Grounds of Divorce under Section-13 of HMA, 1955

Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955:

(1) Any marriage solemnised, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, may, on a petition presented by either the husband or the wife, be dissolved by a decree of divorce on the ground that the other party

(i) has, after the solemnisation of the marriage, had voluntary sexual intercourse with any person other than his or her spouse.

(a) Has, after the solemnisation of the marriage, treated the petitioner with cruelty.

(b) Has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition

(ii) Has ceased to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion; or

(iii) Has been incurably of unsound mind, or has been suffering continuously or intermittently from mental disorder of such a kind and to such an extent that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent.

Explanation .In this clause:-

(a) The expression mental disorder means mental illness, arrested or incomplete development of mind, psychopathic disorder or any other disorder or disability of mind and includes schizophrenia;

(b) the expression psychopathic disorder means a persistent disorder or disability of mind (whether or not including sub-normality of intelligence) which results in abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct on the part of the other party, and whether or not it requires or is susceptible to medical treatment; or]

(iv) Has been suffering from a virulent and incurable form of leprosy; or

(v) Has been suffering from venereal disease in a   communicable form; or

(vi) Has renounced the world by entering any religious order; or

(vi) has not been heard of as being alive for a period of seven years or more by those persons who would naturally have heard of it, had that party been alive ,Explanation. In this sub-section, the expression desertion means the desertion of the petitioner by the other party to the marriage without reasonable cause and without the consent or against the wish of such party, and includes the wilful neglect of the petitioner by the other party to the marriage, and its grammatical variations and cognate expressions shall be construed accordingly.

(1A) Either party to a marriage, whether solemnised before or after the commencement of this Act, may also present a petition for the dissolution of the marriage by a decree of divorce on the ground.

(i) that there has been no resumption of cohabitation as between the parties to the marriage for a period of one year or upwards after the passing of a decree for judicial separation in a proceeding to which they were parties; or

(ii) that there has been no restitution of conjugal rights as between the parties to the marriage for a period of one year or upwards after the passing of a decree for restitution of conjugal rights in a proceeding to which they were parties.

(2) A wife may also present a petition for the dissolution of her marriage by a decree of divorce on the ground.

(i) in the case of any marriage solemnised before the commencement of this Act, that the husband had married again before such commencement or that any other wife of the husband married before such commencement was alive at the time of the solemnisation of the marriage of the petitioner: Provided that in either case the other wife is alive at the time of the presentation of the petition; or

(ii) that the husband has, since the solemnisation of the marriage, been guilty of rape, sodomy or bestiality; or

(iii) that in a suit under section 18 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 (78 of 1956), or in a proceeding under section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974) [or under the corresponding section 488 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (5 of 1898)], a decree or order, as the case may be, has been passed against the husband awarding maintenance to the wife notwithstanding that she was living apart and that since the passing of such decree or order, cohabitation between the parties has not been resumed for one year or upwards; or

(iv) that her marriage (whether consummated or not) was solemnised before she attained the age of fifteen years and she has repudiated the marriage after attaining that age but before attaining the age of eighteen years.

Explanation. This clause applies whether the marriage was solemnised before or after the commencement of the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976 (68 of 1976)*. State Amendment Uttar Pradesh: In its application to Hindus domiciled in Uttar Pradesh and also when either party to the marriage was not at the time of marriage a Hindu domiciled in Uttar Pradesh, in section 13.

(i) in sub-section (1), after clause (i) insert (and shall be deemed always to have been inserted) the following clause, namely:. (1a) has persistently or repeatedly treated the petitioner with such cruelty as to cause a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the petitioner that it will be harmful or injurious for the petitioner to live with the other party; or, and (viii) has not resumed cohabitation after the passing of a decree for judicial separation against that party and.

(a) a period of two years has elapsed since the passing of such decree, or

(b) the case is one of exceptional hardship to the petitioner or of exceptional depravity on the part of other party; or

(ii) for clause (viii) (since repealed in the principal Act) substitute (and shall be deemed to have been substituted) following clause, namely:.

[ Vide Uttar Pradesh Act 13 of 1962, sec. 2 (w.e.f. 7-11-1962)].

(i) Cruelty which is a ground for dissolution of marriage 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. Cruelty need not be physical. If from the conduct of the spouse it is established or an inference can be legitimately drawn that the treatment of the spouse is such that it causes apprehension in the mind of the other spouse, about his or her mental welfare then this conduct amounts to cruelty; Maya Devi v. Jagdish Prasad, AIR 2007 SC 1426.

(ii) Making false allegations against husband of having illicit relationship and extramarital affairs by wife in her written statement constitute mental cruelty of such nature that husband cannot be reasonably asked to live with wife. Husband is entitled to decree of divorce; Sadhana Srivastava v. Arvind Kumar Srivastava, AIR 2006 All 7.

(iii) The expression Cruelty as envisaged under section 13 of the Act clearly admits in its ambit and scope such acts which may even cause mental agony to aggrieved party. Intention to be cruel is not an essential element of cruelty as envisaged under section 13 (1) (ia) of the Act. It is sufficient that if the cruelty is of such type that it becomes impossible for spouses to live together; Neelu Kohli v. Naveen Kohli, AIR 2004 All 1.

(iv) The levelling of false allegation by one spouse about the other having alleged illicit relations with different persons outside wedlock amounted to mental cruelty; Jai Dayal v. Shakuntala Devi, AIR 2004 Del 39.

(v) Mental disorder for relief under section 13 (1) (iii) should be of such a degree that it is impossible to lead normal marital life or it is unreasonable to expect a person to put up with a spouse with such condition; B.N. Panduranga Shet v. S.N. Vijayalaxmi, AIR 2003 Karn 357

(vi) Due to the criminal complaint filed by the wife, the husband remained in jail for 63 days and also his father and brother for 20 to 25 days. Therefore, even though the case of cruelty may not have been proved but as the facts emerging from the record clearly indicate that the living of the two as husband and wife would not only be difficult but impossible, the court has no alternative but to grant a decree of divorce; Poonam Gupta v. Ghanshyam Gupta, AIR 2003 All 51.

(vii) Unless the entire genesis of the quarrels in the course of which, one of the spouses holds out a threat to take his or her life is placed before the court, the very fact that some threat in the course of a quarrel is held out, cannot be viewed in isolation or construed as mental cruelty to the other spouse; Nalini Sunder v. G.V. Sundar, AIR 2003 Kar 86.

(viii) A husband cannot ask his wife that he does not like her company, but she can or should stay with other members of the family in matrimonial home. Such an attitude is cruelty in itself on the part of the husband; Yudhishter Singh v. Sarita, AIR 2002 Raj 382.

(ix) Removal of mangalsutra by wife at the instance of her husband does not amount to mental cruelty; S. Hanumantha Rao v. S. Ramani, AIR 1999 SC 1318.

(x) A threat to commit suicide by the wife amounts to infliction of mental cruelty on the husband but it should not be uttered in a domestic tiff; Pushpa Rani v. Vijay Pal Singh, AIR 1994 All 220.

(xi) Solitary instance of cruelty would not constitute cruelty so as to grant a decree for divorce rather the behaviour of the other party has to be persistently and repeatedly treating the other spouse with such cruelty so as to cause a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the husband/wife that it will be harmful or injurious for him or her to live with the other party. The expression persistently means continue firmly or obstinately and the expression repeatedly means to say or do over again; Vimlesh v. Prakash Chand Sharma, AIR 1992 All 261.

Introduction: Understanding the Legal Framework

Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, marks a critical juncture in personal law, detailing specific grounds upon which a Hindu marriage can be dissolved. This provision embodies the legal recognition of various circumstances under which couples can seek divorce, reflecting a blend of traditional values and modern legal principles. In this comprehensive analysis, we delve into each ground, unraveling their legal interpretations and societal implications.

Ground for DivorceBrief Description
Adultery (Sec. 13(1)(i))Voluntary sexual intercourse outside marriage
Cruelty (Sec. 13(1)(ia))Physical or mental harm causing danger to life, limb, or health
Desertion (Sec. 13(1)(ib))Abandonment for a continuous period of not less than two years
Conversion to another religion (Sec. 13(1)(ii))Converting to a religion other than Hinduism
Mental disorder (Sec. 13(1)(iii))Incurable mental disorder or insanity
Leprosy (Sec. 13(1)(iv))Suffering from leprosy for a continuous period of not less than three years
Venereal disease (Sec. 13(1)(v))Suffering from a venereal disease in a communicable form
Renunciation of the world (Sec. 13(1)(vi))Renouncing the world by entering any religious order
Presumptive death (Sec. 13(1)(vii))Not been heard of as being alive for a period of seven years or more

Adultery: The Legal Standpoint

Adultery, once a criminal offense in Indian law, is a significant ground for divorce. It involves voluntary sexual intercourse outside the marital bond. The Supreme Court’s landmark judgment decriminalizing adultery underlines its complexity, focusing on the sanctity of personal relationships and consent.

Cruelty: A Multifaceted Concept

Cruelty, both mental and physical, forms a substantive ground for divorce. It encompasses a wide range of behaviors from physical harm to emotional and psychological abuse, significantly impacting the well-being of the spouse. Legal precedents have evolved to include various forms of cruelty, recognizing the profound effects of non-physical abuse.

Desertion: Beyond Physical Separation

Desertion involves the abandonment of one spouse by the other without reasonable cause and against the wishes of the former. It’s not just physical separation but also the intent to desert that’s crucial. Legal interpretations have considered a continuous period of two years for this ground.

Conversion: Change of Religion

Religious conversion of one spouse can be a ground for divorce, reflecting the importance of shared religious beliefs in marital life. However, legal scrutiny ensures that personal freedom and genuine religious beliefs are balanced against marital stability.

Mental Disorder: Consideration for Health and Safety

A spouse’s mental disorder that impedes a reasonable expectation of marital duties and responsibilities is a ground for divorce. Courts have been sensitive to the nature of the disorder and its implications on marital life.

Chronic Diseases: Leprosy and Venereal Diseases

The presence of incurable and chronic diseases like leprosy or venereal diseases in a communicable form has been recognized as a ground, balancing public health concerns with marital obligations.

Renunciation and Presumptive Death

Renunciation of the world by a spouse and presumptive death after a period of seven years are among the other grounds, underlining the diverse and complex nature of marital relationships.

Divorce Grounds: A Comparative Legal Perspective

Comparing the grounds for divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act with those in other personal laws in India offers intriguing insights. For example, while adultery is a common ground across various laws, the interpretation and evidentiary standards differ. Similarly, the approach to mental health issues and chronic diseases varies, reflecting diverse cultural and religious sensitivities. This comparative analysis aims to highlight these differences and similarities, providing a holistic view of divorce laws in India.

Finding the Right Divorce Lawyer for Your Case

Navigating Divorce with Expert Legal Assistance

Embarking on the path of divorce, especially under the complex provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, requires skilled legal guidance. At Century Law Firm, we understand the emotional and legal intricacies involved in such proceedings. Our team of experienced divorce lawyers is equipped to handle your case with sensitivity, expertise, and a commitment to securing the best possible outcome for you. We offer personalized legal strategies, considering each client’s unique situation and needs. Connect with us to ensure that your journey through this challenging time is handled with professionalism and empathy.

FAQs on Grounds of Divorce under HMA

  1. What constitutes ‘cruelty’ under Section 13?
    • Cruelty includes both physical harm and mental torture, recognized by the courts when it becomes unbearable or harmful to live with the spouse.
  2. How is ‘desertion’ legally proven?
    • Desertion is proven by establishing the duration of separation and the intent to desert, which is typically for a continuous period of two years.
  3. Can conversion to another religion automatically lead to divorce?
    • While conversion is a ground for divorce, it doesn’t lead to automatic dissolution. The other spouse must file for divorce based on this ground.
  4. Is the mental disorder a sufficient ground on its own?
    • The mental disorder is a ground for divorce if it’s severe enough to prevent the fulfillment of marital obligations.
  5. Does the duration of the marriage affect the grounds for divorce?
    • The duration of the marriage is not a direct factor in determining the grounds for divorce under Section 13. However, the timing of certain events, like desertion, can be relevant.
  6. Can mutual consent be a ground for divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act?
  7. How does the court handle cases of venereal disease in divorce proceedings?
    • In cases of venereal disease, the court examines medical evidence to ascertain the nature of the disease and its impact on the marital relationship.
  8. Is incompatibility a ground for divorce under the HMA?
    • While incompatibility is not explicitly listed under Section 13, aspects like mental cruelty can encompass issues arising from incompatibility.
  9. Are financial issues considered under cruelty for divorce cases?
    • Financial issues can contribute to a claim of cruelty if they lead to significant mental stress or abuse within the marital relationship.
  10. How are child custody matters addressed in divorce cases under Section 13?
    • Child custody is determined based on the child’s best interests, which is a separate proceeding from the divorce case itself.
  11. Is mutual consent required for all grounds under Section 13?
    • No, mutual consent is specifically addressed under Section 13B. Other grounds do not require mutual consent.
  12. Can adultery be proven based on circumstantial evidence?
    • Yes, adultery can be established through circumstantial evidence, as direct evidence is rarely available.
  13. Is mental cruelty a valid ground for divorce?
    • Yes, mental cruelty, where one spouse causes mental pain and suffering to the other, is a valid ground.
  14. How long must desertion last before it becomes a ground for divorce?
    • Desertion must last for a continuous period of at least two years.
  15. Does a spouse’s conversion to another religion automatically dissolve the marriage?
    • No, it doesn’t dissolve the marriage automatically but provides a ground for the other spouse to seek divorce.
  16. What types of mental disorders are considered under Section 13?
    • Incurable forms of mental disorder or insanity that hinder a normal marital relationship.
  17. Can leprosy contracted after marriage be a ground for divorce?
    • Yes, if it is incurable and lasts for at least three years.
  18. Is a spouse’s refusal to have children a ground for divorce under Section 13?
    • It can be considered under cruelty if it causes mental harm to the other spouse.
  19. Can economic abuse be considered as cruelty?
    • Economic abuse can be a form of cruelty if it leads to significant distress to the spouse.
  20. Does long-term imprisonment of a spouse qualify as a ground for divorce?
    • Long-term imprisonment itself is not a ground, but it may lead to circumstances like desertion.
  21. Can divorce be granted if one spouse refuses to consummate the marriage?
    • Refusal to consummate the marriage can be grounds for annulment or considered under cruelty.
  22. What if a spouse develops a venereal disease after marriage?
    • If it’s in a communicable form and incurable, it can be a ground for divorce.
  23. Are there any time limits for filing a divorce under these grounds?
    • Yes, the Limitation Act applies, but it varies based on the specific ground.
  24. Can lifestyle differences be considered under cruelty for divorce?
    • Significant lifestyle differences causing mental distress can be considered under cruelty.
  25. Is infertility a ground for divorce under Section 13?
    • Infertility itself is not a ground, but it can lead to situations that may qualify as other grounds.
  26. What if a spouse is missing? When can the other spouse file for divorce?
    • If a spouse is missing for seven years or more, the other spouse can file for divorce on grounds of presumptive death.
  27. Does cheating during the engagement period affect divorce under adultery?
    • No, adultery concerns only actions after marriage.
  28. Can a single instance of physical abuse be grounds for divorce?
    • Yes, if it’s severe enough to pose a danger to life, limb, or health.
  29. How does the court verify the grounds for divorce claims?
    • The court examines evidence, witness testimonies, and expert opinions to verify the claims.
  30. Can any ground for divorce be contested in court?
    • Yes, the respondent spouse can contest the grounds for divorce in court.