According to Section 13(i) (a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, a mental cruelty is defined as when either party causes mental pain, agony of suffering of such a magnitude that it severs the bond between the wife and husband and as a result of which it becomes difficulty for the party who has suffered to live with the other party. Legal Proceedings is most commonly used negatively in the sections that bar the filing of “legal proceedings” against certain official or judicial functionaries. This article mainly deals with legal proceedings is a right and it does not amounts to mental cruelty.
Cruelty is defined under section 498A of Indian Penal Code, 1860 as:
- The woman must be legally married to her husband.
- The woman must have been subjected to some sort of cruelty or marital abuse.
- Such cruelty must be done by her husband himself or the relatives of the husband and here the terms relative only includes the husband’s parents, brothers and sisters and nobody other than them, not even any close friend or any distant relatives.
- If the husband commits such cruelty he shall be liable for imprisonment which may extend to three years with fine.
. Exceptions of cruelty are provided under section23 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955:
- If any party after filing the petition of divorce does any act which amounts to Condonation of cruelty, then this may become sufficient ground for any Court to cancel his petition for divorce. Example: Mr. A is a victim of cruelty by his wife and files a petition of divorce in the Court. But after hearing the news of the accident, he goes to her and helps her to recover. This act of the husband would be considered as condoning cruelty towards the respondent therefore the Court will cancel his petition of divorce.
- In any proceeding whether defended or not, if any party to the case has condemned the cruelty then the Court would cancel his/her petition of the divorce.
- It is a duty on the Court to check or test whether the fountain of love and affection between the parties is totally dried up or not before granting any decree of divorce. If not, then the Court makes every effort to bring the parties to reconciliation. However, it is difficult to know the same.
Mental Cruelty as a ground of Divorce:
Hindu Marriage Act it did not have ‘cruelty’ as a ground for divorce but after parliament did insert the term ‘cruelty’ in the Act, and is an exhaustive definition. As a result of which the term has been understood according to the interpretation by the judiciary over the years. The court has evolved the grounds and relief is provided in case of mental cruelty. Before 1976 amendment, there was a case Dastane v Dastane (1975). In that case, Supreme Court had examined the concept of legal cruelty in court held that the wife threatening she would end her life, and verbally abusing the husband and his father, among other acts, amounted to mental cruelty, and granted divorce to the husband.
Ravinder Kaur v. Manjeet Singh 2010, date of judgment 21st August, 2019
Here the issue was whether the legal proceedings initiated by wife against her husband amounts to mental cruelty. The facts of the case are husband initiated divorce proceeding under section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for seeking relief for dissolution of marriage. On December 1970 Marriage was solemnized between them as per Sikh rites. After spending 25 years they have two sons and a daughter from wedlock. Husband was accused by wife of filing false petition against him and his father under sections 107 and 151 of criminal procedural code, 1973. Due to which they both husband and father get arrest. The false petition was filed for seeking declaration and permanent injunction with regard to their house where she alleged that respondent has defrauded her. The husband sought for dissolution of marriage as due to false allegation by wife it amounts to mental cruelty. Supreme Court respond to police complaint and proceedings initiated under sections 107 and 151 of crpc 1973 that it is a natural legal course adopted by respondent to protect her right and possession of property. It was futher held that irretrievable breakdown of marriage is not provided under the statue for seeking dissolution of marriage.
Ram Chander v. Ananta (2015)
In this case it was held that legal proceedings is a right and not amounts to cruelty and such instances not be convincing which leads to conclusion that marriage is irretrievably broken down.