use its discretionary power to decide on a case of cruelty.

Finally, we may conclude that anybody can petition the court for a divorce based on cruelty, but the case will be judged only on the circumstances of the case; the court may extend or summarize the definition of cruelty based on their own interpretation, but only within the legal boundaries.

[1] section 13(1)(i)(a) of the Hindu Marriage Act-1955.

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