The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, which governs the law relating to Indian marriages between Hindus, and the Special Marriage Act of 1954, which governs the law relating to all Indian marriages regardless of religious denominations, contain an identical ground for divorce: “cruelty” after solemnization of the marriage.
Matrimonial matters are matters of delicate human and emotional relationship. It demands mutual trust, regard, respect, love and affection with sufficient play for reasonable adjustments with the spouse. The relationship has to conform to the social norms as well. The matrimonial conduct has now come to be governed by statute framed, keeping in view such norms and changing social order.
However cruelty is legally defined in law. Here are some of the judgments of courts related to mental cruelty on the basis of which divorce is granted in favor of the husband.
Prior to the 1976 amendment in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 cruelty was not a ground for claiming divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act. It was only a ground for claiming judicial separation under Section 10 of the Act. By 1976 Amendment, the Cruelty was made ground for divorce. The words, which have been incorporated, are “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”.
The Hindu Marriage Act-1955 has given the legal provision for divorce on basis of cruelty under section – 13(1)(ia) as follows;
“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”.
On basis of this section we can explain this legal basis for the divorce as anybody who is getting suffer from the other party in physical manner or a mental torture or any other type of harassment then the other can reach to the court with this base and claim for the divorce. And there are various cases where courts held that the intention to be cruel is not an essential element of cruelty as envisaged under this section.
In case of Samar Ghosh vs Jaya Ghosh (2007) (Supreme Court), which deals with a matrimonial dispute between two IAS officers. The husband alleged that his wife made a unilateral decision to not have a child and did not allow him to show affection to her daughter (from her first marriage). Further, she showed scant regard for his health, refused to cook for him and asked him to leave her flat, thereby humiliating him, and refused to cohabit with him. The court found that the wife’s conduct amounted to mental cruelty and restored the decision of the trial court which granted the husband divorce.
In case of Vishwanath vs. Sarla Vishwanath Agrawal, 2012 it was established that a sustained attitude of causing humiliation and calculated torture on part of wife to make life of husband miserable and husband felt humiliated both in private and public life with this mental pain, agony and suffering, Husband could not be asked to put up with conduct of wife and to continue to live with her. Therefore, he was entitled to a decree for divorce. Although, permanent alimony was to be granted taking into consideration social status, conduct of parties, way of living of spouse and such other ancillary aspected. Finally the appeal of the husband was allowed in this matter and divorce decree is granted in favor of the husband.
In case of Malathi Ravi vs. B.V. Ravi (30.06.2014 – SC) High Court reversed decree for restitution of conjugal rights granted in favor of Wife and decreed dissolution of marriage by way of divorce allowing petition preferred by Husband. Hence, present appeal is filed whether impugned order rightly reversed the decree for restitution of conjugal rights by granting divorce. It was held that the wife failed to prove her allegation on account of conflicts with sister and brother-in-law. Wife herself has admitted that husband had given his consent for her higher education and, in fact, assisted her. Husband had been treated with mental cruelty by wife as he had faced ignominy. Moreover, despite the husband’s request to come to the house, the wife showed disinclination. Husband was likely to lament in every breath and the vibrancy of life melted to give way to the sad story of life. Hence, impugned order passing the decree for divorce had been affirmed in favor of husband.
By looking at the above judgements we can get an idea that a husband can get divorce by establishing mental cruelty by wife wife by putting wrong grounds and filing false cases against husband and later on failed to prove that.