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Written By: Tanay Akash
Cruelty simply means cruel behaviour or attitudes of pleasure seeking while making others to suffer and this can also be seen in the families. General conflicts in the ideas and interests are the part and parcel of any family but sometimes these conflicts gets turned into cruelty and this cruelty may happen by the side of male as well as female. This cruelty includes Physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological abuse to maintain power or to get controls over their better halves. It is always said that evil begins when you begin to treat people as things and to stop being treated as things. The personal laws (Hindu marriage Act, 1955 13(1) (a) and Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, 1939 (sec 2)) provides the provisions for divorce in the matter of cruelty and even cruelty comprises the modern day cruelty based on mental harassment, emotional distress and psychological torture as mental cruelty.
Being a part of the set of two articles, this second part deals with the other landmark and recent judgements on the mental cruelty and the opinion of the Apex court over this serious issue with regard to the changing sphere of mental cruelty and its impact.
(Sri Prasanta Kumar Mishra v. Smt. Suryamani Mishra AIR 2017 ORISSA 182)
This is the most recent and landmark case upon mental cruelty in which Husband alleged that his wife, after 5 months of marriage picked up quarrel and insisted to live in a separate house. She also threatened to commit suicide in the event the husband will not leave the quarter where his father resides. Further, the wife disclosed about the conceivement before marriage. As per the facts Husband suffered pain, shame and embarrassment throughout the life leading to mental cruelty. It was undesirable for him to live with insensible wife. Thus, the court held that husband was entitled to get the divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty.
(Yashodabai v. Krishnamoorthy AIR 1992 Kant 368 )
The major problem in the Indian society with respect to cruelty is assumed to be the ill treatment by family members especially by mother in law. Here comes the very important essential ingredient necessary for proving mental cruelty is the degree of treatment, as if it is normal wear and tear or ill treatment.
In this landmark judgement, the court held that a mere domestic quarrel with mother in law is not mental cruelty. The same decision was repeated in the case of “Gopal v. Mithilesh” in which it was held that husband’s stand of neutrality between mother and wife and thereby allowing his wife to be nagged by his mother does not amount to cruelty. It is normal wear and tear of Hindu family life.
(Saptami v. Jagdish, 73 C.W.N. 502 )
In this landmark case the alleged husband publically called his wife a “Prostitute” and tried to wipe her vermilion mark (on the fore head at the parting of her heir) by dashing her against a wall. It was held that this will constitute cruelty (mental). In simple words the court held that the false accusations of adultery will be held to be mental cruelty.
(Kalpana Srivastava v. Surendra Nath, AIR 1985 All 253)
In this landmark case on mental cruelty there was a unique question in front of the honourable Allahabad High Court that “If a wife refuses to prepare tea for the husband and his friends, would this be amount to mental cruelty”. Answering the question in the affirmative, the court observed that such an act on the wife’s part certainly hurts the husband’s ego, and causes him humiliation before his friends. This act along with other acts on the wife’s part (viz., lodging false police complaints against her husband and terminating her pregnancy without husband’s consent) were held to constitute a grave form of anguish and gross mental cruelty.
(Raj Talreja v. Kavita Talreja 24 April, 2017)
In this landmark judgement Honourable Apex court held that there can be no uniform definition of cruelty for the purpose of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and cruelty will be decided as per the facts and circumstances of every case. The court held that cruelty could never be defined with exactitude and cruelty would depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. It was observed that in the instant case, the wife made reckless, defamatory and false accusation against the husband, his family members and colleagues and these allegations were patently false. This would amount to an act of cruelty.
So, in a nutshell it can be said that the changing sphere of family resolutions in the judicial mind has become broader in the contemporary scenario. The regime has changed when cruelty was only concerned with the physical cruelty and even when it was only associated with women. The broad aspect of mental cruelty strengthen both men as well as women to get divorce if the grounds of mental cruelty has been fulfilled by any of their partner and it is not possible for the another partner to live in such worst conditions.