Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Divorce on grounds of Mental & Physical Cruelty under Hindu Marriage Act.
The expression 'cruelty' has not been defined in the Hindu Marriage Act. Cruelty for the purpose of Section 13(1)(i-a) is to be taken as a behaviour by one spouse towards the other, which causes a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the latter that it is not safe for him or her to continue the matrimonial relationship with the other. Cruelty can be physical or mental. In the present case there is no allegation of physical cruelty alleged by the plaintiff. What is alleged is mental cruelty and it is necessarily a matter of inference to be drawn from the facts and circumstances of the case. It is settled law that the instances of cruelty are not to be taken in isolation but to take the cumulative effect of the facts and circumstances emerging from the evidence on record and then draw a fair inference whether the plaintiff has been subjected to mental cruelty due to conduct of the other spouse. In the decision in Samar Ghosh case (supra), this Court set out illustrative cases where inference of 'mental cruelty' can be drawn and they are only illustrative and not exhaustive.
The Honourable Supreme Court in Savitri Pandey vs. Prem Chandra Pandey, reported in (2002) 2 SCC 73, has held as follows:
6. Treating the petitioner with cruelty is a ground for divorce under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Act. Cruelty has not been defined under the Act but in relation to matrimonial matters it is contemplated as a conduct of such type which endangers the living of the petitioner with the respondent. Cruelty consists of acts which are dangerous to life, limb or health. Cruelty for the purpose of the Act means where one spouse has so treated the other and manifested such feelings towards her or him as to have inflicted bodily injury, or to have caused reasonable apprehension of bodily injury, suffering or to have injured health. Cruelty may be physical or mental. Mental cruelty is the conduct of other spouse which causes mental suffering or fear to the matrimonial life of the other. "Cruelty", therefore, postulates a treatment of the petitioner with such cruelty as to cause a reasonable apprehension in his or her mind that it would be harmful or injurious for the petitioner to live with the other party. Cruelty, however, has to be distinguished from the ordinary wear and tear of family life. It cannot be decided on the basis of the sensitivity of the petitioner and has to be adjudged on the basis of the course of conduct which would, in general, be dangerous for a spouse to live with the other. In the instant case both the trial court as well as the High Court have found on facts that the wife had failed to prove the allegations of cruelty attributed to the respondent. Concurrent findings of fact arrived at by the courts cannot be disturbed by this Court in exercise of powers under Article 136 of the Constitution of India. Otherwise also the averments made in the petition and the evidence led in support thereof clearly shows that the allegations, even if held to have been proved, would only show the sensitivity of the appellant with respect to the conduct of the respondent which cannot be termed more than ordinary wear and tear of the family life
. In Suman Singh vs. Sanjay Singh, reported in (2017) 4 SCC 85, the Apex Court has held that:
12. The word "cruelty" used in Section 13(1)(ia) of the Act is not defined under the Act. However, this expression was the subject matter of interpretation in several cases of this Court. What amounts to "mental cruelty" was succinctly explained by this Court (three Judge Bench) in Samar Ghosh vs. Jaya Ghosh [(2007) 4 SCC 511]. Their Lordships speaking through Justice Dalveer Bhandari observed that no uniform standard can ever be laid down for guidance, yet it is appropriate to enumerate some instances of human behavior which may be considered relevant in dealing with the cases of "mental cruelty". Their Lordships then broadly enumerated 16 category of cases which are considered relevant while examining the question as to whether the facts alleged and proved constitute "mental cruelty" so as to attract the provisions of Section 13 (1) (ia) of the Act for granting decree of divorce.