Smt. Mayadevi vs. Jagdish Prasad - Supreme Court Case
Smt. Mayadevi vs. Jagdish Prasad - Supreme Court Case Summary of Leading Case -
On 21st February, 2007, a two Judges Bench in Smt. Mayadevi vs. Jagdish Prasad [Civil Appeal No. 877 of 2007] held that "cruelty includes mental cruelty, which falls within the purview of a matrimonial wrong. Cruelty need not be physical." The Bench observed that "in physical cruelty, there can be tangible and direct evidence, but in the case of mental cruelty there may not at the same time be direct evidence. In cases where there is no direct evidence, Courts are required to probe into the mental process and mental effect of incidents that are brought out in evidence. It is in this view that one has to consider the evidence in matrimonial disputes."
The Bench held that to "constitute cruelty, the conduct complained of should be "grave and weighty" so as to come to the conclusion that the petitioner spouse cannot be reasonably expected to live with the other spouse. It must be something more serious than "ordinary wear and tear of married life". "Conduct has to be considered in the background of several factors such as social status of parties, their education, physical and mental conditions, customs and traditions." Observing that it is difficult to lay down a precise definition or to give exhaustive description of the circumstances, which would constitute cruelty, the Bench said "it must be of the type as to satisfy the conscience of the Court that the relationship between the parties had deteriorated to such an extent due to the conduct of the other spouse that it would be impossible for them to live together without mental agony, torture or distress, to entitle the complaining spouse to secure divorce. Physical violence is not absolutely essential to constitute cruelty and a consistent course of conduct inflicting immeasurable mental agony and torture may well constitute cruelty within the meaning of Section 10 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Mental cruelty may consist of verbal abuses and insults by using filthy and abusive language leading to constant disturbance of mental peace of the other party."
However the Bench said that "petty quibbles, trifling differences should not be exaggerated and magnified to destroy what is said to have been made in heaven. All quarrels must be weighed from that point of view in determining what constitutes cruelty in each particular case and always keeping in view the physical and mental conditions of the parties, their character and social status." "A too technical and hyper-sensitive approach would be counterproductive to the institution of marriage", the Bench held.