As per India legal news reports, the Madras High Court has held that the courts in the country have jurisdiction to address matrimonial cases, which involve Hindus and are governed by the Hindu Marriage Act, including those cases where the opposite party is a foreign citizen, residing outside India.
Divorce is the formal termination or legal dissolution of a marriage. Every nation has distinct laws safeguarding the rights of both the spouses in a marriage. In India, the laws take into account religious distinctions. Divorce of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains is governed by the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, divorce of Muslims is governed by the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act of 1939 and Christians need to follow the laws laid down under the Indian Divorce Act of 1869. There are separate laws for inter-cast or inter-religion marriages. These fall under the Special Marriage Act of 1954.
Under Indian marriage laws, a marriage can be set aside if the consent for it was secured by fraud or misrepresentation of facts. This is not so easy to prove. However, it must be noted that fraud is not defined in the Indian marriage laws. So, any type of fraud cannot be taken as a ground for matrimonial relief.
Desertion is intentional and indefensible abandonment of responsibility towards a spouse. It is a willful abandonment or willful failure to provide for the care, protection or support of a person towards his/her spouse who is in necessitous circumstances. Simply put, legal desertion is a ground for divorce in Hindu marriage law.
Under law statutes for Indian marriages, a spouse can file for divorce on the ground of cruelty by the other spouse. It must be noted that the concept of cruelty has not been rightly defined as per the existing laws. However, today, cruelty is not interpreted in the same manner as it was some decades ago.
- Under the old English law, a husband could resort to beating the wife so as to correct her as stated by Blackstone.
- According to Manu, who is believed to be the Hindu law giver, a husband should only beat his wife using a split bamboo or a rope to ensure that her bones remain intact in the process.
Matrimonial Indian laws hold firm views on considering physical diseases as valid grounds for divorce. After all, it is not practical to consider every physical ailment as a ground for the dissolution of a marriage. For the same reason, Indian laws on divorce entitle either parties to file for matrimonial relief only in case the spouse is suffering from leprosy or a venereal disease.
In a Hindu marriage, a decree for divorce can be sought based on specific grounds such as adultery, polygamy, renunciation, conversion by a spouse and so on. However, many legal problems are not just about Hindu divorce law. There are so many legal questions about adoption, maintenance and inheritance that Hindu individuals or families face often.
Cruelty is a ground for divorce in a Hindu marriage. Initially, it was a valid ground only for judicial separation and not for divorce but now that has changed. Violent behavior is a prime reason that constitutes cruelty but courts in India interpret it with wider connotation. It goes beyond physical violence, wife beating or causing bodily hurt or danger to the person who is the victim.
Interestingly, the Hindu Marriage Act does not define ‘cruelty’ but it is understood that causing danger to life, limb or health or even a reasonable apprehension of injury amounts to cruelty.
A Hindu marriage is considered as a sacrament, one that is solemnized by the chanting of sacred mantras and the ceremony of the saptapadi, which means taking seven steps together around the sacrificial fire. The concept of divorce is not part of traditional Hindu perspective on marriage but nevertheless, divorce is attainable under Hindu law.
Under Hindu law, marriage is a sacrament. Here are some interesting questions that you may have pertaining to Hindu marriage and divorce.
If a Hindu wife gave false particulars in her bio-data and the marriage was finalized on the basis of these details, can the aggrieved husband get the marriage annulled? On what ground can the aggrieved party file for divorce?
Fraud, as defined under section 12 of the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 has the same meaning as given under the Indian Contract Act. This means that if a husband or wife does not disclose an essential fact or gives false facts in the bio-data, the marriage can be annulled. Suppose the bride was suffering from a venereal disease prior to marriage and does not disclose this fact, the marriage can be annulled after the marriage once it can be proved that the act of omission amounted to fraud. To answer this specific question, fraud is the ground on which the aggrieved party can file for annulling the marriage.