Mental Cruelty as a Ground for Divorce

Pages: 45 (17698 words) Published: August 26, 2013
FAMILY LAW
RESEARCH PAPER

MENTAL CRUELTY

By:
Anushree Verma

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Grounds of Divorce
2. Cruelty
3. The key things to be understood regarding cruelty are- 4. Mental Cruelty
5. Mental cruelty as a ground for divorce in american law 6. Indian Case Illustrations

GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE

(1) Adultery. 
Either party to the marriage may present a petition for divorce under cl. (i) of sub-sec. (1) of s. 13, on the ground of adultery of the respondent. The expression 'living in adultery' used in old s. 13(I)(i) meant a continuous course of adulterous life as distinguished from one or two lapses from virtue. It would not be in consonance with the intention of the Legislature to put too narrow and too circumscribed a construction upon the words 'is living' in (old) cl. (i) of sub-sec. (1) of s. 13 of the Act. On the other hand, it was clear that too loose a construction must also not be put on these words. For attracting the operation of these words, it would not be enough if the spouse was living in adultery sometime in the past, but had seceded from such life for an appreciable duration extending to the filing of the petition. It is not possible to lay down a hard and fast rule about it since the decision of each case must depend upon its own merits and turn upon its own circumstances. But it is clear that for invoking the application of (old) cl. (i) of sub-sec. (1) of s. 13, it must be shown that the period during, which the spouse was living an adulterous life was so related from the point of proximity of time, to the filing of the petition that it could be reasonably inferred that the petitioner had a fair ground to believe that, when the petition was filed, the respondent was living in adultery. By using the words 'is living in adultery' the Legislature did not intend to make such living co-extensive with the filing of the petition. The identical expression of 'living in adultery' is to be found in s. 488(4) the Code of Criminal Procedure (old) and in s. 125(4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (new). This expression implies that a single lapse from virtue even if true will not suffice, and it must be shown that the respondent was actually living in adultery with someone else at the time of the application. Living in adultery is different from failing to lead a chaste life. 

(2) Cruelty
After the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act 1976, cruelty has been made a ground for divorce as well as judicial separation. Prior to that amendment it was only a ground for judicial separation and not for divorce.

Mental cruelty in s.13(l)(ia) can be broadly defined as the conduct which inflicts upon the other party such mental pain and suffering as would make it not possible for that party to live with the other. In other words, mental cruelty must be of such a nature that the parties cannot reasonably be expected to live together. The situation must be such that the wronged party cannot reasonably be asked to put up with the other party. It is not necessary to prove that the mental cruelty is such as to cause injury to the health of the petitioner. While arriving at such conclusion, regard must be had to the social status, educational level of the parties, the society they move in, the possibility or otherwise of the parties ever living together in case they are already living apart and all other relevant facts and circumstances. What is cruelty in one case may not amount to cruelty in another case.14 In that case allegations were made by the wife in her written statement and question put by her counsel to her husband that he and all the members of his family were lunatic etc. All these constitute mental cruelty. In the absence of a positive act of cruelty a party is not entitled to obtain a decree of divorce.

(3) Desertion.
Desertion as a ground for divorce has been added to s.13 by the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act 1976. Previously, it was only a ground for...
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