Mental Cruelty Grounds for Divorce in India: Understanding the Legal Landscape
In the realm of Indian matrimonial law, the concept of mental cruelty stands as a significant and prevalent ground for seeking a divorce. In recent years, cases citing mental cruelty as a basis for divorce have seen a notable increase, reflecting the evolving societal and legal perceptions regarding the complexities of relationships. The recognition and understanding of mental cruelty as a valid ground for divorce in India signify a crucial development in family law, addressing emotional and psychological suffering that can profoundly impact marital relationships. This article delves into the intricate nuances of mental cruelty as a ground for divorce in India, exploring the legal facets, evolving interpretations, and pertinent case law, providing insight into this increasingly relevant aspect of family jurisprudence.
There are various grounds on which a person can seek a divorce in India. One such Ground includes cruelty. The Ground of ‘cruelty’ for divorce came into being only after the amendment in the year 1976. When the term cruelty was introduced by the parliament as a basis for both judicial separation and divorce, no exhaustive or particular definition was provided for the term. And thus, the term ‘cruelty’ has been used as an interpretation by the courts depending upon the cases.
Today, the courts have further divided this term into physical cruelty and mental cruelty. Where, in most cases, physical cruelty was considered as a ground for a long time, the aspect of mental cruelty has evolved recently. A broad definition has been provided to the term ‘mental cruelty’ under section 13(i)(a) of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The definition of this evolving aspect as a ground and basis for divorce is as under:
There is no specific and particular definition given to this term under the section by the parliament, but it can be defined in a broad sense. It refers to that pain and agony that either party causes, which affects the mental being to an extent where it becomes almost impossible for the person who has suffered the mental pain to live with the other person. The amount of mental trauma and illness that the person suffers because of the actions and behavior of the other person leads to infliction of mental cruelty by the other party.
What amounts to mental cruelty must be considered taking into consideration the norms and rules of a marital relationship, the society to which the parties belong, their status and the environment they reside in.
WHAT COMPRISES TO BE A CASE OF MENTAL CRUELTY
In order for mental cruelty to be accepted as a basis and ground for divorce, there are various things that should be considered. The Supreme Court of India have illustrated guidelines in various cases, where mental cruelty can be accepted as a ground for divorce. These are enumerated below:
- The mental trauma caused to the party must be grave and more than ordinary. The amount of torture that affects the mental health of the person must be of substantial level and serious than the usual wear of everyday life.
- Upon the complete observation of the marital life of both the parties, where it clear and visible that the party that is suffering cannot at all live with the opposite party, and wherein the wronged party is in such a situation where he/she cannot be reasonably pushed into the relationship again, the court may accept the case to fall under mental cruelty.
- Cases which involve mere absence of affection, rudeness or coldness cannot be considered to fall under mental cruelty. Unless the rudeness by either of the part, negligence, improper conduct does not reach a level which is completely intolerable, it wouldn’t amount to be mental cruelty.
- In one its guideline, the Supreme court stated that the state of mind of the person must be in deep trauma, disappointment, anguish and frustration for a long period of time in order to bring the case under mental cruelty.
- When one of the parties constantly refuses to have intercourse with the other for considerate amount of times, even without any physical incapacity of both, may also constitute to mental cruelty for the other party.
- If either of the party unilaterally decides to not have children from their marriage, regardless of any incapacities, would also amount to mental cruelty.
- In case the husband undergoes an operation of sterilization without informing the wife and where there are no medical complications, and in the same way if the wife undergoes an abortion without the knowledge and consent of the husband, it would also fall under the ambit of mental cruelty.
- Bare occurrence of fights, quarrels, irritations towards each other that happens in every normal relationship cannot amount to mental cruelty. Even mere feelings of unhappiness, jealousy or possessiveness cannot lead to either of the party seeking divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty.
PROVING MENTAL CRUELTY IN DIVORCE CASES
Though the concept of mental cruelty is emerging in various cases of divorce, it is one of the most difficult tasks to prove the existence of mental cruelty in a case. Proving it as a ground for divorce may also vary from case to case and depending upon the facts of a particular case.
Both written and oral testimonies are accepted for proving the ground of mental cruelty in a case. It is usually advisable to provide an audio or video evidence before the hon’ble court, to support and backup the case. Such evidences are openly accepted by the court and carry a lot of weightage in such cases of proving mental cruelty.