What Amounts To Cruelty Against Men

In this blogpost, Harsha Asnani, student, NIRMA University, Ahmedabad writes about what amounts to cruelty against men. The author also writes about various judicial pronouncements and instances of such kind.

It has been described as really unfortunate by various scholars that the Indian law on cruelty which was enacted with the objective of protecting the interests of a particular group of people is now being misused to a very large extent by way of frivolous and fallacious complaints accompanied with evil motives. The law on cruelty in India recognises only women as its victims. Indian women have been indiscriminately using this loophole as a weapon for misusing this law.

However, with the passage of time, the Indian judicial minds have started discovering this loophole and have produced certain pronouncements that aim at curtailing this menace. In a very recent judgement in the matter of Vinita Saxena v. Pankaj Pandit,[1] the Apex Court was of the opinion that the concept of cruelty varies in terms of time, place and individual. It largely depends on the type of lifestyle that the parties to a case are accustomed to, their social and economic conditions and the degree of importance that they attach to cultural and human values.

Cruelty as a ground for divorce is often raised by husbands under various personal laws. Courts have often come across instances where the wife and her relatives have tried to take advantages of the wide ambit of dowry and protection from domestic violence laws to take advantage and threaten the husband and his relatives.

What are the grounds for cruelty

Since the meaning of cruelty is very subjective, therefore there is no straightjacket formula to decide the definition of cruelty. It may depend on and vary from case to case. What may be cruelty in one case may not be in another. Mental cruelty would include causing of mental pain, suffering or the agony of such a kind and magnitude which can result in the severing of the marital bond or due to which it cannot be expected by one party to live with the other. Since all such acts have a severe impact on the physical and mental well being of the husband, therefore they have been kept under the ambit of cruelty. A cursory glance at the Supreme Court judgements illustrates that the judges consider injurious approaches, accusations, complaints or taunts and not the harmful acts as cruelty. What is necessary to be established is that the one party in the marriage had misbehaved without looking into the consequences, and the other party could not endure it. Through various judicial pronouncements the court has following principles which constitute the grounds of cruelty against husbands in India:

Humiliating the husband in presence of family members or friends and lowering his reputation by use of derogatory remarks,[2]

Undertaking termination of pregnancy without the consent of husband,[3]

Making of false allegations against the husband,[4]

Making of unsubstantiated allegations against the husband for having illicit relations with another woman,[5]

False allegations of adultery,[6]

Tearing of garland on the day of marriage,[7]

Allegations against husband of having girlfriend, not proved,[8]

Wife leading an immoral life and having illicit relations with a person other than her husband,[9]

Denial for physical relationship without sufficient reasons,[10]

Refusal of contribution in the household work,[11]

Mental distress caused to husband due to filling of complaint by wife.

Other instances of such kind may include taunting her husband with regard to any of his physical incapablities, opting for second marriage before filing an application for dissolution of her first marriage, extra-marital affairs, deliberate acts that are not welcomed by the husband, insult, threats for committing suicide, disobedience, breaking mangal sutra before the husband and his relatives, any physical harm etc., desertion by wife with deliberate intentions of separation so as to bring a permanent end to cohabitation, threats to leave marital home, threats of commission of suicide, abusing the husband in presence of office staff members, lodging of FIR later proved as false reports, pressurising husband for leaving his parents home and insistence for  a separate residence, intentionally cooking food that the husband is not fond of, keeping the husband out of household premises, etc.

With regard to cruelty against husbands in term of mental distress, there is a unique term that has been devised which is popularly known as the psychological terrorism. In lieu with the same following are the instances which would cover constitute as cruelty against husband by wife:

Harassing the husband for constant demand of money for settlement of her paternal family members;

Constant sending of money to her paternal family members of which the husband has no knowledge or without his permission;

Continuing illicit relations with her pre-marital boyfriend or developing extra marital relations at her workplace or in neighbourhood;

Showcase of aggressive and uncontrollable behaviour;

Demonstration of inhuman treatment towards her in-laws or addressing them with filthy words or loud voice coupled with the intention to create scene of public humiliation, intimidating or terrorizing them;

Habitual dishonesty towards husband and in-laws in matters where the latter have the right to be informed about in order to uphold family’s good name;

Demand for transfer of proprietary rights in her name;

Attempts for alienating the husband from his parents and relatives persuading him to abandon his old and aged parents;

Visiting her parent’s home frequently without appropriate reasons along with the children born out their wedlock and thus denying the husband access from his offsprings;

Misrepresentation of facts and information of the crimes committed against her;

Defaming her in-laws in the neighbourhood by spreading false stories of harassment;

Dictating her husband and excessive involvement in his personal and professional life;

Concealment or suppression of material facts in relation to her medical conditions which if revealed may result in negating her marriage;

Wife’s parents being cynically manipulative, misrepresenting and frequently changing their stands and opinions in order to utilize every opportunity to embarrass her husband and relatives;

Opposition to every suggestion made by the husband for settling a dispute related to restitution of conjugal rights;

Misrepresentation of her financial condition for extracting more money;

Denial of normal courtesy and respect to husband by wife’s relatives.

Legislative protection given to husbands

Although the law on cruelty assumes husbands as the perpetrators of domestic violence and wives as its victims but due to growing misuse of this assumption, there are various protections given to the husbands. As a legal recourse, the husbands can file a counter case against their wives under following sections, if they are of the opinion that the case instituted by the later is based on frivolous grounds:

  1. Giving false evidence u/s 191,
  2. u/s 192 for fabrication of evidence,
  3. u/s 196 for using false evidence knowing it to be false,
  4. u/s 209 for dishonestly making false claims in court.
  5. u/s 211 for false charge of offence made with intent to injure

The courts have been of the opinion that the marital laws should be such that their practical implementation results in a striking balance between interests of both the parties to marriage. Stringent punishments should be imposed to create deterrence effect on those who misuse it. Baseless allegations result in the wrongful confinement of innocent individuals. They have to spend their precious times in the jails with hardened criminals which in turn causes severe impacts on their personality and thinking. Useless allegations, irrespective of their magnitude and nature should be avoided.

Also, in the Indian regime, there is a widely accepted tradition of exchanging gifts at matrimonial occasions. As per the Hindu Marriage Act, such gifts given are termed as streedhan over which the wives have sole control, but its benefits can be accrued to both the husband and wife. Due to this, it becomes difficult to create a distinction as to whether a demand was made by husband and his relatives for dowry or the property was willfully given to the girl by her parents or relatives. If the marriage turns sour, it provides a scope to the wife for making wrongful allegations that the husband has made an illegal demand for dowry.

It is indisputable that women are subjected to cruelty but at the same time, it must be ensured that the law is not made wide enough which results in its misuse. Husband and his family members should not at once be posed to serious challenges but should be given due opportunity to respond to the allegations. Family members who are reputed and responsible citizens with no criminal record should be given due consideration as misuse of laws create irreparable damage and results in victimisation.

[1] (2006) 3 SCC 778.

[2] Krishna Banerjee v. Bhanu Bikash Banyopadhyay AIR 2001 Cal 154.

[3] Satya v. Siri Ram AIR 1983 P&H 252.

[4] S. Hanumantha Rao v. S. Ramani AIR 1999 SC1318.

[5] Surinder Moha Chopra v. Nirmala Chopra, AIR 2007 (DOC) 183 P&H (DB).

[6] Prem Kumar Pandey v. Savitri Pandey AIR 1999 All 43.

[7] J.Sudhakara Shenoy v. Vrinda Shenoy , AIR 2001 Karn 1

[8] Mrs. Deepalakshmi Saehia Zingade v. Sachi Rameshrao Zingade, AIR 2010 Bom 16

[9] Vimla Ladkani v. Dr Chandra Prakash Ladkani, AIR 1996 MP 86

[10] Anil Bharadwaj v Nimlesh Bharadwaj (AIR 1987 Del 111)

[11] Kalpana v. Surendranath (AIR 1985 All 253)

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  • It is Human Rights Violation of Child and Men as notion of Indian families changed drastically due to globalization and women empowerment esp in matrimonial disputes which are easily converted into 498a/406/DV/506 etc. Paternal side of the child’s family completely loses contact with their child. Despite court orders,the abusive women do not comply(as no penalty for perjury, domestic violence,adultery, false accusations & fraud by errant wives). Result -left-behind parents (mostly Fathers 99%) have lost contact with their beloved children, and in many cases children are subjected to severe mental abuse and start exhibiting severe symptoms of Parental Alienation Syndrome. This is mental cruelty against Husband and children. NHRC, UNRC should consider this as mental cruelty and issue guidelines to make National commission for men who should register complaint of Men as well.