Landmark Supreme Court Ruling: 'Cruelty' in Divorce Proceedings to be Interpreted Contextually

The Supreme Court of India, redefines the interpretation of 'cruelty' under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act. The ruling, delivered by a division bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice M M Sundresh, grants a divorce decree to an estranged wife.

The Court emphasized that what constitutes cruelty varies from person to person and must be evaluated within its specific context. It acknowledged that an element of subjectivity must be applied, even though the concept of cruelty itself is objective.

The Court pointed out that what may be considered cruelty for one individual may not hold the same weight for another, particularly in cases where a wife seeks divorce.

The Court noted that divorce laws  were initially rooted in a conservative framework, relying heavily on the fault theory. The aim was to preserve the sanctity of marriage within societal norms.

Addressing the issue of burden of proof in divorce cases, the Court clarified that it lies with the petitioner, but the standard of proof required is that of preponderance, not beyond reasonable doubt.

The Court also highlighted the potential harm to children when incompatible partners are forced to stay together. It stressed that a home, meant to be a place of love and happiness, becomes a source of misery for children when parents are in constant conflict.


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