Contested Divorce - Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 lays down various grounds under which a contested divorce may be filed.

                                                                                                        MENTAL CRUELTY

                       There is no fixed rule that can determine  Cruelty.  It depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. 

In the case of Samar Ghosh v Jaya Ghosh, (2007) 4 SCC 511 it was held: “On proper analysis and scrutiny of the judgments of this Court and other Courts, we have come to the definite conclusion that there cannot be any comprehensive definition of the concept of ‘mental cruelty’ within which all kinds of cases of mental cruelty can be covered. No court in our considered view should even attempt to give a comprehensive definition of mental cruelty. Human mind is extremely complex and human behaviour is equally complicated. Similarly human ingenuity has no bound, therefore, to assimilate the entire human behaviour in one definition is almost impossible. What is cruelty in one case may  not amount to cruelty in other case. The concept of cruelty differs from person to person depending upon his upbringing, level of sensitivity, educational, family and cultural background, financial position, social status, customs, traditions, religious beliefs, human values and their value system. Apart from this, the concept of mental cruelty cannot remain static; it is bound to change with the passage of time, impact of modern culture through print and electronic media and value system etc. etc. What may be mental cruelty now may not remain a mental cruelty after a passage of time or vice versa. There can never be any strait-jacket formula or fixed parameters for determining mental cruelty in matrimonial matters. The prudent and appropriate way to adjudicate the case would be to evaluate it on its peculiar facts and circumstances while taking aforementioned factors in consideration. 

 In  the landmark case N.G Dastane v. S. Dastane, (1975) 2 SCC 326 it was observed as :  “The enquiry therefore has to be whether the conduct charges as cruelty is of such a character as to cause in the mind of the petitioner a reasonable apprehension that it will be harmful or injurious for him to live with the respondent.

In Samar Ghosh
(supra)
it was observed that there can be no fixed parameter in determining cruelty. In most of the cases, cruelty is inflicted by one party and felt by another in a variety of circumstances. What may constitute cruelty in one matter may not constitute cruelty in another. Each case and relationship must be viewed separately and its own totality.

 

In the case of Sheenu Mahendru v. Sangeeta, (2019) SCC
Online Utt 376
the Court observed: “The burden lies upon the respondent to establish the charge of cruelty. The question is as to what is the standard of proof to be applied in order to judge whether the burden has been discharged or not. The rule which governs matrimonial cases is, that a fact could be established, if it is proved by a preponderance of probabilities. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a proof of a higher standard, which generally governs criminal trials or trials involving inquiry into issues of a quasi criminal nature. Such proof beyond a reasonable doubt could not be imported in matters of pure civil nature especially matrimonial matters.

 

When there is a long separation between the parties there  is a presumption that the marriage has broken down irretrievably

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Naveen Kohli v. Neelu Kohli, (2006) 4 SCC 558 observed as under:

           “72. Once the parties have separated and the separation has continued for a sufficient length of time and one of them has presented a petition for divorce, it can well be presumed that the marriage has broken down. The court, no doubt, should seriously make an endeavour to reconcile the parties; yet, if it is found that the breakdown is irreparable, then divorce should not be withheld. The consequences of preservation in law of the unworkable marriage which has long ceased to be effective are bound to be a source of greater misery for the parties.

 

           73. A law of divorce based mainly on fault is inadequate to deal with a broken marriage. Under the fault theory, guilt has to be proved; divorce courts are presented with concrete instances of human behaviour as they bring the institution of marriage into disrepute.

          74. We have been principally impressed by the consideration that once the marriage has broken down beyond repair, it would be unrealistic for the law not to take notice of the fact, and it would be harmful to society and injurious to the interests of the parties. Where there has been a long period continuous separation, it may be fairly surmised that the matrimonial bond is beyond repair. The marriage becomes a fiction, though supported by a legal tie. By refusing to sever that tie the law in such cases does not serve the sanctity of marriage; on the contrary, it shows scant regard for the feelings and emotions of the parties.

         87. The High Court ought to have visualised that preservation of such a marriage is totally unworkable which has ceased to be effective and would be a greater source of misery for the parties.

 

        88. The High Court ought to have considered that a human problem can be properly resolved by adopting a human approach. In the instant case, not to grant a decree of divorce would be disastrous for the parties. Otherwise, there may be a ray of hope for the parties that after a passage of time (after obtaining a decree of divorce) the parties may psychologically and emotionally settle down and start a new chapter in life.”

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