Cruelty as a Ground for Divorce

September 18, 2023


Marriage, a sacred institution in Indian society, is meant to be a lifelong partnership based on love, trust, and understanding. However, not all marriages are fortunate enough to sustain these ideals, and couples may find themselves facing insurmountable challenges. In such cases, the Indian legal system provides provisions for divorce, with cruelty being one of the grounds on which a spouse can seek dissolution of the marriage. This article delves into the concept of cruelty as a ground for divorce under Indian law, its definition, and its legal implications.

Understanding Cruelty in Indian Divorce Law

Cruelty, as a ground for divorce, is enshrined in Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and Section 27(1)(d) of the Special Marriage Act, 1954. It allows a spouse to seek divorce if they can prove that the other spouse has subjected them to physical or mental cruelty, making it impossible to live together as a married couple.

Physical Cruelty: Physical cruelty refers to the infliction of bodily harm or violence on a spouse. It includes actions such as physical abuse, assault, or any conduct that endangers the physical safety and well-being of the other spouse. Evidence like medical records, photographs, or witness testimonies can be crucial in establishing physical cruelty.

Mental Cruelty: Mental cruelty, on the other hand, pertains to the emotional and psychological harm inflicted on a spouse. It may manifest in various forms such as constant humiliation, harassment, verbal abuse, neglect, or even refusal to engage in sexual relations without justifiable reason. Unlike physical cruelty, proving mental cruelty can be more complex as it often involves subjective interpretations. Courts typically evaluate whether the conduct has caused the aggrieved spouse to endure severe mental agony and suffering.

Proving Cruelty in Court

To successfully obtain a divorce on grounds of cruelty, the spouse seeking the divorce (the petitioner) must present convincing evidence to substantiate their claim. This may include medical records, photographs, text messages, emails, or testimony from witnesses who can attest to the cruelty. It’s essential to demonstrate that the cruelty was severe and continuous, making cohabitation intolerable.

Case law plays a crucial role in shaping the interpretation of cruelty in Indian divorce law. Several landmark judgments have helped define the parameters of cruelty, including V. Bhagat v. D. Bhagat, where it was held that “mental cruelty must be of such a nature that the parties cannot reasonably be expected to live together.”

Legal Consequences of Divorce on Grounds of Cruelty

If a court grants a divorce based on cruelty, it has significant legal implications for both spouses:

Dissolution of Marriage: The marriage is legally terminated, and the parties are free to remarry.

Division of Property: The court will decide the division of marital property and assets based on the specific circumstances of the case.

Alimony and Maintenance: Depending on the financial situation of both spouses, the court may order one spouse to provide alimony or maintenance to the other.

Child Custody: If the couple has children, the court will also decide matters related to child custody and visitation rights based on the child’s best interests.


Cruelty as a ground for divorce under Indian law provides an avenue for spouses to escape an intolerable and abusive marriage. While the legal provisions are in place to protect the rights and well-being of individuals, divorce is often a complex and emotionally challenging process. It is essential for parties seeking divorce on grounds of cruelty to consult legal experts and gather sufficient evidence to present their case effectively in court. Ultimately, the aim of divorce law in India is to provide individuals with a means to escape abusive and untenable marriages and facilitate a fresh start in their lives.

If you want to be a judicial officer and are looking for RJS coaching in Jaipur, here, at Jyoti Judiciary we provide comprehensive study material to make your preparation solidified and top-notch. From preliminary mock tests to mains answer writing sessions every material required for clearing the exam is provided. We have separate legal current affairs classes, legal general knowledge, and current affairs classes all in one-time enrolment. Hurry up.

Leave a Comment