“Desertion” under Hindu Law

November 29, 2023
Statue of Lady Justice

In Hindu Law, desertion is recognized as one of the grounds for divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. It is categorized as a form of matrimonial misconduct, wherein one spouse willfully abandons the other without reasonable cause or consent, effectively putting an end to the marital relationship. Desertion, in legal terms, implies the deliberate act of leaving the marital home and severing all conjugal ties without any valid reason or the consent of the other spouse.

Legal Basis for Desertion as a Ground for Divorce:

Under Section 13(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, desertion is mentioned as one of the several grounds upon which either the husband or the wife can seek a decree of divorce from the court. The provision defines desertion as the act when a spouse abandons the other without reasonable cause and without their consent or against their wish for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.

Understanding Desertion under Hindu Law

Legal Definition:

Desertion, as per Hindu Law, refers to the intentional and unjustifiable abandonment of one spouse by the other without consent or any valid reason. It involves the cessation of cohabitation without the consent of the other spouse and the intention to bring cohabitation permanently to an end.

Elements to Prove Desertion:

For desertion to be recognized as a valid ground for divorce under Hindu Law, certain essential elements must be established:

Intent to Desert: The spouse alleging desertion must prove that the other spouse intended to abandon the marital relationship and ceased cohabitation.

Unwillingness to Consent: The deserted spouse should demonstrate that they did not agree to the separation and were willing to continue the marital relationship.

Continuous Period: There must be a continuous and uninterrupted period of at least two years of desertion immediately before filing the divorce petition.

No Reasonable Cause: The deserting spouse’s departure should be without any valid reason or justification recognized by law. Mere physical separation doesn’t necessarily constitute desertion; there must be an intention to abandon the marriage.

Court’s Perspective on Desertion:

When a divorce petition is filed on the grounds of desertion, the court examines various aspects before granting a decree of divorce. Courts consider the circumstances surrounding the case, the intention behind the desertion, efforts made by the deserted spouse for reconciliation, and whether the desertion continued for the statutory period.

Challenges and Defences:

Challenges in proving desertion often arise when the deserting spouse claims that they had reasonable grounds for leaving, such as cruelty or harassment by the other spouse. Moreover, if there’s evidence of attempts made by the deserted spouse to reconcile or bring back the deserting spouse, it might affect the claim of continuous desertion.

Importance of Evidence:

The burden of proving desertion lies on the spouse seeking divorce. The aggrieved party must provide evidence to substantiate the claim of desertion, including witness testimonies, communication records, or any other relevant documentation that supports the case. In divorce cases based on desertion, evidence plays a crucial role. Documentation of attempts to reconcile, communication records, witness testimonies, and any relevant correspondence between the spouses can significantly influence the court’s decision.


Desertion as a ground for divorce under Hindu Law is a serious issue that signifies the breakdown of the marital relationship due to the unilateral act of abandonment by one spouse. The legal process surrounding desertion necessitates careful presentation of evidence and establishing the essential elements to prove the claim. Courts, while adjudicating such cases, prioritize the welfare of both parties and seek to ensure justice and fairness in their decisions

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