Cruelty as a ground of divorce under Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

Cruelty as a ground of divorce under Hindu marriage Act,1955

Matrimony is a sacred and delicate subject in prospective of a human’s life. Hindu marriages are held based on their sacred rites. But these marriages are sometimes be nullified on several grounds. These are the grounds of divorce under the Hindu Marriages Act, 1955. Today we are going to discuss cruelty as a ground of divorce under the Hindu marriages act.

Marriage is a valid lawful way where a male and female live together to perform their duties and responsibilities towards one another and towards the society. In the year 1869 the Indian Divorce act has been passed but it was remained applicable to the hindus and finally in the year 1955 the Hindu marriages act was passed which governed all the laws related to the hindu marriages and divorces. Prior to the amendment made in the year 1976 cruelty was not considered as a ground of divorce under the hindu marriage act. It was only a ground for judicial separation according to section 10 of the act. But from the amendment made in the year 1976, cruelty was made as a ground of divorce under this act.

The legal provision given under section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriages Act, 1955 states that –“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”. We can say from this section of the act that if either husband or the wife faces harassment or such a treatment which could physically or mentally harm them then they can file a divorce petition in the courts on the basis of cruelty. The courts through various cases has determined the explanation of the section under the Hindu Marriages Act, 1955. The scope of cruelty extends to-

  • If the amount of cruelty is of such a type that both the husband and the wife cannot stay together and is impossible for them to stay together.
  • If either of the husband or the spouse has brought false allegation that the either spouse is having affairs with one or more persons outside the wedlock and that amounted to mental cruelty.
  • A husband cannot ask his wife that he does not like her company, but should have to stay with other members of her matrimonial house then it becomes a cruelty itself, as the wife has no choice but to suffer.
  • Social torture by anyone of the spouse to other amounting to both mental and physical torture.
  • A party can cause mental cruelty when the other spouse levels an allegation that the petitioner is a mental patient and is required of a serious psychological attention.

Cruelty is an act of harsh treatment either mentally or physically. But every annoyance caused by either husband or wife cannot be said as cruelty. These may be quarrels or trivial irritations which are a common aspect in a married life. Cruelty must be such an act which involves violence and torture. Violence can be in the sense that either of the husband or the wife does such an act which includes mental and physical damage. In either of the situations remaining together becomes practically impossible and the petitioner files a divorce case against the defense. Cruelty is also a grievous crime if it happens for a physical torture.

Let us now discuss a case law in favor of this specific section of Hindu Marriages Act, 1955. The case is of Naveen Kohli v. Neelu Kohli( AIR 2004 All 1). The petitioner got married to the respondent on the date of 20th November, 1975. And due to the marriage solemnized between them, three children were born. The respondent Neelu Kohli was a bad tempered and indisciplined woman. She misbehaved with the petitioner and always quarreled with him. Even she misbehaved with her in laws. Day by day her misbehaving attitude was increasing and finally on May, 1994 the petitioner was compelled to leave his own parental house and started living in a rented house. According to the petitioner, the respondent withdraws rupees nine lakhs from the petitioner’s account and deposited the same in her account. The petitioner alleged that the respondent got a false first information report registered against him under sections 420, 467 and 471 IPC, which was registered as case no. 156 of 1995. According to the petitioner, the respondent again got a case under Sections 323 and 324 IPC registered in the Pakni police station and efforts were made to make the petitioner arrested. This brought mental harassment to the petitioner. The petitioner filed a divorce case on the base of cruelty but the case was dismissed by the high court. Then the petitioner moved to the Supreme court of India for justice. Supreme court of India held that the petitioner had suffered a lot from the disturbances created by the respondent looking onto the evidences. The petitioner has been falsely charged against a number of crimes. This brought a mental injury to the petitioner. There is no doubt that the mind of the respondent was bent upon causing mental cruelty to the petitioner. Supreme court held that the word ‘cruelty’ is used in section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act in the context of human behavior in relation to or in respect of matrimonial duties and obligations. A consistent course of conduct inflicting mental agony and torture constitutes to cruelty. Mental cruelty may consist of verbal abuse and doing of such things or acts that may disturb the mental peace and put the other person to depression. Thus Supreme Court finally dissolved their marriage under section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriages Act, 1955.

Marriage is a sacred thing. It is a bond that attaches two souls forever. But when such activities happen that makes either of the persons to not live peacefully, our Indian laws and the justice system prevail to dissolve the marriages if found that it is impossible for both of them to stay together further. In most of the cases, the court says for settlement and to curb the quarrels prevailing between husband and wife. But when the situations and circumstances become worse, their marriage has to be dissolved.

Author: Sattwik Biswas,
2nd Year BBA LLB under IFIM Law School, Bangalore

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