Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 — Section 13(1)(i-a)

May 6th, 2013

Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 — Section 13(1)(i-a) — Divorce on the ground of cruelty — Term ‘cruelty’, Meaning and interpretation of — Discussed — Words and Phrases — ‘Cruelty’ — Meaning of.

Parveen Mehta v. Inderjit Mehta: (2002) 5 SCC 706, A. Jayachandra v. Aneel Kaur : AIR 2005 SC 534, Sujata Uday Patil v. Uday Madhukar Patil: 2007(2) ALD 45 (SC) & Samar Ghosh v. Jaya Ghosh: (2007) 4 SCC 511, Referred.

(Para 37 to 41)

HELD: The cruelty is a ground for divorce under Section 13 of the Act and the relevant portion of this Section reads as under;

“13. Divorce.- (1) 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 – (i) x x x (ia) has, after the solemnization of the marriage, treated the petitioner with cruelty; or (ib) to (vii) x x x explanation – x x x”

(Para 37)

The word ‘cruelty’ has not been defined in the Hindu Marriage Act. D. Tolstoy in his celebrated book “The Law and Practice of Divorce and Matrimonial Causes” (Sixth Edition, p. 61) defined cruelty in these words:

“Cruelty which is a ground for dissolution of marriage may be defined as willful and unjustifiable conduct of such a 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.”

(Para 38)

The Shorter 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”.

(Para 39)

The term “mental cruelty” has been defined in Black’s Law Dictionary [8th Edition, 2004] as under:

“Mental Cruelty – As a ground for divorce, one spouse’s course of conduct (not involving actual violence) that creates such anguish that it endangers the life, physical health, or mental health of the other spouse.”

(Para 40)

It is well settled that cruelty may be mental or physical, intentional or unintentional. Mental cruelty consists of verbal abuses and insults by using filthy and abusive language leading to constant disturbance of mental piece of the other party. If the cruelty is physical, the court will have no problem in determining it. It is a question of fact and degree. In physical cruelty there can be tangible and direct evidence but in case of mental cruelty there may not, at the same time be direct evidence. In cases where there is no direct evidence, courts are required to probe into the mental process and mental effects of the incidents that are brought out in evidence. The concept of proof beyond the shadow of doubt is to be applied to criminal trials and not to civil matters and certainly of matters of delicate personal relationship as that of husband and wife. First the enquiry must begin as to the nature of maltreatment, the impact of such treatment in the mind of spouse, whether it caused reasonable apprehension that it would be harmful or injurious to live with the other. Ultimately it is a matter of inference to be drawn by taking into account the nature of the conduct and its effect on the complaining spouse. However, there may be a case when the conduct complained of itself is bad enough and per se unlawful or illegal. Then the impact of injurious effect on the other spouse need not be enquired into or considered. In such case, the cruelty will be established if the conduct itself is proved or admitted.

(Para 41)

Suman Kaushik v. N.P. Kaushik, Mat. App. 92/2009(14/01/2013), 2013(2) AD(Delhi) 50: 2013(134) DRJ 48: 2013(198) DLT 158 [Veena Birbal, J.]

Entry Filed under: Judgements,Matrimonial Laws

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