This Article is written by Parshav Gandhi, a 3rd-year student, at Indore Institute of Law; and Monesh Mehndiratta, of Graphic Era Hill University, Dehradun. It explains the different grounds on which one can seek divorce. It also provides various grounds that are specifically available to a woman under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, on which she can seek divorce. Apart from this, it also explains irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground of divorce and provides recent case laws.

It has been published by Rachit Garg.

Table of Contents


In Ancient times, the concept of divorce was not known to anyone. They considered marriage as a sacred concept. According to Manu, the husband and wife cannot be separated from each other, their marital tie cannot be broken. Later the concept of divorce came into the picture and was established as a custom to put the marriage to an end.

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According to the Arthashastra, marriage can end if dissolved by mutual consent and should be unapproved marriage. But Manu does not believe in the concept of dissolution. According to Manu the only way to end the marriage is the death of one of the spouses.

The provision related to the concept of divorce was introduced by the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The Hindu Marriage Act defines divorce as the dissolution of the marriage. For the interest of society, the marriage or the marital relationship needs to be surrounded by every safeguard for the cause specified by law. Divorce is permitted only for a grave reason otherwise given other alternatives.

“I want a divorce.” “We want a divorce from each other.”

You might have heard this from a lot of couples around you, but have you ever wondered on what grounds a person can actually seek divorce? 

Well, today we are going to discuss the grounds for divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act,1955. Marriage is considered one of the oldest institutions and has a religious sacrament attached to it. Marriage, according to Hindu law, is one of the most important sanskaras (duties).  It is considered a ‘dharma’ (religious duty under Hindu law) by which men and women are united in wedlock to achieve the ends of life, namely, dharma, progeny, kama, and moksha

In Hinduism, a marriage is seen as an inseparable bond between husband and wife, but with the changing times, there has been the introduction of the concept of divorce, which means that on certain grounds, the parties to a marriage can seek permanent separation. The present article explains the concept of divorce and the various grounds on which parties to a marriage can seek divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955. It also provides different grounds that are specifically available to a woman seeking a divorce. It tries to analyse the changes in practices that led to the enactment of modern Hindu law on marriage. The article discusses the irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground of divorce and also provides the jurisdiction of the courts dealing with divorce cases.  Further, it also provides case laws to better understand the grounds for divorce. 

Changing trends in the Hindu marriages

Divorce was earlier unknown to people because marriage was considered as an indissoluble union between a husband and a wife. Manu, the great commentator of ancient India, never approved of divorce and said that only death can separate and break the relationship between a husband and a wife. 

However, some texts like Narada and Parashar have different views on this. For some, marriage is a contract and divorce means to revoke the marriage or contract but for others it is sacred and the bond must not be broken. In Hinduism, it is not a contract but a sanskara and religious sacrament is attached with it. According to Naradasmriti, a woman is allowed to leave her husband under the following conditions:

  • If the husband is lost and unheard for seven years, i.e., civil death in the modern period. 
  • The husband has renounced the world.
  • If he became impotent. 
  • If he is expelled from community or caste. 

On the other hand, many jurists like Kautilya in Arthashastra opined that if a marriage falls within unapproved forms of marriage such as asura, gandharva, rakshasa, and paisacha, it can be dissolved. 

During the 1950s, the Hindu law was codified, and the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, was enacted to govern marriages.

Applicability of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 

According to Section 2(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, individuals professing the following religions are covered under the ambit of Hindus:

  • A person who is a Hindus by religion which includes Virashaiva or Lingayat or a person who is a follower of the Brahmo, Prarthana or Arya Samaj.
  • A person who is Buddhist, Sikh or Jain. 
  • A person who is domiciled in the territories where the Act is applicable. However, the Act expressly provides that it is not applicable to any person belonging to Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew religion. 
  • Any child irrespective of whether he/she is legitimate or illegitimate, born to parents who are Hindu, Buddhist, Jain or Sikh by religion.
  • Any child, whether legitimate or illegitimate, whose one of the parents is Hindu, Buddhist, Jain or Sikh by religion and who is brought up as a member of such religion. 
  • Any other person who converted or reconverted to Hindu, Buddhist, Jain or Sikh. 

Concept of divorce in modern times

The modern law on divorce, on the other hand, brought many changes to the way marriage was perceived. Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 deals with divorce and its grounds. Divorce is no longer unknown to people, and couples can seek divorce on any of the grounds enumerated in the Act. However, the objective of the court and legislature has always been to preserve the institution of marriage, so Section 14 of the Act provides that no petition for divorce can be filed by either of the parties to a marriage within one year of their marriage. The relationship or bond between a husband and a wife, which was once considered unbreakable, has changed with time, they can now be separated by way of divorce. Moreover, the introduction of remarriage has also led to a lot of changes. 

Apart from this, the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976, recognised divorce by mutual consent under Section 13B of the Act. This form of divorce is based on consent theory and takes a progressive approach to marriage and separation of husband and wife. It is clearly visible that there is a difference in the perspective and thought process regarding marriage in the old Hindu law and the modern law. The uncodified Hindu law did not recognise divorce at all, but modern law, on the other hand, is based on the principle that if two people are unhappy with each other and it is impossible for them to spend life together, they can be separated. 

Changes brought by the Amendment of 1976

Criminal litigation

The Amendment Act of 1976 brought the following major changes in the Act:

  • It introduced a new provision of seeking divorce on mutual consent under Section 13B of the Act.
  • Under Section 9 of the Act, the burden to prove that there exists a reasonable cause for withdrawal from the society of another spouse is on the one who withdrew.  
  • Further, under Section 10 parties can seek judicial separation on the grounds mentioned under Section 13 of the Act which means that the grounds of divorce and judicial separation are the same. 
  • It also added impotence as a ground for declaring a marriage voidable and annulled under Section 12 of the Act.
  • After the amendment of 1976, a single voluntary act of sexual intercourse with a person other than the spouse is a valid ground for divorce under Section 13 of the Act.
  • It has reduced the time period for the compliance of decree of restitution of conjugal rights to one year and if the decree is not complied with, the parties can seek divorce. 
  • It introduced bestiality as a ground of divorce specifically available to women under Section 13(2) of the Act. 
  • Further, it also gave the option of repudiating the marriage to women if solemnised before attaining the age of 15 years.

Different Theories of Divorce

Fault Theory

Under this theory, marriage can be ended when one party to the marriage is responsible or liable for the offence under matrimonial offences done against another spouse. Only the innocent spouse can seek this remedy. The only drawback of this theory is when both the spouse are at fault, then no one can seek these remedy of divorce.

Mutual Consent

Under this theory, the marriage can be dissolved by mutual consent. If both the spouse mutually gives their consents to end the marriage, they can take the divorce. But many philosophers criticise this theory as this concept is immoral and leads to hasty divorce.

Irretrievable Breakdown

According to this theory, the dissolution of marriage happens due to failure of the matrimonial relationship. The divorce can be taken by the spouse as a last resort i.e. when both of them are not able to live together again.

Divorce under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

In the Hindu Marriage Act, there are some provisions given regarding a valid divorce, i.e. when the spouse can get a divorce or appeal for dissolution of marriage in a court of law. For the interest of society, the marriage or the marital relationship needs to be surrounded by every safeguard for the cause specified by law. Divorce is permitted only for a grave reason otherwise given other alternatives.

The Hindu Marriage Act is based on the fault theory in which any one of the aggrieved spouses (Section 13(1)) can approach the court of law and seek the remedy of divorce. Section 13(2) provides the grounds on which only the wife can approach the court of law and seek the remedy of divorce.

Grounds of Divorce as per The Hindu Marriage Act

Section 13(1) provides grounds on which divorce can be sought by either of the partners in a marriage. After the amendment of 1976, grounds for divorce specified under Section 13 of the Act and judicial separation under Section 10 are similar. The parties also have the option of judicial separation instead of divorce, where they can rethink their decision. The objective is to save the sacred institution of marriage and make efforts for reconciliation. In the case of Ishwar Singh v. Smt. Hukam Kaur (1965), the Allahabad High Court held that if the husband permitted his wife to marry someone else of her choice because of his ill health, it does not amount to divorce because no such petition or application had been filed in the court and so the second marriage solemnised is illegal as the first marriage still subsists. It was also observed that a marriage subsists until a decree of divorce has been passed by the court. 

Further, in the case of Niru Sarmah v. Jatin Chandra Sarmah (2014), the Gauhati High Court observed that if a marriage is broken to the extent that it is irretrievable and there are no possibilities that the bond can be recovered and the marriage can be saved in near future, decree of divorce can be passed by the court.


The concept of Adultery may not be considered as an offence in many countries. But as per the Hindu Marriage Act, in the matrimonial offence, the adultery is considered as one of the most important ground for seeking divorce. Adultery means the consensual and voluntary intercourse between a married person with another person, married or unmarried, of the opposite sex. Even the intercourse between the husband and his second wife i.e. if their marriage is considered under bigamy, the person is liable for the Adultery.  

The concept of Adultery was inserted under the Hindu Marriage Act by the Marriage Laws Amendment Act, 1976.

In Swapna Ghose v. Sadanand Ghose

In this case, the wife found her husband with other girl lying on the same bed and the neighbour also confirmed that the husband has committed an offence. Here the wife gets the divorce.

In Sachindranath Chatterjee vs Sm. Nilima Chatterjee

In this case, the petitioner and the defendant were married. After marriage, the husband leaves the wife in his home town so that she can complete her studies and go to another city for work. He visited twice or thrice a month to meet her. Later he found that his wife commits the adultery i.e. to involve in sexual intercourse with his own nephew, watchman etc. The plaintiff approaches the court to demand divorce on the ground of adultery and his petition was accepted and the marriage gets dissolved.

Prior to the 1976 amendment, in order to seek divorce on the ground of adultery, a person had to prove that, on the date of the petition, his/her spouse was living in an adulterous relationship. However, after the amendment, even a single voluntary sexual intercourse with a person other than the spouse is a valid ground for divorce. It is given under Section 13(1)(i) of the Act. The burden to prove that the spouse committed the offence of adultery is on the person who made such allegations, and the standard of proof is by preponderance of probabilities and not proof beyond reasonable doubt. 

It is correct that there can be no direct evidence to prove the act of adultery, so circumstantial evidence plays an important role. The Madhya Pradesh High Court in the case of Samuel Bahadur Singh v. Smt. Roshini Singh (1960), rightly pointed out that in India, if a male and female are living together under the same roof without any connections or relations, it is not considered normal, and so adultery can be inferred from the following circumstances:

  • A male and female lived together in the same house for a long time. 
  • They are not related to each other by way of marriage or any other relationship. 
  • They refused to return to their spouse. 
  • Both the parties cannot deny adultery because of circumstantial evidence. 
  • They had the opportunity to commit adultery. 

In the case of Chetan Dass v. Kamla Devi (2001), appellant and respondent were married to each other according to Hindu ceremonies. After marriage, the appellant had an extramarital affair with one of the nurses in the hospital where he was working, and so his wife left him. He appealed, claiming that the allegations made by the respondent and her act of deserting him without any reasonable cause amount to mental torture. The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that a man cannot take advantage of his own wrong. However, the decree for divorce was not passed because the wife, or respondent in this case, was ready to continue her marriage and live with him only on the condition that he must leave the other woman and end his adulterous relationship. 

It must be noted that adultery as an offence has been decriminalised by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Joseph Shine v. Union of India (2018). However, it is still a ground of divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, which means that if a person commits adultery, he/she would not be punished but the spouse can seek divorce.

Essentials of Adultery

  1. One of the spouses involved in the intercourse with another person, married or unmarried, of the opposite sex.
  2. Intercourse should be voluntary and consensual.
  3. At the time of the act, the marriage was subsisting.
  4. There must be sufficient circumstantial evidence to prove the liability of another spouse.


The concept of cruelty includes mental as well as physical cruelty. The physical cruelty means when one spouse beats or causes any bodily injury to the other spouse. But the concept of mental cruelty was added as the spouse can also be mentally tortured by the other spouse. Mental Cruelty is lack of kindness which adversely affects the health of the person. Well it is easy to determine the nature of physical cruelty but difficult to say about mental cruelty

  1. What is considered as Mental Cruelty against Husband by wife:
  2. Humiliating the husband in front of his family and friends.
  3. Undertaking the termination of pregnancy without husband consent.
  4. Making false allegation against him.
  5. Denial for Martial Physical Relationship without a valid reason.
  6. Wife having affair.
  7. Wife living an immoral life.
  8. The constant demand for money.
  9. Aggressive and uncontrollable behaviour of Wife.
  10. Ill-treatment to the husband parents and family.

In Balram Prajapati vs Susheela Bai

In this case, the petitioner filed the divorce petition against his wife on the ground of mental cruelty. He proved that his wife that behaviour with him and his parents was Aggressive and uncontrollable and many times she filed the false complaint against her husband. The court accepts the petition and grants the divorce on the ground of cruelty.

What considered as Mental Cruelty against wife by Husband

  1. False accusation of adultery.
  2. The demand for dowry.
  3. Impotency of Husband.
  4. Force to abort the child.
  5. The problem of drunkenness of husband.
  6. Husband having affairs.
  7. The husband lives an immoral life.
  8. Aggressive and uncontrollable behaviour of the husband.

Humiliating the wife in front of family and friends


Desertion means the permanent abandonment of one spouse by the other spouse without any reasonable justification and without his consent. In General, the rejection of the obligations of marriage by one party.  

Before the 1976 Amendment, desertion was only a ground for judicial separation and not divorce. But now, desertion of any of the spouses by the other for a continuous period of two years immediately before filing the petition is a valid ground to seek divorce as well as judicial separation. Desertion as the ground of divorce is mentioned under Section 13(1)(i)(ib) of the Act. In the case of Malathi Ravi v. B.V. Ravi (2014), the Supreme Court held that if there is no evidence to prove that the wife had an intention to end the marriage or whether she deserted her husband, then the court will not pass a decree of divorce. This means that the intention to end marriage is one of the essentials of desertion, i.e., animus deserendi must exist. Also, if there was no desertion for a continuous period of two years immediately before the presentation of the petition or if the party assumed it, no divorce can be granted. 

In the case of Ranjeet Kaur v. Surendra Singh Gill (2012), the Madhya Pradesh High Court gave the meaning of desertion as the intention of parties to permanently abandon the spouse without their consent and reasonable cause, which means that for the ground of desertion, the fact of separation and animus deserendi must co-exist. In the present case, the wife denied the allegations of cruelty and desertion made by her husband and requested that the court dismiss his petition. In the case of Om Wati v. Kishan Chand (1983), the Delhi High Court opined that desertion does not mean withdrawal but is a state of things. It is a question of fact. In the case of J. Shyamala v. P. Sundar Kumar (1990), the Madras High Court held that if a wife starts living with her parents rather than her husband because he made false allegations against her regarding her character and unchastity, it would not amount to desertion. It must be noted that the desertion of a spouse must be without reasonable cause. The burden of proof, in this case, lies on the petitioner, and it must be proved that the said desertion occurred without any sufficient and probable cause and did last for two years. 


  1. Permanent abandonment of the other spouse.
  2. Rejection of the obligation of marriage.
  3. Without any reasonable justification.
  4. No consent of another spouse.

In Bipin Chander Jaisinghbhai Shah vs Prabhawati

In this case, the respondent leaves the house with the intention to abandon his wife. Later the wife approaches the court, but the defendant proved that even though he left the house with the intention to desert, but he tried to come back and he was prevented from doing so by the petitioner. Here, the defendant cannot be held liable for desertion.  


If one of the spouses converts his religion to any other religion without the consent of the other spouse, then the other spouse can approach the court and seek the remedy of divorce.


A, a Hindu has a wife B and two children. One day A went to church and converted to Christianity without the consent of B, here B can approach the court and seek for divorce on the ground of conversion.

In Suresh Babu vs Leela

In this case, the husband converts himself into Muslim and marries another woman. Here the wife Leela filed a case and demanded the divorce on the ground of conversion without her consent and cruelty.

Unsoundness of mind

Insanity means when the person is of unsound mind. Insanity as a ground of divorce has the following two requirements-

  1. The respondent has been incurably of unsound mind.
  2. The respondent has been suffering continuously or intermittently from mental disorder of such a kind and to such an extent that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent.

In Vinita Saxena vs Pankaj Pandit

In this case, the petitioner filed a case to get the divorce from the respondent on the ground that the respondent was suffering from Paranoid Schizophrenia which means mental disorder. She came to know these after her marriage. Here, the court grants the divorce on the ground of insanity of husband.

If one of the parties, i.e., either husband or wife, is of unsound mind, then it is a valid ground for divorce. It is given under Section 13(1)(iii) of the Act. The unsoundness may be continuous or intermittent and incurable to the extent that it is not possible for the petitioner to continue married life with the respondent. This was also mentioned in the Amendment Act of 1976. In the case of Smt. Alka v. Abhinesh Chandra Sharma (1991), the Madhya Pradesh High Court found that the wife was suffering from schizophrenia because she was cold and frigid on the first night of marriage and could not cooperate with the husband. Also, she was not able to handle domestic appliances, so the husband was entitled to nullity of marriage in this case. It was also observed that the facts pertaining to the mental illness of the wife and her medical treatment were not disclosed to either the husband or his mother and grandmother, who negotiated the marriage on his behalf. The counsel representing the wife also argued that breaking the marriage just after 19 days of marriage would bring upon her great tragedy. However, the appeal made by the wife was dismissed. 

In the case of Suvarnalata v. Mohan Anandrao Deshmukh and Anr. (2010), husband filed for divorce on the ground that his wife was suffering from schizophrenia, but the Supreme Court did not accept and agree with the allegations made by the husband that his wife was suffering from mental disorder and desisted itself from giving any observations in this regard because of the effect that it would have on the minor child. Further, the Calcutta High Court in the case of Pramatha Kumar Maity v. Ashima Maity (1991) held that in order to obtain a decree for divorce on the ground of unsoundness of mind, it must be proved that unsoundness exists to the extent that it is impossible for the petitioner to cohabit and live with the respondent.


Leprosy is an infectious disease of the skin, mucous membranes, nervous system etc. this disease is transmitted from one person to another. Thus it is considered as the valid ground for divorce.

In Swarajya Lakshmi vs G. G. Padma Rao, the husband filed the case for granting the divorce on the ground of leprosy. He claimed that his wife is suffering from incurable leprosy with the expert’s reports. Here he succeeds in getting the divorce on the ground of leprosy.

In the case of Mr. ‘X’ v. Hospital ‘Z’ (1998), a marriage was called off as the appellant was found out to be HIV+ which is a venereal disease. Further, in the case of P. Ravi Kumar v. Malarvizhi @ S. Kokila (2013), husband filed for divorce on the ground that the wife is suffering from HIV, which is a communicable sexually transmitted disease. The wife, on the other hand, argued that she is afflicted by the disease only through her husband. The medical reports proved that the husband was not suffering from HIV. On the basis of facts and circumstances, the husband was entitled to the decree of divorce.

Venereal Disease

Under this concept, if the disease is in communicable form and it can be transmitted to the other spouse, then this can be considered as the valid ground for divorce.


A and B married on 9 September 2011. Later A suffered from a venereal disease and it is incurable. There’s also a chance that B can also get infected by that disease if she lives with A. Here, B can approach the court for the dissolution of the marriage   


It means when one of the spouses decides to renunciate the world and walk on the path of the God, then the other spouse can approach the court and demand the divorce. In this concept the party who renunciates the world is considered as civilly dead. It is a typical Hindu practice and is considered as a valid ground for divorce.


A and B got married and lives a happy life. One day A decides to renunciate the world. Here, B has a right to approach the court and seek the remedy of divorce.

Presumption of Death

In this case, the person is presumed to have died, if the family or the friends of that person does not hear any news about the person alive or dead for seven years. It is considered as the valid ground for divorce, but the burden of proof is on the person who demands the divorce.

In the case of LIC of India v. Anuradha (2004), the Supreme Court held that the death of a person can be presumed only after the lapse of seven years. However, it does not include the time of death. In the case of Prakash Chander v. Parmeshwari (1987), a woman was asked to enter into a karewa marriage with her brother-in-law for the procreation of children because her husband became a lunatic and was discharged from the Army. He was not heard of after his discharge and was presumed to be dead. The customs of karewa marriage allowed a second marriage if the spouse was not heard of for 2-3 years, which means that they presumed the death of the spouse within this period. However, when she was ill-treated by her brother-in-law and thrown out of the house, she filed for divorce, but all the allegations were denied by the opposite party. The court in this case observed that such a custom is not judicially recognised and that the karewa marriage between the woman and her brother-in-law does not itself dissolve the first marriage between her and her husband.


A was missing from the last seven years and his wife B does not get any news about him of being alive or dead. Here B can approach the court and ask for the divorce.

Concept of Divorce with Mutual Consent

As per Section 13B, the person can file the petition for divorce by mutual consent of both the parties. If the parties want to dissolve their marriage as a mutual consent are required to wait for one year from date of marriage. They have to show that they are living separately for one or more year and not able to live with one another.

There was no provision related to divorce by mutual consent till 1976. It was in the 1976 Amendment that the provisions for divorce by mutual consent was added. It is given under Section 13B of the Act and is retrospective in nature, which means that it is applicable to marriages solemnised before the commencement of the 1976 Amendment Act. According to the Section, both the parties can jointly file a petition for divorce by mutual consent on the grounds that they have been living separately for a year or more and cannot live together and resume their married life. They must also provide that they both have mutually decided to end their married life. 

The Section also provides that when the petition has been filed, parties would have to wait for six months, after which they can bring the motion again in the court for dissolution of marriage. If the parties do not come to court after six months and within eighteen months from the date the petition was filed, it would be presumed that they have withdrawn the petition. If the petition is not withdrawn, the court would hear the parties and after necessary inquiry presume that the averments made are true and pass a decree of divorce. 


The ingredients, or essential conditions, to seek divorce by mutual consent are:

  • The petition must be filed jointly by the husband and wife. 
  • They must be living separately for a year or more. 
  • They have mutually agreed to bring their married life to an end. 
  • There is no possibility of resuming married life. 

In the case of Laxmibai Ward v. Pramod (2009), the wife challenged the decree of divorce by mutual consent on the ground that her signatures were obtained falsely and there was no separation for a year or more. The Bombay High Court held that subordinate courts, before passing a decree of divorce by mutual consent, must be satisfied of the fact that the consent was not obtained by force, coercion, undue influence, or fraud.

Further, in the case of Rajesh R. Nair v. Meera Babu (2014), the Kerala High Court observed that parties can withdraw the application for divorce by mutual consent even at the stage of enquiry and if any of them withdraws their consent, then the court is not entitled to pass the decree. The court in the case of Anil Kumar Jain v. Maya Jain (2009) held that the consent to mutually dissolve the marriage must subsist till the second stage, where the petition comes before the court. With respect to the waiting period of six months, the Court in the case of Anjana Kishore v. Puneet Kishore (2001) observed that in exceptional circumstances it can be waived. Further, in the case of Amardeep Singh v. Harveen Kaur (2017), the Supreme Court held that the period mentioned under Section 13B(2) is not mandatory but directory.

Failure to obey decree of restitution of conjugal rights

Another ground of divorce is the failure of the parties to a marriage to comply with the decree of restitution of conjugal rights. If such a decree has been passed by the court but the husband and wife failed to comply with it within one year from the date the decree was passed then they can seek divorce. This is given under Section 13(1A)(ii) of the Act. 

Section 9 of the Act deals with the restitution of conjugal rights. Conjugal rights in a marriage are a matrimonial rights that husband and wife share in society, comfort, and affection and are made available to them by each other. Where either a husband or wife has withdrawn from the society of another without any reasonable cause and the court is satisfied of the same, it can pass a decree for the restitution of conjugal rights. 

In the case of A.V. Janardhana Rao v. M. Aruna Kumari (2000), a petition was filed by the husband seeking divorce on the ground that there was no cohabitation between him and his wife within one year from the date the decree of restitution of conjugal rights was passed and that they are not willing to resume their married life with each other. The court held that due to non-compliance with the decree, the husband was entitled to a decree of divorce. 

Grounds of divorce specifically available to wife

The Act also provides certain grounds of divorce to women, i.e., wives, on which they can seek divorce. These are given under Section 13(2) of the Act and are as follows:

  • Bigamy by husband;
  • Act of rape, sodomy, bestiality committed by husband;
  • No cohabitation between husband and wife for one year or more after the decree for maintenance has been passed; 
  • If the marriage was solemnised before attaining the age of 15 years, the wife can repudiate the marriage. 


A wife can seek divorce if the husband has committed the offence of bigamy according to Section 13(2)(i) of the Act. Section 17 of the Act further punishes bigamy. The conditions for the offence are:

  • Marriage is solemnized after the commencement or enforcement of the Act. 
  • The party has a spouse living on the date of second marriage. 

In the case of Lily Thomas v. Union of India (2000), the wife filed a complaint against the husband, claiming  that he converted to another religion and married another woman of that religion, even though the first marriage is still subsisting. The court held that even though he converted to another religion, he had not divorced his first wife. He would be liable for the offence of bigamy, and his second marriage would be void. The Supreme Court also observed that religion is not a commodity and must not be exploited for worldly gain or benefits.

Rape, sodomy or bestiality

If the husband is guilty of committing the offence or rape, sodomy, or bestiality, the wife is entitled to seek divorce on this ground under Section 13(2)(ii) of the Act. Rape as an offence is given under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), while sodomy or bestiality fall under the category of unnatural offences. According to Section 377 of the IPC, unnatural offences are those where a person engages in carnal or anal intercourse against the order of nature with any animal. Carnal intercourse with a person of the same sex or opposite sex is sodomy, while if done with an animal, it amounts to bestiality.

Non-resumption of cohabitation after the decree of maintenance has been passed

The Amendment Act of 1976 provided another ground to the wife to seek divorce. According to Section 13(2)(iii) of the Act, if a decree or order of maintenance has been passed under Section 18 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, or Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 against the husband, directing him to give maintenance to the wife in spite of whether she was living apart, and there was no cohabitation between both of them for a year or more after the passing of such a decree or order, the wife can claim divorce. 

The essentials conditions to obtain divorce under this ground are:

  • Petition must be filed by the wife. 
  • A decree of maintenance must be passed against the husband. 
  • There must be no cohabitation between husband and wife for a year or more after passing of decree. 

Repudiation of marriage

The Amendment Act of 1976 also gave the wife an opportunity to repudiate her marriage if it was solemnised before she attained the age of 15 years. This is given under Section 13(2)(iv) of the Act. However, she can do so only before attaining the age of majority, i.e., 18 years. This is known as repudiation of marriage. This clause applies irrespective of whether the marriage was solemnised before or after the commencement of the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976.

Irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground of divorce

It has been observed that the rules pertaining to divorce have been liberalised especially under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. However, getting a divorce on the basis of grounds related to fault theory is cumbersome, time consuming and exhausting. It also causes mental and physical trauma and shame to the parties. In order to avoid such situations, the Law Commission in India proposed that the parties to a marriage must be allowed to seek divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage and that it must be recognised as a separate ground for divorce. This recommendation was made in the 71st Law Commission Report. Further, it also suggested that a separation period of three years must be used as the criteria in this regard. 

In N.G. Dastane v. S. Dastane (1975), a petition was filed by the husband seeking judicial separation, but his application was rejected on technical grounds. This case laid the importance of irretrievable breakdown of marriage and the trauma and impact it has on the children. The court also in several instances felt that where the parties cannot live with each other and there is no possibility of restoring the relationship, marriage must be dissolved on the basis of irretrievable breakdown of marriage. In the case of Naveen Kohli v. Neelu Kohli (2006), the Hon’ble Supreme Court suggested the government to consider inclusion of irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a separate ground of divorce under the Act. The appellant in this case alleged that his wife was aggressive and rude. She used to quarrel and misbehave with her in-laws. One day, he found her in a compromising position with another man and so he started living separately and filed the petition for divorce.

No petition for Divorce within one year of Marriage

As per Section 14, no Court will entertain the petition of divorce within the one year of the marriage. But can be entertained if the matter is related to bigamy, and where the consent of the spouse was taken through misrepresentation, fraud, undue influence etc.

According to Section 14 of the Act, no petition can be filed for divorce within one year of marriage. The object of this provision is to enable parties to a marriage to make efforts to save their marriage and marital bond. It is also based on public policy because marriage is Hindu is considered to be a sacrament and has religious importance to it. The courts try to safeguard a marriage till the end.

However, if there are exceptional hardships to the petitioner or exceptional depravity by the respondent then the court can hear the application. While deciding the application, the court must consider the interest of children born and whether there is a chance of reconciliation between the parties.  In the case of Dr. Rajasi v. Dr. Shashank (2015), a petition was filed by husband under Section 12(1)(c) for nullity of marriage and also to dissolve his marriage by way of divorce within one year of his marriage on the ground that his wife had suicidal tendencies and behaved inappropriately. He also contended that if he would have known about the same, he would have not solemnised the marriage. The Bombay High Court observed that the object of Section 14 is laudable as it prevents hasty decision of dissolving the marriage within one year however, in the present case, the husband was able to prove that there was cruelty on the part of wife and it is difficult for him to live with her and so ordered for dissolution of marriage. 

Remarriage of Divorced Person

As per Section 15, after the marriage gets dissolved and no further petition was filed by any of the spouses against the order of the court and the time for appeal has expired. At that time it is assumed that both the spouse are satisfied. Then only the divorced person can marry again.

According to Section 15 of the Act, a person has a right to remarry the person he or she divorced. However, the following conditions must be satisfied:

  • There was no right to appeal when the marriage was dissolved. 
  • There was a right to appeal but the time had elapsed. 
  • An appeal was filed by either of the parties but was dismissed. 

It must be noted that this Section is only applicable to marriages that are dissolved by divorce and not that are declared null and void under Sections 11 and 12 of the Act. In the case of Tejinder Kaur v. Gurmit Singh (1988), the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that a spouse who got the decree of divorce cannot take away the right of the other to present a special leave petition before the Supreme Court by marrying immediately after the decree of divorce has been passed. He or she must wait for a reasonable time. 

Jurisdiction of courts dealing with divorce cases

Section 19 of the Act provides territorial jurisdiction of the courts that deal with divorce petitions filed therein. It provides that every such petition must be brought before a district court in whose jurisdiction:

  • The marriage was solemnised as mentioned under Section 19(i) of the Act. 
  • Place where the respondent lives as given under Section 19(ii).
  • Place where the parties lived together as given under Section 19(iii).
  • If the petition is filed by a wife, the place where she lives as mentioned under Section 19(iiia).
  • According to Section 19(iv), where the petitioner lives or if the respondent lives outside the jurisdiction of such court or has not been heard alive for more than seven years by people who would have known about him/her if he/she was alive. 

However, Section 13 of the Family Courts Act, 1984, provides that no party to a suit before the Family Court would be entitled to legal representation as a matter of right.

Landmark cases

Lily Thomas v. Union of India (2000)

Facts of the case

In this case, Smt. Sushmita Ghosh was married to Shri G.C. Ghosh, who then, after some years of marriage, converted to Islam to take advantage of marrying twice. An NGO named Kalyani observed the increase in the number of such cases and decided to help women who suffered because of the conversion of their husbands to other religions only because they wanted to exploit the advantage of a second marriage and had no faith in the religion. She, along with other such women, filed a petition in the Supreme Court and asked the court to declare polygamy by Hindus and non-Hindus after converting to Islam as void and illegal. She also asked the court to restrain her husband from marrying another woman, as her marriage still subsists. 

Issues involved in the case

  • Whether the respondent must be held liable for the offence of bigamy?
  • Whether the marriage solemnised by Hindus after converting to Islam be declared as void or illegal?

Judgement of the court 

The Apex Court in this case observed that mere conversion of the husband to any other religion would not dissolve the first marriage. The Act of converting to Islam just to take the advantage of more than one marriage amounts to religious bigotry, as the respondent had no faith in the religion. In the present case, the respondent was held liable for the offence of bigamy because the solemnization of a second marriage after conversion to another religion does not ipso facto dissolve the first marriage, which was solemnised according to Hindu rituals. 

Amardeep Singh v. Harveen Kaur (2017)

Facts of the case

In this case, the petitioner and respondent were married to each other and had children but decided to live separately owing to certain issues. After some time, they filed an application for divorce by mutual consent. They also decided to waive the cooling period or the waiting period of six months given in Section 13B because they had been living separately for the past eight years and were firm on their decision to seek divorce. For this, they filed a petition in the Supreme Court to allow them to waive the period. 

Issues involved in the case

Whether the period of six months for the second motion mentioned under Section 13B of the Act can be relaxed in certain situations?

Judgement of the court

It was observed that the period of six months is there to help the parties resolve their dispute if there is a possibility of doing so and saving the marriage. The court also observed that the object of the legislature to introduce divorce by mutual consent was to give parties the option to dissolve the marriage by mutual consent where there is no possibility of reconciliation and the bond is irretrievably broken. It did not aim at prolonging the agony of the parties. The court thus held that the period of six months is not mandatory but a directory, and after the following conditions are fulfilled, it is at the discretion of the court to waive off the period:

  • The statutory period of six months is already completed which means that the parties were living separately from a long time. 
  • All the efforts and methods of reconciliation to save the marriage have failed. 
  • Other matters related to dissolution of marriage like maintenance, custody etc have been resolved. 
  • The waiting period made mandatory to follow would cause frustration to the parties and prolong their agony.
  • The parties have the option to waive the waiting period of one week after the first motion, but this can be done only after the parties have given valid reasons.


The purpose of marriage and its importance is different for different religions. In Hinduism, it is a dharma for a person to get married in order to fulfil religious obligations, so there was no concept of divorce or judicial separation. The marital bond, once created, was considered to exist till eternity. But with the introduction of the concept of divorce, the unbreakable bond could be broken, and husband and wife could be separated. Generally, the entire structure of divorce is based on the faulty theory. 

However, there has been inclusion of grounds like non-compliance with the decree of restitution of conjugal rights and non-resumption of cohabitation within one year after the decree of judicial separation has been passed for divorce. This is based on the concept of frustration of marriage, or breakdown theory. After the 1976 Amendment, a liberal provision or ground has been added for divorce, which is divorce by mutual consent. This is based on the consent theory. Thus, it can be said that the marital life in a Hindu marriage has undergone drastic changes, but the notion of marriage still remains the same. It still has religious sanctity attached to it and the courts try to preserve the institution of marriage in every case that comes before it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What do you mean by voidable marriages?

Voidable marriages are those that can be annulled by a decree of nullity at the option of either of the parties. According to Section 12 of the Act, the grounds on which a marriage can be voidable at the option of either husband or wife are as follows:

  • Impotency of spouse. 
  • Unsoundness of mind
  • If the consent for marriage was obtained by force or fraud. 
  • Premarital pregnancy. 

What is the punishment of bigamy under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955?

According to Section 17, if a person is guilty of the offence of bigamy, he would be liable for punishment according to Sections 494 and 495 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and such a marriage would be null and void under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. 

What are the conditions of valid Hindu marriage?

According to Section 5 of the Act, for a marriage to be valid under Hindu law it must be solemnised between two Hindus and fulfil the following conditions:

  • Neither of them must have a spouse living at the time of marriage. 
  • He or she must not be incapable of giving consent i.e., must not suffer from unsoundness of mind. 
  • He or she must not be unfit for marriage and procreation of children. 
  • He or she must not suffer from insanity. 
  • They must have completed the criteria of age which is twenty-one years for bridegroom and eighteen years for bride.
  • Both the bride and bridegroom must not be within the degrees of prohibited relationship unless custom allows. 
  • They must not be sapindas of each other unless allowed by customs. 

What do you mean by constructive desertion? How is it different from simple desertion?

When a spouse compels the other by words or conduct to quit the matrimonial home, he would be guilty of desertion even though the other physically left and lived separately. Desertion means abandonment, while in constructive desertion, there is no abandonment of place but of a matrimonial relationship. The same was discussed in the case of Savitri Pandey v. Prem Chandra (2002), wherein it was also observed that desertion does not mean withdrawal from the place but means repudiation of the obligations of marriage. 

How is judicial separation different from divorce?

Judicial separation is a situation where the marriage is not terminated but the spouses do not fulfil conjugal duties, and neither of them is under obligation to cohabit with the other. Section 10 deals with judicial separation, and it is termed as alternate relief to divorce under Section 13A of the Act. There is a possibility of reunion and resumption of matrimonial rights in judicial separation, but after the decree of divorce is passed, marriage comes to an end. 


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  1. Its said that, lots of injustice take place with women, and minor girls too. Of course that’s understandable, thinkable and unfair to women. But at the same time how can, it ever be considered, thought or even given a conclusion just and blindly that all men and husbands or guilty by whatever or all means? Why rules are simply made to favour women, desipte the realities? Why is there a turning of blind eye towards men and favourism and appeasement towards women? Unfortunately this is happening today. In every courts its happening. Now this is not that can be called justice. Court are were justice are given to begging clients and sides. In many cases justice comes where difficulty and takes hard time.

  2. I am married for 1.5 (one and a half years), during this tenure, I found her as a careless, quarrelsome, non-understanding, woman. she does not take care of my old age parents properly, does not maintain the household duties, she does not wake up in time, she always ignore whatever I suggest her for a healthy life. she is obese and has some gynecological problems and under treatment, but she does not listen or maintain the doctors suggestions accordingly. She is very quarrelsome and does not want to listen or understand any word from me. I am the only child of my parents and this married life is hurting me psychologically and I cannot focus on my work and my parents are also feeling disturbed by her attitude now a days. My mother, my father and I myself are very caring towards her, but she always have a reason for showing her ego.
    How do I manage this situation and my painful married life. Please suggest!

  3. Thanks for the great article with awesome in-depth content on the topic, it really impressed me, I will share this article further with my friend.

  4. My niece married 8 years back. The couple lived together forabout 2 years . For delivery of their child the husband shifted her to wife’s mother. After delivery of girl child ,he didn’t come to take the mother and child.
    Now the husband has filed a petition for divorce. In this situation what will be the liability ,as per law,of father towards the girl child, at present of 8 years age.

  5. R/sir,
    I am married since 1.5 years. I works at CRPF. My wife who is always against me in the family she means to say that you don’t see your family . She don’t want to take care of my family my mother and father . She use to argue, show cruelty along with me and my mother and father . She don’t want to leave with me. How can I file for divorce.

  6. after marriage wife goes parents home and i file section 9 after these shes file 125 and section 9 is favor with me but 125 crpc against me as i said to judge if shes denied to live with me then why imposed 125 i dont given any money but once shes file 128 and police kept me and stand on court i clear said to judge i dont give money as shes denies to come home and i win sec 9 but judge cant listen to me and send to jail, and judge said to me if you paid the amount then i release neither not , after few days my mother paid the amount then judge release to me , i said my mother why paid but ok , now i paid that amount which is made in 125 for him and daughter , so is shes make fresh case for 125 interim or again judge issue warrant against me , shes always demand money . and what ground for divorce if i required , i need divorce suggest me what now i do

  7. My wife is always irritation talk with me and always want stay with her parents many times she used abused me and my babies that’s the reason of Divorce please help….

  8. I have got married on Nov 28, 2019. My husband have an extra marital affair with his younger brother’s wife. I am unable to gather any of the evidences to prove his affair. HOW CAN I GET OUT OF THIS? CAN I FILE A DIVORCE? REPLY ME SOON….

  9. I was facing severe difficulty in my marital relationship. We are married for 5 years, he keeps on joining and leaving jobs at different intervals. I am the one who earns the money for the family. The issue started with household works, as he denied to take care of any household responsibility and expect me to take care of all. He at times behaves badly, breaking household things, shouting, yelling and hitting me (1or2 times). This situation is making me frustrating and going through the state of depression.

    In such, hard how can I file for a divorce?

    • It takes two to tango. Is the man the automatic bread winner? Maybe men are tired of that? If women want to be equal then work and support your family and say nothing like men are expected to. Double standards destroy. Remember that and get to work, but never put up with abuse. It takes two…so quit expecting the man to always be the worker.

    • yes you are eligible to file case under the circumstances that you have provided but you need to prove that those facts stated by you about your husband are true to the jurisdiction.

  10. I think, the writer of above article has misread the judgment passed by Calcutta HC in this matter, Sachindranath Chatterjee vs Sm. Nilima Chatterjee, The original judgment says, the Sachindra could not prove adultery against his wife. And even his divorce petition was rejected which was confirmed by Cal HC. I think writer should clarify about this.

  11. My wife lives in live in relationship with another man since more than year. While she left me she also abandoned my two children too. We have one property which in names with both of us (I mean me and my wife) and before she went with live in with another guy she made one of affidavit states she agreed that person as husband and she’ll obey and enjoy all the rules and rights as his wife. What’s the strong ground i can file a divorce petition and what are the sections i can use for better and early result.

    • Adultery is the ground for divorce in your case but it is subject to prove by witness,before divorce no affidavit made by your wife be legally valid.

    • she cant have the status of wife of the other man as she is still your wife and having an affidavit cant give her the wife status. she is still your wife until u give her divorce and file for divorce on basis of ground of DESERTION UNDER SECTION 13 of hindu marriage act . and she is not laible for maintainance after divorce as he has deserted you..

    • That your wife is living in adultry and she has been violated the sanity of wedlock then file a divorce under HMA sec 13 (2).

    • Hello Abhimanyu.

      As per the situation mentioned above , since the wife is living without the husband for more than a year, you can simply file a case of divorce along with section 9 petition of Hindu Marriage act.

      I am sharing my contact details for further reference.

      Rishabh Sethi (Adv)
      Supreme Court Of India & High Courts
      MOb: 8077359032, 9643139991

      • Hi
        This is Swati. My husband’s brother was married before 1 year to a girl who denied for the first night intercourse during honey moon and she left the hotel the same night. After that she went to her mom’s house. As a family member three of four of us visited her house thrice to convince her and get her back to husband’s house. That guy , her husband also tried to convnince her that you take your own time for intercourse, but stay at your inlaw’s house. But then also she denied to come and then her father mother told that she does not want to come. So we will go for mutual consent divorce. Now after completing of 1 year to the marraige we are telling them to forward the paper work for mutual consent but now he is making some stories and saying that I have given the documents to make a draft and it will take time. This story we are hearing from last 1 month. Is there any safety procedure to be done from boy’s side to be done at this stage since we are now feeling that they are just playing around us. What is the threat for a boy in this case if a period of 1 year and more is passed. And what are the chances of now being cancelling the marraige on grounds of impotency of wife. She is also taking some tablets daily for mental stress.

  12. If one Husband find his wife in adultery by himself that is at night in the same room wife goes to intercourse with her boy friend on another bed keeping her husband on another bed and the husband sees the intercourse himself and the said boyfriend lefts through the window then how strong the point of adultery ? His minor son (15 yrs ) also sees the fact then how will be the adultery point ?

  13. In my view it is not true to say that In India, the Fault theory works in the matter of the divorce.
    Now a day’s the mutual consent therory is used by the parties.
    And section 14 dose not talk about bigamy, it only permit the petition on the ground that the case is one of exceptional hardship to the petitioner or of exceptional depravity on the part of the respondent

  14. In my opinion, considering today’s scenario the marrying couple needs to be thoroughly briefed on the act prior to marriage, pros n cons. Like a company secretary is thorough with companies act factory acts & so on. Most marriage fail due to mid understanding created by either side of family members. Use professional mediation


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