New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ruled that
divorce cannot be granted on isolated incidents of friction or
statements made on the spur of the moment by either spouse as
they do not constitute an act of "cruelty."
A Bench of Justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan said
divorce on grounds of cruelty can be granted only if it is
established that there was sustained and unjustified
reprehensible conduct by one of the spouses affecting the
physical and mental well being of the other, including
inordinate persistence of sexual demands.
"Making certain statements on the spur of the moment and
expressing certain displeasure about the behaviour of elders
may not be characterised as cruelty. Mere trivial irritations,
quarrels, normal wear and tear of married life which happens
in day-to-day life in all families would not be adequate for
grant of divorce on the ground of cruelty.
"Sustained unjustifiable and reprehensible conduct
affecting physical and mental health of the other spouse may
lead to mental cruelty," Justice Sathasivam writing the
The apex court passed the judgement while dismissing the
appeal of Gurbux Singh, Principal, ITI College, Sirhali,
Amritsar, seeking divorce from his wife Harminder Kaur a
Librarian in Government Institute DIET at Verka, Amritsar, on
the ground of ?cruelty?.
"It is true that even a single act of violence which
is of grievous and inexcusable nature satisfies the test of
cruelty. Persistence in inordinate sexual demands or
malpractices by either spouse can be cruelty if it injures the
other spouse. There is no such complaint by the appellant.
"In the case on hand, as stated earlier, the appellant
has projected few instances in which, according to him, the
respondent (wife) abused his parents,"Justice Sathasivam said.
The husband sought divorce under Section 13 of the
Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, on the ground that his wife had
insulted his aged parents during Lohri festival and used
abusive words against them in front of friends and relatives.
However, the matrimonial court and the Punjab and Haryana
High Court dismissed his plea, following which he appealed in
the apex court.
Dismissing the appeal, the apex court said that barring
the allegation of insult of his parents, Singh was not able to
establish any other charge of cruelty by his wife.
"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. Therefore, it is essential
for the appellant, who claims relief, to prove that a
particular/part of conduct or behaviour resulted in cruelty to
"No prior assumptions can be made in such matters.
Meaning thereby that it cannot be assumed that a particular
conduct will, under all circumstances, amount to cruelty,
vis-à-vis the other party. The aggrieved party has to make a
specific case that the conduct of which exception is taken
amounts to cruelty.
The apex court said married life should be assessed as a
whole and a few isolated instances over a certain period will
not amount to cruelty.
"The ill-conduct must be precedent for a fairly lengthy
period where the relationship has deteriorated to an extent
that because of the acts and behaviour of a spouse, one party
finds it extremely difficult to live with the other party...
"Both the appellant and respondent being highly
qualified persons, the appellant being Principal in ITI
College, the respondent working as a Librarian in a government
institute, an isolated friction on some occasion like festival
of Lohri even in the presence of others cannot be a valid
ground for dissolving the marriage," the Bench said.