The grounds for divorce recognised by the Indian Supreme Court include cruelty. Additionally, the wife who files for divorce due to cruelty will receive support from her husband. Cruelty was, however, only a basis for judicial separation under the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 prior to this decision and not a basis for divorce. Later, in the case of Dastane v. Dastane in 1975, the Supreme Court of India affirmed this. However, the addition of cruelty as a reason for divorce was made in 1976. With the change in the legislation comes a shift in how cruelty is defined.


Sucheta Narayan, the respondent in this case, and Narayan Ganesh Dastane, the appellant, were wed in April 1956. Prior to their nuptials, however, the Respondent experienced a serious case of sunstroke that temporarily impairs her mental state. The couple has two daughters: Vibha was born on March 21, 1959, and Shubha was born in March 1957. Respondent travelled to Poona in January 1961 to attend the wedding of the appellant’s brother, and while there, the appellant brought respondent to see a psychiatrist. Respondent demonstrated a lack of cooperation in getting tested. After that, the respondent consented to see a different doctor for a checkup because she thought the appellant was planning and bringing up a claim of unsound mind in the lawsuit against her. Both of them lived together until 1961. When the relationship between the couple strained respondent was three month’s pregnant with her husband. Appellant at the time living in Delhi filed a police report seeking protection against the respondent’s parents and family members/relatives as he feared of life. On that particular time, they interacted with each other but they spewed more venom at each other after a meet as it was an opportunity to sort out everything but on subsequent day respondent renewed the police protection on his request. After then respondent filed a letter to the appellant complaining about the conduct and asking for maintenance for herself and her daughters. Respondent then wrote a letter to the secretary of the Ministry of Food and agriculture about noticing that appellant had deserted her and treated her with very cruelty. And seeking the government to separately provide maintenance for her along with her daughters. The statements were recorded by the Additional Superintendent of Police about the ill-treatment and desertion committed against the respondent. The cross complaints and the recorded statements amongst the parties were pointless and did not have any viewpoint. The third daughter Vibha was born on August 1961, to the family. The Appellant wrote a letter of regret for not being present after a proper invitation on the naming ceremony of his own child to the Respondent’s father and also wrote about the complaints of the Respondent’s conduct. The appellant informed the Respondent’s father about he moved to the court on December 15, 1961, for seeking separation from the Respondent.

On February 19, 1962, proceedings were started in the Trial Court, where the Appellant requested that his marriage be annulled in accordance with Section 12(1)(c) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, on the grounds that his consent had been obtained fraudulently. The Respondent’s father allegedly misrepresented the Respondent’s mental health to the Appellant in order to win his consent. The Appellant claimed that the Respondent was treated at a mental hospital for schizophrenia because she experienced an incident prior to marriage that led to her bat attack of sunstroke. As an alternative, he requested a divorce in accordance with Section 13 (1)(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 on the grounds that the Respondent lacked capacity. In addition, the Appellant requested judicial separation in accordance with Section 10(1)(b) on the ground that the Respondent had treated him with a cruelty which created a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the appellant that his life is under threat if he afterward lives with the respondent. The Trial Court, in this case, held that the wife is guilty of cruelty but rejected the contentions concerning fraud and unsoundness of mind, and subsequently grant a decree for judicial separation. Both parties after then appealed to the District Court which allowed the respondent’s appeal and dismissed the appellant’s appeal. A special leave to appeal was then granted to the appellant, strictly limited to the issue of judicial separation on the basis of cruelty and not concerned with how the appellant’s consent to marriage was obtained or whether the respondent was mentally incapacitated for the time prior to the presentation of the petition. Subsequently, the appellant filed a Second Appeal in the Bombay High Court, which was dismissed by the court. The Bombay High Court’s ruling on the issues of respondent’s insanity and permission to marriage was to be considered final.

Issues Involved:

  • Whether the Burden of Proof of establishing cruelty beyond any reasonable doubt, lies on the Appellant or not?
  •  Whether the claims of the Appellant (the husband in this case) regarding the respondent’s (wife) unsoundness of mind under Section 13(1)(iii) and consent fraudulently obtained by the respondent’s parents under Section 12(1)(c) exists or not?
  • Whether the act of sexual intercourse with the spouse in marriage amounts to condonation of cruelty by the Appellant or not?
  • Do the facts need to be proved beyond the reasonable doubt in matrimonial disputes between the parties to any case?


In the present case, the Appellant’s contention regarding his wife being of unsound mind was forged by him. The contention regarding the respondent conducting cruelty on the Appellant has been proved to exist, but the engaging of appellants in act of sexual intercourse with the Respondent amounts to condonation of cruelty and desertion in the eyes of law. After the acts of desertion and cruelty have been forgiven, for the Appellant’s claims regarding cruelty to have held ground, the Respondent’s subsequent conduct had to be as grave or to the degree of her previous acts of cruelty.

Even mental cruelty was accounted for as “cruelty”. The section now in the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, imposes no restrictions. This is in order to enable the courts to explain it in a wider sense. The basic requirement now is that there must be painful or harsh conduct of a certain amount and for a relatively lengthened duration. In all cases of claimed cruelty that come before the courts, a common practice embraced by them is to adjudicate the matter based on all relevant circumstances, not just as a solitary incident.

Adv.Khanak Sharma (D/1710/2023)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This field is required.

This field is required.


The following disclaimer governs the use of this website (“Website”) and the services provided by the Law offices of Kr. Vivek Tanwar Advocate & Associates in accordance with the laws of India. By accessing or using this Website, you acknowledge and agree to the terms and conditions stated in this disclaimer.

The information provided on this Website is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice or relied upon as such. The content of this Website is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Firm. Any reliance on the information provided on this Website is done at your own risk.

The Law Firm makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, completeness, reliability, or suitability of the information contained on this Website.

The Law Firm disclaims all liability for any errors or omissions in the content of this Website or for any actions taken in reliance on the information provided herein. The information contained in this website, should not be construed as an act of solicitation of work or advertisement in any manner.