Divorce under Hindu Law

The concept of marriage is considered sacramental in Hindu religion, it is more than a mere ritual. It is different from Muslim marriages which are contractual in nature. Divorce is defined as “dissolution of marriage” by the Hindu Marriage act. In other words, when spouses married under the HMA, break their marriage to end the ties they share, it is called divorce. The Hindu marriage act, 1955 governs Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs.

Grounds for divorce

  • Venereal disease
  • Leprosy
  • Insanity
  • Desertion
  • Cruelty
  • Adultery
  • Conversion
  • Puberty
  • Living separately (non- cohabitation)

Section 13 of the Hindu marriage act provides a list of grounds on the basis of which a spouse can demand divorce-

Section 13(1)

  • The spouse engaged in voluntary sexual intercourse with person outside of wedlock, post marriage
  • One spouse treated another with cruelty
  • The petitioner was deserted for two years prior to filing of petition by the other spouse (defendant)
  • The spouse renounces Hindu religion and converted
  • The spouse has an Unsound mind and the petitioner cannot live with him/her
  • Leprosy
  • Venereal disease
  • The spouse joins the spiritual world by renouncing the world.
  • The spouse had been missing for seven years or more without being heard by those who would have heard of him had he been alive.

Apart from these 9 grounds, there are 2 additional grounds under section 13 (1A)-

  • that the spouses did not resume to cohabitate together for 1 year or more after the decree for judicial separation was passed;
  • That there has been no restitution of conjugal rights after the decree was passed for 1 year or upwards.

Further, section 13(2) provides certain grounds under which only a wife is entitled to divorce-

  • The marriage took place before the commencement of the act and the husband remarried or had a living wife during marriage;
  • The husband is guilty of rape, bestiality or sodomy;
  • that in a suit under section 18 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 (78 of 1956), or in a proceeding under section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974) [or under the corresponding section 488 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (5 of 1898)], a decree or order, as the case may be, has been passed against the husband awarding maintenance to the wife notwithstanding that she was living apart and that since the passing of such decree or order, cohabitation between the parties has not been resumed for one year or upwards; or
  • That the marriage was solemnized before she attained the age of fifteen years and she has renounced it after attaining that age but before attaining 18 years. This ground is available whether the marriage was consummated or not.
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