Mental Cruelty


Cruelty is said to be a kind of behaviour, either physical or mental, that involves violence. It is against the moral grounds and human ethics, and the ways in which one must behave to the people. Cruelty certainly encompasses abusive, immoral, inhumane and outrageous treatment towards someone. Barbarous or cruel treatments are one of the prime causes of separation of couples and majority of marital disputes. Cruelty is said to be the very infliction of psychological, physical or any form of extreme agony. Cruelty is identified as a punishable offence in most of the countries across the globe. However, it’s often seen that just bodily cruelty is consider to be punishable and not mental cruelty. There are varied forms of it existing, especially for women

  • Honour killing
  • Dowry deaths
  • Female infanticide
  • Mob violence/ gender based violence
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Prenatal sex selection
  • Acid throwing or administering
  • Reproductive coercion
  • Mental agony
  • Mental harassment or torture
  • Body shaming
  • Forced sterilisation/ forced abortion
  • Stoning and flogging
  • Marriage by abduction, and what not

However, not much regard has been given to the effect of mental cruelty on women and the effect of such torture on the relationships, nature and confidence of women and especially on the lives of women with the interests of people who are associated with women in that very relationship.

As per the section 13(i)(a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, a mental cruelty is defined as that moment when either party causes mental pain, agony of suffering of quite a huge magnitude that it severs the bond between the wife and husband and as a result of which, it becomes impossible for the party, to sustain that relationship. In order to constitute mental cruelty, the conduct of the concerned party should be grave and substantial

Some instances that certainly define mental cruelty, as per contentions of supreme court are :

  • Lack of affection and coldness with rudeness and indifference
  • Neglect and torture
  • Feeling of deep anguish, neglect, intolerable behaviour
  • Unrelenting course of abusive and humiliating behaviour
  • Unjustifiable, rude and indifferent behaviour
  • Reprehensible conduct towards women, neglecting and indifferent behaviour
  • Refusal to have intercourse with the wife without being physically incapable
  • Friction between the relationships of husband and wife
  • Unnecessary shouting and infliction of bodily injury
  • Verbal, physical or mental cruelty

In several cases, it has been opined that mental cruelty is no less severe ground than the physical cruelty in cases of divorce. Mental cruelty can

  • Stagnate the relationship between couples
  • Can be the prime reason of conflicts
  • Can lead to moral and personal disputes
  • Can harm the couples
  • It is now recognised under the penal provisions
  • It is subject to punishment

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