Cruelty has always been perceived through a lens focused on women. However, recent times have shown many cases where men have been at the receiving end. 

Johnny Depp garnered headlines when he was granted a divorce and won the defamation case against his wife. Back home in India, many renowned celebrities and stars like chef Kunal Kapur and cricketer Shikhar Dhawan have been granted divorce on the grounds of cruelty against them by their spouses.

Men have stopped shying away from the perceived embarrassment related to openly discussing cruelty and become vocal about the torments they have faced. They have started to get the backing of the very best divorce lawyers, adept at handling cases of such sensitive complexities. Let’s dive deep into the various laws related to cruelty against husbands in India and how you can take steps to become vocal about your plight.

What is Cruelty as Per Law in India?

In India, cruelty is termed as conduct that may result in mental or physical suffering and pain. This could result in a threat to the life, limb, or health of the petitioner. This can lead to a state where it becomes impossible for the petitioner to continue living with the respondent.

Physical Cruelty 

Physical cruelty is where an intentional act causes physical harm or poses a threat to the life of the individual by the spouse. Physical violence, bodily harm, and assault are all part of physical acts of cruelty.

Mental Cruelty:

Mental cruelty is the emotional or psychological stress caused on one spouse by the other. This is caused by distressing behavior, causing mental agony to the receiver. This drives the spouse to the receiving end of stress, affects their mental health and makes it impossible for them to live with the other spouse. Constant acts of humiliation, verbal abuse, harassment, emotional abandonment, constant criticism, ridicule, social isolation, neglect, threats, denial of basic rights, or persistent indifference towards the well-being of the other spouse accounts for mental cruelty

Cruelty Against Women, Section 498A, IPC & Section 84 of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023

According to Section 498A/84 as mentioned supra, a husband or relative of the husband of a woman who subjects her to conduct that drives the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb, or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or any harassment directed at the woman to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security. Women’s laws have always been stringent against wrongdoers and brought justice to the cause of women who suffer.

However, there have been a lot of cases where this section has been misused and hence the Supreme Court judgment made a judgment in 2017 that stated that there won’t be immediate arrest in cases of 498A.

Criminal Conspiracy, under Criminal Law Section 120-A & B, IPC 1872 & Section 61 of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023

A husband who feels threatened and has evidence against his wife about the criminal conspiracy against him can file a case. This can be a valid ground of divorce and the husband could be granted divorce if the evidence is found substantiated.

Cruelty By Wife Against Husband

Though there are no separate laws withholding the right to a dignified law for men, the Marriage & Divorce laws stands for the rights of both men and women.

Section 13(1) (ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act,1955

Under this section, both the wife and the husband can seek a divorce by proving that they have been subjected to cruelty after marriage. This law helps victimized husbands in seeking a divorce. However, this law has particularly come to the rescue of husbands who have faced differential treatment from their wives. Cruelty against the husband may include disrespecting family members, false allegations of dowry demand, unneeded quitting of the job by the wife without contributing to the household, unreasonable demands, physical abuse, and filing false complaints with the police. In this scheme of things, It is necessary to have a formidable force in the form of an experienced divorce lawyer to fight against cruelty against husbands.

Section 10 (x) of Divorce Act, 1869, Section 27(1)(d) of Special Marriage Act, 1954 also provide the same explanation. 

What Amounts to Cruelty Against Husband

In the past the Supreme Court has acted in favor of the husbands for instances involving verbal abuse, threats to commit suicide, false allegations of mental health problems against the husband, deprivation of food, the one-sided decision to not have a child, non-consummation of marriage, humiliation, coaxing husband to separate from his dependent parents, defamation, etc when courts have found the merits in the claims made by the husbands. 

Acts of Cruelty By Wives 

Though there cannot be a fixed definition to what amounts to cruelty the following can be considered as acts of cruelty by Wives.

  • Giving repeated Threats
  • Humiliating  husband 
  • Acts of violence or actions that may endanger the husband’s health
  • Hurting the husband’s feelings
  • Physical assault
  • Refusal in consummation of marriage 
  • False accusations regarding dowry harassment
  • Cruelty to children
  • Mistreating in-laws
  • Refusing to have children
  • Aborting child without husband’s knowledge

Is there any punitive action on the Wife for Acts of Cruelty against the Husband?

Indian law hasn’t defined any specific punishment for cruelty against husbands specifically. However, the wife can be penalized for acts of life-endangering assault and granted divorce to the husband according to relevant sections of Criminal  law. 

Cruelty is an intangible term that cannot be confined in definitions. With time, men have unshackled the notion that they have to maintain a macho image and silently face humiliation and cruelty from their wives. The recent cases of celebrities coming out in the open have opened conversations regarding the need to be more vocal about cruelty against men. Law stands for the rights of all individuals regardless of gender.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the law on cruelty against the husband?

No separate law exists for men and the criminal and matrimonial lawsstand equally for the right of men and women. It is particularly helpful for men who face physical and mental acts of cruelty by their wives. 

2. How do you prove cruelty in a marriage?

Having evidence in the form of documentary proof of medical records from doctors stating evidence of physical assault, testimonies from neutral third parties, eyewitnesses, financial/ property documents showing economical cruelty and photo proof of assault can prove cruelty in marriage.

3. Can the court force the husband to stay with the wife?

Conjugal rights (Related to marriage and a married couple’s relationship) cannot be forced in case of cruelty against the husband by the wife. However, if the court finds that the husband has abandoned the wife, and sees that the petitioner has genuine reasons it can force the husband to stay with the wife.

4. Can a husband get a divorce if the wife refuses?

Yes, a husband can get a divorce if the court finds enough evidence supporting the claims of adultery, cruelty, renunciation, desertion, etc.

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