Grounds for Divorce in India

Not all marriages are meant to last forever. Some end in divorce. But, it is not possible to divorce your spouse on a whim. Except for mutual consent divorce, you need one or more grounds for divorce to file a divorce application.

Divorce is probably of nearly the same date as marriage. I believe, however, that marriage is some weeks the more ancient.  – Voltaire, French philosopher (1694-1778)

Everything that can be created by law can also be ended by law. Marriage is no exception. It is possible to end a civil union by divorce.

However, there is little doubt about the fact that divorce is usually the last resort. There are several grounds for divorce available to both spouses.

Most common grounds are one or all of the ones below. Here, we discuss some common grounds for divorce.

Related: Conditions for a Valid Marriage in India

Grounds for divorce

1. Adultery

Adultery is sex outside the legal marriage. When either spouse has a sexual relationship outside marriage, it amounts to adultery.

In India, the Indian Penal Code makes adultery illegal and punishable only for men. Yet, it is still a valid ground of divorce for either spouse under the Hindu Marriage Act.

Further, under the act there is no requirement to prove guilt. The act of sexual intercourse is enough to afford a ground for divorce.

2. Desertion

There may situations in a married life of a person where they have to live separately. It is also possible that they are unable to live together for long periods.

Desertion takes place when one of the spouse abandons the other spouse without any justifiable cause for more than two years.

The abandoned spouse can seek divorce on this ground.

Related: Court Marriage Procedure in India

3. Cruelty

Mutual respect is necessary for a successful marriage.

It is difficult to set the boundaries of what is respectable and what is not. But, the law has laid down that there cannot be any cruelty between the couple.

The Hindu Marriage Act is clear on this. If the other party treats the petitioner with cruelty then it is possible to end the marriage through divorce.

The courts have now given very wide and liberal definition to the word “cruelty”. A few instances of cruelty are:

  • continuous rage, anger, screaming, or yelling at a spouse
  • constant criticism of other spouse’s abilities
  • falsely accusing the other spouse
  • consistently staying away from the marital residence without any explanation
  • denying food, continuous ill treatment and abuses to acquire dowry
  • Perverse sexual act.

It is important to note that “cruelty” is very subjective. Therefore, only the courts can decide whether an act is cruel or not. But, it is safe to assume that any isolated incident alone will not usually amount to a ground for divorce.

Related: 7 Things To Do Before Filing For a Divorce

4. Impotency

Impotence is the inability to have sexual intercourse. Traditionally, it is thought of as a husband’s inability.

However, it may also be one of the grounds for divorce when the wife is unable to have sexual relations with her husband.

“Inability” means a condition which makes it impossible for one spouse to engage in sexual activity.

This condition may be physical, psychological, or medical.

When a spouse intentionally withholds sexual contact with the other spouse, it’s not impotence.

Likewise, a spouse’s infertility or inability to produce a child is not impotence.

5. Chronic diseases

The term “chronic disease” includes both physical and mental conditions. It also includes sexually-transmitted diseases. Hindus and Muslims allow a divorce if one of the spouses has leprosy or a sexually transmitted disease. But, the other religious faiths do not.

So, for persons belonging to other faiths, a chronic disease is not one the grounds for divorce.

Related: Division of the Property After Divorce: How to Get it Right?

Grounds for divorce under the dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, 1939

Divorce proceedings in Muslims are largely governed by the Sharia law. Moreover, they can vary between Shias and Sunnis.

The Sharia law grants limited right to the Muslim women in respect of marital affairs. Therefore, a consolidation and clarification of right of Muslim women was necessary. Hence this law was passed.

The law grants a Muslim woman the right to seek divorce on the following grounds:

  • Husband’s whereabouts are unknown for a period of four years.
  • He has failed to provide maintenance to the wife for at least two years.
  • He has been under imprisonment for seven or more years.
  • The husband is unable to meet the marital obligations.
  • If the girl is married before fifteen and decides to end the relationship before she turns eighteen.
  • The husband indulges in acts of cruelty.

Related: Lawyer for Divorce: Do You Really Need One?

Divorce laws in India

India is a boiler pot of several religions and cultures. Most of these cultures have their own customs with regards to marriage.

Hence there is no single law that governs marriages and marital rights of such communities in India.

So, it is best to know the laws governing marriage in different communities in India. These following laws contain grounds for divorce.

Indian Divorce Laws


Name of Law

Hinduthe Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
Christianthe Indian Divorce Act, 1869
Muslimthe Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939
Parsithe Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936
Civil Marriagesthe Special Marriage Act, 1956

Before filing for divorce, it is important to know all the grounds for divorce. Frivolous grounds will only serve to weaken your application. Therefore, make sure to read through and know the exact grounds you will use for the divorce application.

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