There is no precise definition of cruelty, nor is it possible to do so because it depends upon the imponderables of human behavior. It may be physical or mental. In RUSSEL VS RUSSEL the court defined cruelty as conduct of such a character as to have cause danger to life, limb or health, bodily or mental or as to give reasonable apprehension of danger to such person. In RAVI KUMAR VS JULMIDEVI the court observed that in matrimonial relationship cruelty means absence of mutual respect and understanding between spouses which made relationship bitter. Sometimes it may take form of violence or it may just be an attitude or approach. Silence in some situation may also amount to cruelty.

Intention or motive is not essential element of cruelty.

In NIJHAWAN VS NIJHAWAN husband failure to perform full intercourses which cause misery and frustration to wife was considered to be an act of cruelty, although he did not intend to be cruel.

In NEELU KOHLI VS NAVEEN KOHLI it was held that an intention to be cruel is not an essential element of cruelty. It is sufficient if the cruelty of such type that It becomes impossible for spouses to live together.

In SHOBHA RANI VS M REDDY the court held that when it is confronted with a case of cruelty it can examine two things:

  • Nature of the conduct complained of and
  • Its impact on complaining spouse.

In some cases the impact over the complaining spouse is not considered because his/her own bad behavior.


  • Insanity of the spouse is also the defence against cruelty.
  • Provocation to and self defence against cruelty are good defence.
  • Condonation by one spouse of the cruel acts of other spouse is good defence to cruelty (23(1)(b)) requirement of condonation are forgiveness and restoration to the same position as offender was before committing cruelty.

In DASTANE VS DASTANE the court observed the meaning of cruelty that generally it happens that a spouse who doesn’t care for feeling and happiness of the other spouse. It is cumulative effect which makes a behavior cruel. Also held that the cruelty of the wife was established but the husband had condoned it since both of them cohabited and had a normal sexual life.

In PRAVEEN MEHTA VS INDERJEET MEHTA the court held that mental cruelty is necessarily a matter of inference to be drawn from facts and circumstances of the case.

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