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MENTAL CRUELTY UNDER THE HINDU MARRIAGE ACT, 1955.

What is Cruelity?

Cruelty refers to any violent act. A mere quarrel, petty outrageous behaviour or differences between the spouses, however, does not fall within the ambit of cruelty because this is something that is common in a married life between spouses.

Conducts that would amount to cruelty has to be grave and severe in nature. Grave violence doesn’t always mean physical violence. Physical violence is indeed an essential factor that constitutes cruelty but a continuous process of ill-treatment or mental or physical torture to either of the spouse would also amount to cruelty.

The day to day affairs in a matrimonial life create an ambiguity within the spouses to lead their life with each other peacefully. By going through a case of marital abuse happening around us, we can conclude of certain conditions even though there is no such exhaustive definition to what all conditions would lead to an offence of cruelty.

Such conditions are:

  • The physical violence on the spouse. 
  • Having affairs or committing adultery with not just the spouse’s knowledge but even publically accepting it.
  • And also in cases where either of the spouses is falsely accused of committing adultery.
  • The constant manifestation of agony, rage with the addition of yelling or abusing at the spouse. 
  • Demoralizing and restricting the spouse by every means to be an independent individual and compelling the spouse to be in a marital relationship where the spouse is left with no other option but to depend on the other. 
  • Not disclosing any fact or incident of an acquired sexually transmitted disease while they are already into marital life. And the list goes on.

It’s important that the conduct of either of the spouse should be of such a nature which falls within the ambit of cruelty under the Matrimonial Law. The Court is required to look into all the background and circumstances because of which the couple wants to get separated. Basically, it is the duty of the Court to investigate the reason for the deterioration of the marriage.

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Divorce in general terms means dissolution of a marriage. In the history of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, cruelty was never considered as a ground for divorce but was applied only in cases of judicial separation.

It was required that the aggrieved party has to prove that the cruelty is so grave or so unbearable that it is getting difficult to continue the marriage with his or her spouse.

This was upheld by the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Narayan Ganesh Dastane v. Sucheta Narayan Dastane in 1975. This led to an amendment in the Act, in 1976, where cruelty as a ground for divorce was added under Section 10(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

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