Marriage is a sacred covenant that requires the blessing of the Almighty
before it can be established. Marriage is a holy tie, not just between two
people, but also between their families, according to Hindu culture and law, and
not just a contract. Religious procedures with the fire god as witness are
required for a marriage to be considered as valid under Hindu law.
Marriage is a vow to stay together in all circumstances, to support one other,
to love, care for, and most importantly, to respect the other person and their
Marriage may appear to be a simple term, but it is far from simple. In real
life, there is no such thing as a 'happily ever after,' as shown in movies and
stories. Marriage is a life-long endeavor. You must work on it every day,
nourish it with affection in order for it to grow healthily, embellish it with
care in order for it to be adorable, and handle it delicately so that no one is
wounded in the process.
Marriages were the only thing that was recognized in ancient times. There was no
culture of marriages breaking down and eventually ending, which is referred to
as divorce in basic words. The Divorce Act, 1869, was the first formal law
dealing to divorce in India, enacted by the British for Christians.
Even today, in some parts of India, divorce is considered to be a taboo. The
societal pressure that surrounds divorce, forces so many
people, especially women, to stay tangled in 'agonizingly toxic' marriages. It's
always a better choice to get apart and break the ties in relationships where
one couldn't find felicity. Today, people seek divorce on varied grounds like
mutual consent, adultery, cruelty, desertion, renunciation, etc. In this
project, we will mainly deal with mental cruelty as a ground for divorce.
Cruelty: An Overview Of The Concept
Cruelty, in its most literal sense, entails being cruel to another person,
either physically or through inflicting rudeness mentally. In a more limited
sense, it just refers to some violent acts. When we apply the concept of cruelty
to relationships, a simple disagreement or disagreements between spouses do not
qualify as cruelty.
An act must have the nature of a terrible element to qualify as cruelty. Even
while physical deeds are an important aspect of cruelty, grief does not have to
be expressed in this way. A continuous sequence of ill treatment or mental
suffering, in addition to physical acts of wrongdoing, constitutes cruelty.
Cruelty is defined as an act that causes the victim to be unable to live with
their spouse due to conditions that make it hard for the victim to continue
living with their spouse. In cases where cruelty is alleged, the facts are
examined in light of other variables such as the parties' socioeconomic
standing, educational backgrounds, and so on to determine whether or not the
action qualifies as cruelty.
It's nearly impossible to properly define the range of situations that would
constitute cruelty. In such a circumstance, it is up to the court's discretion
to determine whether an act qualifies as cruelty based on its conscience.
Cruelty As A Ground For Divorce
Cruelty was never recognized as a reason for divorce in the Hindu Marriage Act
of 1955. Cruelty was only considered as a reason for judicial separation in
circumstances when the parties desired it. The injured person was expected to
prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the cruelty perpetrated on them was severe
enough to make it impossible for them to live a normal life with their spouse.
Cruelty was recognized as a reason for divorce in the Hindu Marriage Act of
1955, which was amended in 1976. The words which were added said, "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".
Cruelty is mainly defined under section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.
For an act to qualify as cruelty under section 498A, the following
pre-requisites must be followed:
- The woman must be the legally wedded wife of the man who is alleged.
- The woman must have confronted any act of cruelty or marital abuse.
- Such cruelty must be inflicted upon her either by her husband or by her
in-laws which include the parents and siblings of the husband and no one
apart from them.
Provisions In The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
Divorce on the grounds of cruelty is recognized under section 13(1) of the Hindu
Marriage Act. of the Hindu Marriage Act, which says:
"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".
Even after including cruelty as a reason for divorce, the legislature failed to
give a comprehensive definition. As a result, it is based on the judiciary's
view of what is the best way to grant relief to the parties seeking divorce.
Even before the 1976 amendment, the Supreme Court had not shied away from using
cruelty as a basis for awarding divorce.
In the case of Dastane v. Dastane
, 1975, the court determined that the
wife's threats of suicide and verbal abuse of her husband and his father, among
other things, were sufficient grounds for a divorce, which was granted on the
basis of this mentally-inflicted cruelty.
Types Of Cruelty
Cruelty is basically recognized in two types:
Physical cruelty, as the name suggests, entails acts of violence. At this point,
it's crucial to note that the violence we're discussing must be limited to that
which occurs within the confines of a married relationship. Physical cruelty
includes acts of physical aggression, bodily injuries, life-threatening
activities, and so on. Physical cruelty as a foundation for divorce is one of
the simplest to establish in a court of law, as it is the most common reason for
The Muslim Marriage Act of 1939 lists Habitual Assaults
as one of the
reasons for divorce. Assault is defined in Section 351 of the IPC as a serious
crime that is punishable. The Parsi community recognizes "grievous harm" as a
reason for divorce under the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936, which is
defined under article 320 of the Indian Penal Code. As a result, we may safely
assume that cruelty, assault, and grievous harm all fall within the category of
physical violence, which is a good reason to seek divorce.
An action that couldn't be proven so easily in the court of law, due to the
absence of tangible effects of the same, mental cruelty has gained recognition
in today's society. Torture need not necessarily come in form of physical hurt.
It comes by way of emotional hurt too. And while it may be a little easier to
treat the wounds that are evident on the outer surface of a human body,
emotional or mental hurt is way more complicated to cure as no such medications
are available to treat the woes of the heart.
Have you ever pondered why people choose to conclude their lives? The emotional
anguish is bringing them closer to death. Mental anguish can be as heinous as
forcing someone to commit suicide. And the most dangerous aspect of it is that
it usually goes unreported. Nobody could see the injuries to the heart that had
occurred. We may understand the alarming implications of being hurt by the
person you thought you'd want to stay with till your last breath when we apply
emotional damage to marriages. As a result, it's critical to realize how tough
it is to stay in a relationship that causes mental anguish and causes you to
doubt your own existence.
Who Is Entitled To Relief In Case Of Cruelty?
When we hear the words "cruelty" or "torture," our minds immediately go to the
conclusion that a woman is being tortured by a man. However, it is not always
appropriate to pity the woman, believing that only the man is to be blamed.
Different cases reveal different scenarios, and torture of a man is not unheard
of. Furthermore, if we overlook the gender boundary, a man or a woman are both
human beings first, and all beings experience emotions�some in controlled
amounts, while others in overwhelming ones. As a result, it would be a grave
injustice if we continued to demonize a man without contemplating the chance
that he himself would be wronged.
In the case of Mayadevi v. Jagdish Prasad
, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled
that in cases of emotional or mental torture inflicted on either spouse, not
just the wife, the courts will not hesitate to grant divorce on the grounds of
mental cruelty, which in simple terms means that a husband can get a divorce if
the court finds sufficient reasons to believe that he was subjected to his
wife's mental tortures. In this case, the husband filed a divorce petition,
stating that his wife has treated him and his children with mental cruelty by
depriving them of food and engaging in other forms of torture. The husband was
granted divorce once the court was convinced of this.
How Mental Harassment Affects The Life Of An Individual?
A healthy body is defined by more than just the absence of sickness. To
comprehensively describe a healthy being, a stable, trouble-free brain is also
essential. And we're talking about a period in which mental health is a hot
topic. Let us consider the effects of mental torture on a human being.
You expect the other person to adore, respect, and support you in your
initiatives in a married relationship, and you make efforts to do the same. But
what if, instead of loving you, your other significant half causes you mental
harm? What impact will it have on you?
Torture of the mind may not always include verbal abuse or the threat of
physical harm. Rather, it is the most minute things, that we fail to
acknowledge. Cruelty, when taken in its widest sense covers up the most ordinary
things that usually go unnoticed.
You want to wear a certain type of attire but your spouse refrains you from
doing so, citing unjustifiable reasons, this too is cruelty. You want to work in
a certain office or pursue a certain profession but your partner denies you
opportunities for the same. Your spouse is forcing you to have a baby when you
are not ready for it. Your partner has a problem with your college friend who
belongs to the other gender. All these real-life scenarios constitute cruelty.
These little things aren't as insignificant as they might seem at the first
glance. A lot of things, that we believe are of little value, leave disastrous
effects on a person, who confronts them. Miniscule things, leave unamending effects on
people, that leads to some insidious stress that keeps growing inside a person.
This stress eventually leads to an unending and unsettling thought that keeps on
bothering a person, making them question their choices. If this entire chain
of events, take a bigger form, it could also lead to actions of self-harm or in
the worst cases- suicide.
Human life is God's finest gift, and if something is powerful enough to drive a
person to reject that gift and chose the path of slumber, it's time to address
it. It's even more difficult to keep yourself together when the hurt or
harassment comes from someone you thought was supposed to love and care for you.
As a result, it is critical to recognize mental injury as a source of
considerable distress and to take steps to help the victim.
Naveen Kohli v. Neelu Kohli
In this case, the husband filed for divorce on grounds of mental as well as
physical cruelty. According to his claims, his wife had a quarrelsome nature and
she constantly troubled his parents. Tired of the same, he was compelled to move
away from his parents' house. After some time, he caught her in a compromising
situation with a mutual acquaintance. He later realized that she had transferred
hefty sum of money from his bank account to that of her own. The husband also
alleged that she registered a fake FIR against him, pressing charges for acts he
never committed. All these events inflicted great suffering on the husband and
hence, he claimed divorce on grounds of mental cruelty.
The court, after due examination of the facts and circumstances, was of the view
that the wife was adamant at making her husband's life miserable through the
acts conducted by her and hence, the only remedy was to pass the decree for
divorce, that would resolve the issue between them. So, the court granted
divorce to the husband on the grounds of mental cruelty inflicted upon him, by
Yudhishthir Singh Vs. Smt. Sarita
Here, the wife filed an application for restitution of conjugal rights, within
one year of her marriage. The facts of the case stated that her husband used to
work in some other city, while she was supposed to live at her husband's
ancestral house with his parents. Her husband used to visit her on weekends
but whenever she would ask him to take her along with him, he would deny
her request saying that he wasn't provided enough dowry by her parents.
Due to the unfulfilled demand of dowry, she was sent back to her parents' place
and her husband never really made an effort to bring her back. She also alleged
that her husband, with an intention to marry some other woman, tried obtaining
the decree for divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty.
The court observed that, the allegation put by the husband were false in nature
and the arguments put forth by him were vague and ambiguous. The demand of the
wife was rightful and she was indeed inflicted with mental cruelty on the part
of her husband. Hence, the court dismissed the plea of the husband.
If two people, can no longer find compatibility in a relationship, it is always
desirable to part ways and start afresh. Divorce, indeed is a negative concept
in itself- it marks the end of a relationship, that came into existence with an
expectation of staying together with the other person throughout a lifetime.
Infact, the Hindu culture believes in the bond of two people who remain
together not just for this lifetime, but for the coming seven. Breaking that
bond, which was built on the belief of being together in the journey till the
end, is a distressing process, but staying together with pain and
dissatisfaction every day, is pointless.
There can be a number of reasons for getting apart and choosing the recourse of
divorce. Today, mental cruelty, as a ground for seeking divorce has gained
popularity but the issue surrounding this ground is that physical cruelty can be
easily proved through medical reports or visible injuries on the body but to
prove something that is bothering the head and the heart, is quite challenging.
There are cases where, one party falsely alleges the other party of
mental cruelty only for the sake of gaining some undue advantage by way of
In such a situation, the burden on the shoulders of the judiciary, increases
significantly. There is no prescribed criterion for defining if something
qualifies as mental cruelty or not. It is up to the reasonableness and
discretion of the court to decide whether or not, it is justified to believe if
any mental harassment has taken place.
The court, through its extraordinary
prudence, has time and again, given welcome judgments of what it had deemed fit
in a particular case. Hence, cases constituting mental cruelty and harassment,
are a real test of wisdom and must be dealt accordingly.
The books referred for completing this project are:
- Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
- Section 498(A), Indian Penal Code, 1860
- Muslim Marriage Act, 1939
- Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936
- Narayan Ganesh Dastane vs Sucheta Narayan Dastane, 1975 AIR 1534, 1975 SCR (3)
- Smt. Maya Devi v. Jagdish Prasad, AIR 2007 SC 1426
- Yudhishthir Singh Vs. Smt. Sarita, AIR 2002 Raj. 382
- Naveen Kohli Vs. Neelu Kohli, AIR 2004 All 1
The websites referred are:
- Family Law by Paras Diwan
- Family Law in India by G.C.V Subba Rao
- Modern Hindu Law by Paras Diwan