Samar Ghosh vs Jaya Ghosh

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The case of Samar Ghosh vs Jaya Ghosh [Civil Appeal No. 151 of 2004] brought before a three Judges Bench of the Supreme Court of India, dealt with the complex and subjective concept of “mental cruelty” in the context of married life under The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. 

Samar Ghosh vs Jaya Ghosh involved a dispute between the parties. The central issue was whether the actions and conduct of one spouse towards the other amounted to mental cruelty, justifying the dissolution of their marriage.

Facts of Samar Ghosh vs Jaya Ghosh

In Samar Ghosh vs Jaya Ghosh, an appeal between two Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officials who got married under the Special Marriage Act in 1984. The respondent had a previous marriage with a child from that marriage and the custody of the child was given to the respondent by the District Court of Patna after the divorce. The appellant and respondent had known each other since 1983 and developed a close friendship, eventually leading to romance and marriage.

The respondent’s ex-husband filed a belated appeal against the divorce granted to the respondent, so the appellant was persuaded to marry quickly to make the appeal irrelevant. After the marriage, the respondent requested the appellant not to interfere with her professional life and decided not to have children for a while, asking the appellant not to be involved with her child from the previous marriage. The appellant claims that the respondent’s inappropriate behavior and lack of affection caused him significant emotional and physical harm.

There were instances of the respondent neglecting marital duties, leading to them living separately for a while. They reunited when the appellant returned to Calcutta in 1988, but the respondent and her mother continued to cause mental distress to the appellant. The respondent allegedly instigated the daughter from the previous marriage to avoid the appellant, causing further harm to him.

An incident involving a worker cum-cook caused an argument between the couple, leading to them living separately once again. The appellant eventually filed for divorce, claiming mental cruelty by the respondent. The Trial Court granted the divorce in Samar Ghosh vs Jaya Ghosh, but the High Court reversed the decision, stating that the appellant couldn’t prove mental cruelty. Consequently, the appellant filed an appeal before the High Court through Special Leave Petition.


The main issues before the Supreme Court in Samar Ghosh vs Jaya Ghosh were:

1. Is the Suit filed by the Appellant Maintainable before the Supreme Court or not?

2. Is the Respondent being guilty of Mental Cruelty as Alleged by the Appellant?

3. Is the Appellant entitled to a decree of Divorce as he requested?

4. To what other relief/reliefs the Appellant is entitled to?

Related Provisions

Section 13(1)(i)(a) of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, deals with the grounds for divorce and one of the mentioned grounds is “cruelty.” However, the Act does not provide a specific definition for the term “cruelty.” In this context, “cruelty” refers to the conduct or behavior of an individual concerning or related to matrimonial duties and obligations that adversely affect the other spouse. This cruelty can manifest in both mental and physical forms and may be intentional or unintentional.

Judgement in Samar Ghosh vs Jaya Ghosh

On March 26th, 2007, in the case of Samar Ghosh vs Jaya Ghosh [Civil Appeal No. 151 of 2004], a three Judges Bench of the Supreme Court pronounced that it is not possible to establish a comprehensive definition of ‘mental cruelty’ that can encompass all scenarios of such cruelty. The Supreme Court highlighted that what may be considered cruelty in one case might not be considered cruelty in another. 

The concept of mental cruelty is subjective and can vary from person to person, influenced by factors such as upbringing, sensitivity, education, family and cultural background, financial status, social standing, customs, traditions, religious beliefs, human values and individual value systems.

Furthermore, the Bench emphasised that the notion of mental cruelty is not fixed; it can evolve over time due to the impact of modern culture through print and electronic media and changes in societal norms and values. Acts considered as mental cruelty at present might not be regarded as such in the future and vice versa.

Hence,in Samar Ghosh vs Jaya Ghosh, the Supreme Court, after carefully considering the arguments and reviewing the judgments of the division court and the High Court, concluded that the actions of the Respondent constituted mental cruelty.

The judgment in Samar Ghosh vs Jaya Ghosh also laid down important points for future decisions concerning the Hindu Marriage Act and cases involving mental cruelty. 

(i) Mental cruelty encompasses acute mental pain, agony and suffering that make it impossible for the parties to continue living together.

(ii) The situation should be such that it is unreasonable to expect the wronged party to tolerate the other spouse’s conduct and continue the marital relationship.

(iii) Mere lack of affection may not amount to cruelty, but continuous rudeness, indifference and neglect reaching a level of intolerability can be considered mental cruelty.

(iv) Mental cruelty is a state of mind, resulting from long-term anguish, disappointment and frustration caused by the conduct of one spouse towards the other.

(v) A sustained pattern of abusive and humiliating treatment aimed at tormenting or making the spouse’s life miserable can be regarded as mental cruelty.

(vi) Unjustifiable conduct of one spouse that significantly affects the other’s physical and mental health may constitute mental cruelty. The impact should be severe and substantial.

(vii) Consistent reprehensible behavior, neglect or departure from normal conjugal kindness that causes injury to the other spouse’s mental health can be considered mental cruelty.

(viii) The conduct must go beyond normal emotions like jealousy and possessiveness and it should cause significant unhappiness, dissatisfaction and emotional distress to be considered mental cruelty.

(ix) Ordinary, trivial irritations and day-to-day quarrels that are a part of married life may not be sufficient grounds for divorce based on mental cruelty.

(x) The overall married life should be assessed and isolated instances over a long period may not amount to mental cruelty. However, persistent ill-conduct that deteriorates the relationship to an extent where living together becomes extremely difficult may be considered mental cruelty.

(xi) If a husband undergoes sterilisation without any medical necessity and without informing or seeking the consent of his wife or if the wife undergoes vasectomy or abortion without medical reasons and without the knowledge or consent of her husband, such acts by the spouse may constitute mental cruelty.

(xii) If either spouse unilaterally decides to refuse to have sexual intercourse for an extended period without any valid reason or physical incapacity, it may be considered mental cruelty.

(xiii) If either husband or wife decides unilaterally after marriage not to have a child from the marriage without any valid reason, it may amount to cruelty.

(xiv) In cases where there is a prolonged period of continuous separation between the spouses, it may be inferred that the matrimonial bond is irreparable. The marriage effectively becomes a fiction, supported only by a legal tie. In such situations, by not allowing the tie to be severed, the law may show a lack of consideration for the feelings and emotions of the parties involved, leading to mental cruelty.

It established that each case should be examined individually, considering the unique circumstances and the parties’ sensitivities. The Court’s decision in Samar Ghosh vs Jaya Ghosh provided guidance to be used as a reference for determining mental cruelty in future cases related to Hindu Law.


The case of Samar Ghosh vs Jaya Ghosh highlighted that the concept of mental cruelty in matrimonial relationships is subjective and cannot be rigidly defined. The Court emphasised that the overall impact on the parties’ mental well-being and the ability to live together is crucial in determining mental cruelty. Unilateral decisions regarding sterilisation, refusal of intercourse or not having children without valid reasons may constitute mental cruelty. 

Prolonged separation may also lead to irreparable damage to the matrimonial bond. The judgment in Samar Ghosh vs Jaya Ghosh provides essential guidance for future cases under the Hindu Marriage Act, recognising the evolving nature of mental cruelty and the need for careful consideration of individual circumstances.

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