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Cruelty – Hindu MARRIAGE ACT and S.498-a ipc (Short notes)

June 15, 2021

 Section 13(1)(i-a) of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 —

It consists of acts which are dangerous to life, limb or health. Cruelty for the purpose of the Act means where one spouse has so treated the other and manifested such feelings towards her or him as to have inflicted bodily injury or to have caused reasonable apprehension of bodily injury, suffering or to have injured health. Cruelty may be physical or mental. Mental cruelty is the conduct of the other spouse which causes mental suffering or fear to the matrimonial life of the other, Savitri Pandey v. Prem Chandra Pandey(2002) 2 SCC 73

 As ground for divorce means cruelty of such character as to amount to danger to life, limb or health, bodily or mental, as to give rise to reasonable apprehension of such danger, Madanlal Sharma v. Santosh Sharma, 1980 Mah LJ 391. 3. Such conduct on the part of a husband or wife.

Under Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 cruelty includes both physical and mental cruelty. The legal conception of cruelty and the kind of degree of cruelty necessary to amount to a matrimonial offence has not been defined under the Act. The legislature has refrained from giving a comprehensive definition of the expression that may cover all cases, realising the danger in making such attempt. The accepted legal meaning in England as also in India of this expression, which is rather difficult to define, had been “conduct of such character as to have caused danger to life, limb or health (bodily or mental) or as to give rise to a reasonable apprehension of such danger”, Parveen Mehta v. Inderjit Mehta(2002) 5 SCC 706

The expression “cruelty” has not been defined in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The said expression has been used in relation to human conduct or human behaviour. It is the conduct in relation to or in respect of matrimonial duties and obligations. Cruelty is a course or conduct of one, which is adversely affecting the other. It may be defined as wilful and unjustifiable conduct of such character as to cause danger to life, limb or health, bodily or mental or as to give rise to a reasonable apprehension of such a danger. The question of mental cruelty has to be considered in the light of the norms of marital ties of the particular society to which the parties belong, their social values, status, environment in which they live. The cruelty may be mental or physical, intentional or unintentional. Mental cruelty may consist of verbal abuses and insults by using filthy and abusive language leading to constant disturbance of mental peace of the other party. If the cruelty is physical, the court will have no problem in determining it. It is a question of fact and degree. In physical cruelty, there can be tangible and direct evidence, but in case of mental cruelty there may not at the same time be direct evidence, A. Jayachandra v. Aneel Kaur(2005) 2 SCC 22

To constitute “cruelty” it is enough that conduct of one of parties is so abnormal and below accepted norm that other spouse could not reasonably be expected to put up with it. Conduct is no longer required to be so atrociously abominable which would cause reasonable apprehension that it would be harmful or injurious to continue cohabitation with other spouse. Hence, not necessary to establish physical violence. Continued ill-treatment, cessation of marital intercourse, studied neglect, indifference may lead to inference of cruelty, Manisha Tyagi v. Deepak Kumar(2010) 4 SCC 339: (2010) 2 SCC (Civ) 123. 

Cruelty in matrimonial behaviour defies any definition and can be of infinite variety, categories wherefor can never be closed. Cruelty has to be judged taking into account entire facts and circumstances of case and not by any predetermined rigid formula. In matrimonial relationship cruelty mean absence of mutual respect and understanding between spouses which embitters relationship. Sometimes it may take form of violence or at times may just be an attitude or approach. Silence in some situations may also amount to cruelty, Ravi Kumar v. Julmidevi(2010) 4 SCC 476: (2010) 2 SCC (Civ) 185. 

Cruelty has not been defined under the Act. It is quite possible that a particular conduct may amount to cruelty in one case but the same conduct necessarily may not amount to cruelty due to change of various factors, in different set of circumstances, Gurbux Singh v. Harminder Kaur(2010) 14 SCC 301

Cruelty is evident where one spouse so treats other and manifests such feelings in other, as to cause reasonable apprehension in mind of other that it would be harmful or injurious to reside with other spouse. Cruelty may be physical or mental, K. Srinivas Rao v. D.A. Deepa(2013) 5 SCC 226: (2013) 2 SCC (Cri) 963: (2013) 2 SCC (Civ) 775. 

The expression “cruelty” has an inseparable nexus with human conduct or human behaviour. It is always dependent upon the social strata or the milieu to which the parties belong, their ways of life, relationship, temperaments and emotions that are conditioned by their social status, Vishwanath Agrawal v. Sarla Vishwanath Agrawal(2012) 7 SCC 288: (2012) 3 SCC (Cri) 347: (2012) 4 SCC (Civ) 224. 

The cruelty may be mental or physical, intentional or unintentional. If it is physical it is a question of fact and degree. If it is mental, the enquiry must begin as to the nature of the cruel treatment and then as to the impact of such treatment on the mind of the spouse. Whether it caused reasonable apprehension that it would be harmful or injurious to live with the other, ultimately, is a matter of inference to be drawn by taking into account the nature of the conduct and its effect on the complaining spouse, Shobha Rani v. Madhukar Reddi(1988) 1 SCC 105: 1988 SCC (Cri) 60. 

 Cruelty can be said to be an act committed with the intention to cause sufferings to the opposite party, G.V.N. Kameswara Rao v. G. Jabilli(2002) 2 SCC 296

“Cruelty” under Section 498-A of Indian Penal Code, 1860

 “Cruelty” under Section 498-A of Indian Penal Code, 1860 means any wilful conduct which is of such nature as is likely to drive a woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to her life or person. Further held, such wilful conduct should be of such nature as would provoke a person of common prudence to commit suicide, Nachhattar Singh v. State of Punjab(2011) 11 SCC 542: (2011) 3 SCC (Cri) 400. 

Cruelty can either be mental or physical. It cannot be put into straitjacket formula because it is a relative term. What constitutes cruelty for one person may not constitute cruelty for another, G.V. Siddaramesh v. State of Karnataka(2010) 3 SCC 152: (2010) 2 SCC (Cri) 19. 

Cruelty includes both physical and mental cruelty for the purpose of Section 498-A IPC. Mental cruelty, of course, varies from person to person, depending upon the intensity and the degree of endurance, some may meet with courage and some others suffer in silence, to some it may be unbearable and a weak person may think of ending one’s life, Pinakin Mahipatray Rawal v. State of Gujarat(2013) 10 SCC 48: (2013) 3 SCC (Cri) 801: (2013) 4 SCC (Civ) 616. 

Cruelty or harassment differs from case to case. It relates to mindset of people which varies from person to person. Cruelty can be mental or it can be physical. Mental cruelty is also of different shades. It can be verbal or emotional like insulting or ridiculing or humiliating a woman. It can be giving threats of injury to her or her near and dear ones. It can be depriving her of economic resources or essential amenities of life. It can be putting restraints on her movements. It can be not allowing her to talk to outside world. Physical cruelty could be actual beating or causing pain and harm to the person of a woman. Every such instance of cruelty and related harassment has a different impact on mind of a woman, Surinder Singh v. State of Haryana(2014) 4 SCC 129.

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