Delhi High Court: Denying sex is grounds for divorce

13 Oct 2016 | By Supriya Kaur
Expanding the grounds for divorce in India

The Delhi HC overruled a trial-court decision and stated that denying sex to the husband was "mental-cruelty" and valid grounds for divorce.

The husband filed a divorce petition in 2013 on grounds of "cruelty" that his wife had denied him sex and refused to do household-chores.

The trial court had dismissed his petition as it didn't satisfy 'standard of cruelty' under extant divorce/marriage laws.

In context: Expanding the grounds for divorce in India

OverviewDivorce Laws in India

Divorce is governed by the provisions of the The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (The Act).

The grounds laid down for securing a divorce under The Act are adultery, cruelty, desertion, mental health issues, conversion to another religion, suffering from veneral or incurable diseases, renunciation of the world and if the person has not been heard of as being alive for seven years.

DetailsProposed amendments to divorce laws

The Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2010 was introduced in Parliament in August, 2010.

The amendment bill aimed to make divorce "women-friendly".

It proposed to reduce the mandatory "cooling period" (approx. 6-18 months) before which divorce couldn't be granted.

The bill provided women compensation from the husband's ancestral-property, a significant change from earlier.

The bill also made "irretrievable breakdown of marriage" a ground for divorce.

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WhyMarriage Laws (Amendment) Bill to be dropped

Although the amendment bill was passed by Rajya Sabha in 2013, in December 2014, Law Minister Sadananda Gowda admitted the government was "having second thoughts" and was studying implications of passing the bill.

The government had received over 70 representations from Senior Citizen groups and NGOs including 'Save Indian Family'.

The 'Save Indian Family' is an umbrella organization that fights for men's rights.

Why are groups protesting amendments to marriage laws?

Groups opposing the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill contended that the bill would 'lower the marriage-rate in the country.' They also claimed that it would lead to an increase in "illegitimate and live-in relations and thereby a fall of the institution of marriage and family values."

HowWomen continue to be vulnerable

According to divorce lawyers, Indian women often persuaded into arranged marriages are denied the right to work and have little say in personal or household decisions

Experts say that divorce rate in India continues to be very low because of "how biased the system is against women, who can be left financially destitute even if their husband is wealthy."

"Separating husband from parents" is grounds for divorce

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that a woman wanting to live independently from her in-laws and separating husband from his "pious obligation" to live with his parents, would entitle the husband to file for divorce on grounds of "cruelty".
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13 Oct 2016Delhi High Court: Denying sex is grounds for divorce

DetailsLegal stand on whether 'denial of sex' is cruelty?

In September 2014, the Supreme Court held that "denial of sex by spouse" was mental cruelty especially without sufficient reason.

The Mumbai High Court in September 2014 had ruled that "denial of sex" to a spouse for a long time would amount to mental cruelty.

Most of these cases vary greatly in terms of circumstances and situations are treated on case-by-case basis by courts.