Marriage has been the greatest and most important institution in human
civilization from the dawn of humanity. It has always existed in some form in
every culture, providing societal legitimacy to a bonding experience between man
and woman and establishing the groundwork for the family, society's building
block. It necessitates reciprocal respect, esteem, love, and affection, as
well as enough room for acceptable modifications with the spouse.
Marriage in India, is a sacred covenant and is arranged by two families rather
than two people. It is attempted to be protected by both society and Indian law.
In addition, the partnership must adhere to societal standards. Matrimonial
behaviour is now controlled by a legislation that was drafted with such norms
and the changing social order in mind.
The purpose of marriage is to promote self-control and affection for the entire
family, which keeps the family together and prevents it from breaking apart.
Every couple attempts to keep their relationship by putting aside their
disagreements because marriages are very crucial, but things change when you can
no longer control the circumstance, and divorce is the last resort for such
Divorce refers to the legal breakup or dissolution of a marriage so that one can
leave his or her spouse and be free of marital obligations. The day-to-day
events in a marital relationship cause ambiguity in the partners' ability to
live peacefully with each other. A simple argument, petty obnoxious behaviour,
or disputes between spouses are all part of everyday marital life.
Cruelty, on the other hand, refers to acts of violence.
Cruelty-inducing behaviour should be extreme and severe in character. Cruelty is
defined as a pattern of ill-treatment, mental or physical torment directed at
one of the partners. Cruelty in marriage can be described in a variety of ways.
It can take numerous forms, depending on the socioeconomic level and
circumstances of the parties to the marriage. It differs from one individual to
another. It also changes depending on the period, location, economic condition,
and other factors.
The Shorter Oxford Dictionary 'cruelty' as 'the quality of being cruel;
disposition of inflicting suffering; enjoyment of or indifference to another's
pain; mercilessness; hard-heartedness'.
Cruelty which is a ground for dissolution of marriage may be defined as willful
and unjustifiable conduct of such character as to cause danger to life, limb or
health, bodily or mental, or as to give rise to a reasonable apprehension of
such a danger.
The courts identify numerous grounds for claim on the basis of
cruelty and forms of cruelty in their varied judgments, and the courts give
legal support for the sufferer in this regard. In a sensitive human connection
such as marriage, one must consider the situational possibilities. Cruelty
can be physical or mental in nature. There can be visible and direct proof in
the case of physical cruelty, but there may not be obvious evidence in the case
of mental cruelty. 
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 gives one of the most
extensive definition of term cruelty
. The Act defines domestic violence to
include actual abuse or threat of abuse
” physical, sexual, verbal, emotional
or economic violence. Section 3 of the Act says that any act, omissions or
commission or conduct of the respondent shall constitute domestic violence in
case it (a) harms or injures or endangers the health, safety of life, limb or
wellbeing, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved or tends to do so and
includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and
economic abuse; physical abuse
¯ means any act or conduct which is of such a
nature as to cause bodily pain, harm, or danger to life, limb, or health or
impair the health or development of the aggrieved person and includes assault,
criminal intimidation and criminal force.
An effort was made to define cruelty in the classic English case of Russel v.
, which contained the first use of the term.
Cruelty was held to be
a conduct of such character as to have caused danger to life or health, bodily
or mentally, gives rise to reasonable apprehension of such danger. The
definition includes both physical and mental cruelty within its scope but it
also emphasizes on the typical nineteenth century belief that no act can amount
to cruelty unless it creates an apprehension or actually causes injury to the
Cruelty was never considered as a reason for divorce; instead, it was used
solely in situations of judicial separation. The Supreme Court, however,
affirmed this in the landmark decision of Narayan Ganesh Dastane Vs. Sucheta
 in 1975.
Cruelty as a basis for divorce was added to the
Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, with the addition of a legal meaning to the term
cruelty in 1976. In India, 1976, the legislation was amended to make it a cause,
keeping in mind the changing mores of society
A marriage can be dissolved by a decree of divorce on the premise that the
petitioner was treated with cruelty after the solemnization of marriage
according to the law. As a result, if one husband or wife treats the other
cruelly after marriage, either can get a divorce.
Voluntary sexual intercourse with any person other than his or her spouse¯;
cruelty¯; desertion for a continuous period of not less than two years
immediately preceding the presentation of the petition¯; cess(ing) to be a
Hindu by conversion to another religion¯; and being incurably of unsound
mind¯ are all grounds for divorce under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage
Cruelty for the purpose of section 13 (1) (i-a) is to be taken as a
behaviour by one spouse towards the other which produces reasonable concern in
the latter's mind that continuing the marital bond with the other is not safe.
Cruelty may be divided into two main categories:
Physical cruelty on either of the partner would include any physical aggression,
bodily injuries, or threats to life, limb, or health that appear to cause fear
in the minds of either of the partners. Establishing Physical cruelty is not a
difficult chore because physical violence is one of the most prevalent causes of
divorce. Assault, serious bodily harm, and cruelty are all intertwined and don't
make much of a distinction. Physical cruelty is defined as purposeful physical
violence or physical beatings. Physical cruelty includes pushing, slapping,
beating, punching, and burning with cigarettes. It is sometimes known as
"domestic violence," almost invariably refers to injury inflicted on one spouse
by the other.
Even though the HMA itself doesn't define mental cruelty as such, the Apex court
has defined and established the grounds for mental cruelty in ample verdicts.
In Bhagat v. Bhagat
, the Hon'ble Supreme Court defined mental cruelty as
"that conduct which inflicts upon the other party such mental pain and suffering
as would make it not possible for that party to live with the other. In other
words, mental cruelty must be of such a nature that the parties cannot
reasonably be expected to live together".
A consistent course of conduct inflicting immeasurable mental agony and torture
may constitute mental cruelty.
Unusually callous, neglectful and deliberately harassful conduct, False
accusations, Drunkenness, Reprehensible Conduct , Nagging, Indignity,
neglect and indifference, Sex Perversion, Communication of disease,
Ill-treatment, Demand for dowry, Demand to live separately, Threat to commit
suicide, Marital Rape, Temperamental differences, are described as mental
cruelty in various pronouncement of Honourable Courts.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment.¯
Cruelty from either of the spouse is a violation of the fundamental right to
dignity and liberty. The Indian Constitution, which is the country's founding
document, guarantees the right to a dignified life as part of the right to life
under Article 21. A breach of the same is inflicting bodily and emotional
anguish and suffering on the other.
Even though cruelty is a serious crime, it is rarely discussed. We Indians are
accustomed to it. Even if we do our hardest, we will not be able to change
everyone's mentality since in India, women rarely file complaints against their
spouses and in-laws because to fear, family pressure, societal pressure, a lack
of understanding, or police failure. Finally, they come to terms with their
situation through enduring cruelty as well as all of the aforementioned
The concept of marriage is no longer thought to be about a sacred union of two
hearts, but rather has evolved into a common contract between two individuals in
the strict sense of the term, where one is committed to another to perform
marital duties. There are fewer divorce complaints filed on the basis of
cruelty. People, in general, tend to assimilate into whatever situation they
find themselves in.
Cruelty in marriage may come in a number of forms, from subtle to violent. It
can be expressed by words, gestures, or silence and it can be aggressive or
nonviolent. It varies depending on who you are and what situation you are in.
There is no provision for defining exactly what is. It is up to the courts to
determine what constitutes cruelty to a specific individual in specific
circumstances. Despite the speculative character of cruelty, the Indian marriage
statute deems cruelty to be a form of marital wrong.
Anyone can bring a claim for a divorce based on cruelty; the case will be
resolved solely on the circumstances of the case; the court may expand or
summarise the meaning of cruelty as they see fit, within the bounds of the law
and without prejudice. People must realise that the safeguards in place will
assist and protect you against ill-treatment. As a result, rules may differ
depending on state laws or the grounds that come under the definition of
cruelty. Talking to a professional/therapist about difficulties and concerns can
help relieve the emotional strain and pressure that may have been created by
matrimonial cruelty, abuse or wrongdoing.
- Ayushi Laxmi Verma, Cruelty As A Ground For Divorce Trends Through Ages:
A Study, Vol. 1 International Journal of Law Management & Humanities (IJLMH)
1 , 2 (2018),
- Replevin, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014).
- Pothen, S. Divorce in Hindu Society¯, 20 Journal of Comparative
Family Studies, 377, 381, (1989).
- Stevenson, Angus, and Lesley Brown, Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on
Historical Principles, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
- A. Jayachandra v. Aneel Kaur reported in (2005) 2 SCC 22.
- Rajani v. Subramonian AIR 1990 Ker
- Sec 3 of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005
- Russel v. Russel, 1997 A.C. 303.
- Narayan Ganesh Dastane Vs. Sucheta Narayan Dastane 1975 AIR 1534.
- Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, No. 25, Acts of Parliament, 1955, (India).
- V. Bhagat v. D. Bhagat, (1994) 1 S.C.C. 337.
- Sec 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act.
- Sec 13(1) (i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act.
- Divorce Support, https://www.divorcesupport.com/divorce/What-are-some-examples-of-physical-cruelty--3229.html
(last visited Jul 14 2021).
- AIR 1994 SC 710
- Naveen Kohli v. Neelu Kohli, AIR 2004 All 1.
- Rita v. Brij Kishore AIR 1976 Raj.
- Dr. Diwan Paras, Law of Marriage and Divorce (6th Ed. 2012) Universal Law
- Article 5, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, (UDHR).