Here is your short essay on Cruelty

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The term "Cruelty" is not defined. However, the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 does make some efforts to demonstrate at as to what the term 'Cruelty' means. But the explanation falls short of the modern concept of 'Cruelty'. The modern statutes like, the Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 proceed on equality basis and do not allow discrimination between cruelty to wife and/or cruelty to husband.

The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India has held that there cannot be any comprehensive definition of mental cruelty within which all kinds of mental cruelty can be covered, yet it deemed appropriate to enumerate some instances. These are only illustrative and not exhaustive.

i. On consideration of complete matrimonial life of parties, acute mental pain, agony, suffering that would not possible for parties to live with each other could come within the broad parameters of mental cruelty.

ii. On a comprehensive approval of the entire matrimonial life of the party, if it becomes abundantly clear that the situation is such that the party cannot reasonably be asked to put up with such conduct and continue to live with other party.

iii. Mere boldness or lack of affection cannot amount to cruelty but frequent rudeness of language, parlance of manner, indifference and neglect may reveal such a degree that it makes the married life absolutely intolerable.

iv. Mental cruelty is a state of mind. The feeling of deep anguish, disappointment, frustration, by conduct of the other spouse for a long time may lead to mental cruelty.

v. A sustained course of abusing and humiliating treatment collateral to torture, discourage or render miserable life of the spouse.

vi. Sustained unjustifiable conduct or behaviour of one spouse actually affecting the physical and sound health of the other. The treatment complained of and the resultant danger or apprehension must be very grave, substantial and have weight age.

vii. Sustained reprehensible conduct, studied neglect, indifference, or total departure from the normal standard of conjugal kindness causing injury to mental health or deriving sadistic pleasure can also amount to mental cruelty.

viii. The conduct must be more than jealousy, selfishness, possessiveness which cause unhappiness and dissatisfaction and emotional upset but may not be a ground for grant of divorce on the ground of mental cruelty.

ix. Mere trivial irritations, quarrels, normal wear and tear of the married life which happens in day-to-day life would not be adequate for grant of divorce on mental cruelty.

x. The married life should be reviewed as a whole and a few isolated instances are a period of years will not amount to cruelty. The ill-conduct must be persistent for a fairly lengthy period, where the relationship has deteriorated to an extent that because of the acts and behaviour of spouse, the wronged party finds it extremely difficult to living with the other party any longer may amount to mental cruelty.

xi. If a husband submits himself for an operation of sterilization without medical reasons and without the consent or knowledge of his wife and similarly if the wife undergoes vasectomy or abortion without medical reason or without consent or knowledge of the husband. Such an act of the spouse may lead to mental cruelty.

xii. Unilateral decision of either after marriage not to have child from marriage may amount to M.C.

xiii. Unilateral decision of refusal to have intercourse for considerable period without there being a physical incapacity or verbal reason may amount to mental cruelty.

xiv. Where there has been a long period of continuous separation, it may fairly be concluded that the matrimonial bond is beyond repair. The marriage becomes a fiction through supported by a legal tie by refusing to sever that tie, the law in such cases does not serve the sanctity of on the contrary, and it shows scout regard for the feelings and emotions of the parties.

The Divorce Act, 1869 was just amended in 2001. It states in Section 10(x) that the 'Cruelty' should be such that it can cause reasonable apprehension of harm or injury to the aggrieved spouse to live with the other spouse. Be it as it is, the orthodox concept of cruelty has remained the same inasmuch as it divides cruelty into two, (i) physical and (ii) mental cruelty. The cruelty, again, can be intentional and/or unintentional.

The apex Court has held that Mental Cruelty breaks down the Marriage irretrievably. In the case before the apex Court, the husband and wife were living separately for a long. Both crossed 49 years of age and working independently. The only child born from wedlock was already given in marriage. Wife's willingness to live with the husband at this stage, instead of accepting lump sum towards maintenance was not genuine and hence, was not acceptable. The Physical Cruelty will be a matter of degree and it will be purely a question of fact to be proved on the anvil of law of evidence.

The Mental Cruelty, in its turn, would be the matter of investigation and inquiry about cruel treatment and its impact on the mind of the aggrieved spouse and whether it did really cause reasonable apprehension to life, limb and/or health of the aggrieved spouse. The apex Court has explained the meaning of mental cruelty. It is held that mental cruelty means mental pain, agony or suffering caused by either spouse of such a magnitude that it severs the bond between two spouses and makes it impossible for the live together and the two cannot be expected to live together. However, the apex Court's made it succinctly clear that some petty quarrels between the couple cannot amount to mental cruelty even if it results in physical or mental ailments. Thus, Cruelty has been understood to mean a conduct of such a character, which can cause danger to life, limb or health (bodily or mentally) so as to give rise to reasonable apprehension of such a danger. But the apex Court' has held that for the purposes of Divorce, danger to life or limb is not necessary.

What is necessary is a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the spouse. The Bombay High Court has held that the term cruelty connotes acts which give unnecessary pain to other spouse or which are savage or inhuman or merciless. Undoubtedly, what amounts to Cruelty has to be judged on the facts and circumstances of each case, like the parties, physical and mental condition, temperament, interaction between the parties, character and social status, their daily life, local place, economic conditions, etc.

The apex Court has held that the facts and circumstances of each case must be examined on the basis of above factors because cruelty in one case may not amount to cruelty in another case. The motive and/or intention is not material to decide the issue of cruelty. The conduct of the spouse is of paramount importance and that alone can decide the issue whether it amounts to cruelty or not.

The Court cannot, however, rely upon the bare testimony of husband and cannot conclude the issue of cruelty of wife and grant relief of cruelty to husband. The subsequent conduct during pendency of suit can also be taken into consideration. However, divorce cannot be granted on mere allegations and averments in Written Statements. The wife administered "Love potion" (tonic?) to a husband in belief that it would conduce to the happy married life. But the husband suffered in health as a result of the potion. The wife repented her action. The husband was afraid that it might happen again. The crucial point was whether it was treasonable apprehension. On evidence, the Court held in affirmative. It was held that it was a "Legal" Cruelty.

She left matrimonial home leaving her daughter of 4-5 years of age and never took care of the daughter. She filed a fake case of bigamy against husband. She did not attend her daughter's marriage. Court granted divorce on the ground of desertion and cruelly. High court set it aside without giving reasons. Supreme Court held that High Court order is liable to be set aside. Though Supreme Court can dispose of appeal but since law conferred powers on High court to decide on appreciation of evidence the matter was remitted to High court.

The Divorce Act of Christian under Section 10(1) (x) deals with the divorce on the ground of Cruelty of such a nature as to cause reasonable apprehension in the mind of Petitioner that it would be harmful or injurious for the Petitioner to live with the Respondent. The ground of cruelty for divorce is equally available to Husband and Wife and now after amendment, there is no gender bias in the statute.


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