Grounds for Divorce in India


Marriage, as a sacred institution, forms the bedrock of societal structure. However, life’s complexities sometimes lead to the unraveling of these marital ties, necessitating a legal dissolution. In India, the Hindu Marriage Act provides a framework for addressing such situations, offering nine distinct grounds for divorce.

This article delves into the intricacies of these legal grounds, shedding light on their nuances and implications. From the historical evolution of laws to contemporary issues like NRI-related desertion, the exploration encompasses the legal provisions and precedents that guide divorce proceedings.

Join us on a journey through the clauses of the Hindu Marriage Act, as we decipher the legal language and implications behind grounds such as adultery, cruelty, desertion, conversion, unsoundness of mind, virulent and incurable leprosy, venereal disease, entering a new religious order, and the presumption of death. Each ground carries its own legal weight, and understanding the specifics is crucial for anyone navigating the challenging terrain of marital dissolution.

As we unravel the legal tapestry that surrounds divorce in India, this article aims to provide a comprehensive resource for individuals seeking clarity on the legal intricacies, practitioners navigating divorce cases, and the curious minds eager to comprehend the ever-evolving landscape of family law in the Indian context.

1. Adultery:

Adultery, as a ground for divorce under section 13(1)(i) of the Hindu Marriage Act, involves one party engaging in a continuous course of adulterous life. The term ‘living in adultery’ implies more than a sporadic lapse from virtue. It necessitates a sustained pattern of adulterous behavior. The legislative intent discourages both overly narrow and overly broad interpretations, emphasizing that a single past incident is insufficient. For the provision to apply, it must be demonstrated that, at the time of filing the petition, there existed a reasonable belief that the respondent was still living in adultery. This requirement avoids co-extensive alignment with the filing of the petition.

Relevant Legal Provisions: Section 13(1)(i) of the Hindu Marriage Act.

2. Cruelty:

Post the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act 1976, cruelty is now a ground for both divorce and judicial separation under section 13(1)(i). Mental cruelty is broadly defined as conduct causing such mental pain and suffering that living together becomes impossible. Factors considered in determining mental cruelty include the social status and educational levels of the parties. Each case is unique, and what constitutes cruelty in one case may not necessarily apply in another.

Relevant Legal Provisions: Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act.

3. Desertion:

Introduced by the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act 1976, desertion is now a valid ground for both judicial separation and divorce. This ground becomes particularly relevant in cases of NRI-related desertion, where non-resident Indians marry local individuals, leading to subsequent abandonment. Addressing this issue may require legislative measures to safeguard the rights of spouses.

Relevant Legal Provisions: Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act.

4. Conversion:

A Hindu marriage can be dissolved if one party converts to another religion, as specified under section 13(1)(ii). The grounds for divorce involve the voluntary relinquishment of Hindu religion and a formal ceremonial conversion. Mere theoretical allegiance to another religion is not sufficient; there must be a clear act of conversion.

Relevant Legal Provisions: Section 13(1)(ii) of the Hindu Marriage Act.

5. Unsoundness of Mind:

Post the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act 1976, unsoundness of mind is a ground for both divorce and judicial separation under section 13(1)(iii). The conditions involve proving either incurable unsoundness of mind or continuous or intermittent mental disorder to an extent making cohabitation impossible.

Relevant Legal Provisions: Section 13(1)(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act.

6. Virulent and Incurable Leprosy:

Either party may seek divorce on the grounds of virulent and incurable leprosy, as stated in section 13(1)(iv). The petitioner bears the onus of establishing both the virulence and incurability of leprosy.

Relevant Legal Provisions: Section 13(1)(iv) of the Hindu Marriage Act.

7. Venereal Disease in Communicable Form:

Venereal diseases such as syphilis or gonorrhea, in a communicable form, constitute grounds for obtaining a decree for the dissolution of marriage. Section 13(1)(v) encompasses situations involving such diseases.

Relevant Legal Provisions: Section 13(1)(v) of the Hindu Marriage Act.

8. Entering a New Religious Order:

A spouse may seek divorce if the respondent renounces the world by entering a religious order recognized by the Hindu religion. This involves absolute renouncement and ceremonial performance.

Relevant Legal Provisions: Section 13(1)(vi) of the Hindu Marriage Act.

9. Presumption of Death:

A divorce may be granted if the respondent has not been heard of as being alive for seven years or more. This legal presumption is drawn from the English law of evidence and is based on the assumption that the person would likely have communicated if alive.

Relevant Legal Provisions: Section 13(1)(vii) of the Hindu Marriage Act.

10. Non-Compliance with Decrees:

Under section 13(1A) of the Hindu Marriage Act, either party may seek divorce if there has been no resumption of cohabitation for a period not less than one year after the passing of a decree for judicial separation or restitution of conjugal rights.

Relevant Legal Provisions: Section 13(1A) of the Hindu Marriage Act.

Team Lawctors

Team Lawctors

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