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SC takes soft stand on divorce

Clarifying the meaning and scope of ?cruelty? under the Hindu Marriage Act, the court said a liberal approach has to be adopted, reports Satya Prakash.

india Updated: Dec 22, 2006 02:14 IST

With the number of matrimonial disputes rising, particularly in cities, the Supreme Court has favoured a liberal and pragmatic approach to decide divorce cases filed on the ground of cruelty.

Clarifying the meaning and scope of “cruelty” under the Hindu Marriage Act, the court said a liberal approach has to be adopted in dealing with various provisions under Section 13(1) of the Act and full meaning should be given to words used by the Legislature. Section 13(1) provides for various grounds, including cruelty, for divorce.

Where there is proof of deliberate course of conduct on the part of one, intended to hurt and humiliate the other spouse, and such a conduct persists, cruelty can easily be inferred, says the court

A bench of Justices GP Mathur and AK Mathur said the most important factor to be considered in divorce cases was if the marriage could be saved and the couple could privide a proper atmosphere for the upbringing of their children.

Quoting with approval from a case decided by the apex court in 1982, the Bench said “over the decades, a more liberal attitude has been adopted, fostered by a recognition of the need for individual happiness of the adult parties directly involved.” It dismissed a woman’s petition challenging an order of the Bombay High Court, which upheld the divorce decree awarded to her husband by the Jalgaon District Judge in 2002. However, it directed the husband, who had already married another woman and had a daughter from the second marriage, to pay Rs 8 lakh towards the maintenance of his divorced wife and the son born out of the first wedlock.

Observing that the word “cruelty” and the kind or degree of “cruelty”, which may amount to a matrimonial offence has not been defined in the Act, the court said neither the actual nor the presumed intention to hurt the other spouse was a necessary element in matrimonial cruelty.

Email Satya Prakash: satya .prakash@hindustantimes.com

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