On what grounds can a husband ask for divorce?

Quick Answers

A husband can file for divorce on the following grounds:

  • Adultery by the wife
  • Cruelty by the wife
  • Desertion by the wife for two or more years
  • Conversion by the wife to another religion
  • Incurable mental illness or disorder of the wife
  • Venereal disease contracted by the wife
  • Renunciation of worldly life by the wife
  • No resumption of cohabitation after a court-ordered separation of one or more years
  • No restitution of conjugal rights after a court decree
  • Missing spouse for seven years with no news of being alive

Grounds for Divorce in Detail


One of the most common grounds for divorce is adultery, which refers to a married person having voluntary sexual intercourse with someone other than their spouse. For a husband to file for divorce on grounds of adultery in India, he needs to prove that his wife had voluntary sexual intercourse with another man during the subsistence of their marriage. Simply having sexual relations with another person once is enough to constitute adultery.

To prove adultery, the husband has to establish his wife’s infidelity through direct evidence like photographs, videos, letters, orwitness statements. Circumstantial evidence like the wife’s behavior or suspicious phone calls may support the case but is often not enough on its own. If proven, adultery demonstrates that the wife violated her marital vows and obligations, making it difficult for the marriage to continue.


Cruelty is another commonly cited ground for divorce under Hindu law in India. Cruelty refers to any willful conduct by the wife that causes reasonable apprehension in the husband’s mind that it is harmful or injurious for him to live with his wife.

Physical cruelty involves acts like causing bodily injury, beating, false imprisonment, or threat to life. Mental cruelty includes behavior that inflicts mental agony like taunts, accusations, verbal abuse, emotional torture, or denial of sexual relations. Even a single act of sufficient severity can constitute cruelty as legal grounds for divorce.

The husband has to offer clear proof of cruelty with medical records, police complaints, photographs as evidence, or testimony of witnesses. If proven, cruelty demonstrates that the marital tie has broken down beyond repair due to the wife’s actions.


If the wife deserts the husband for a continuous period of at least two years, it is considered legal grounds for divorce. Desertion means the intentional permanent abandonment of one spouse by the other without reasonable cause or consent.

For desertion to be proven, the husband must show that his wife left him physically and severed marital ties by her own will for the specified period. If the separation occurs with consent or due to the husband’s wrongful behavior, it does not qualify as desertion. The husband should provide evidence like court summons served at the wife’s address or her signed acknowledgement of receiving notice for restitution of conjugal rights.

Continuous desertion indicates the wife refused to reconcile or resume cohabitation despite efforts to save the marriage, hence divorce is justified.

Conversion to Another Religion

Under Hindu marriage laws, conversion from Hinduism to any other religion or denial of the Hindu religion are grounds for divorce. When the wife converts to another religion she repudiates a key condition of the Hindu marriage.

For divorce on these grounds,the husband has to prove his wife converted to another religion or declared that she does not belong to the Hindu faith. Evidence may include the wife taking formal vows of another religion, baptism certificate, her declaring a non-Hindu name or religion officially.

Conversion essentially means the wife has renounced Hindu rites, customs and traditions critical to the Hindu marriage, giving adequate reason for divorce.

Incurable Mental Illness

If the wife suffers from serious mental illness that cannot be cured, it constitutes a ground for divorce. This includes psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, dementia, or any illness requiring prolonged treatment that disrupts normal marital life.

The husband must submit medical proof that establishes his wife suffers from incurable mental illness or defect that makes it unsafe or unbearable for him to stay married. Evidence like reports of qualified psychiatrists who have treated the wife are essential.

Such incurable conditions mean the wife cannot fulfill marital obligations, providing grounds for dissolution of the marriage.

Venereal Disease

If the wife suffers from a serious venereal disease that iscommunicable, the husband can seek divorce on this ground in India. Venereal or sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS, gonorrhea, syphilis, genital herpes are incurable and can be passed on to the husband, causing grave harm.

The husband has to prove his wife has contracted such an incurable venereal disease through medical reports. The future possibility of transmission and the wife’s inability to perform marital duties are reasonable grounds for divorce due to potential danger to the husband.


Under Hindu law, if the wife renounces worldly life and assumes a religious order or becomes a saint, living apart from her husband, he can file for divorce. By renouncing worldly duties and marital responsibilities, the wife severs the marital tie.

For divorce on these grounds, the husband must establish his wife has given up secular life to become a religious ascetic or nun. Proof includes documentation of the wife joining a religious order, becoming the disciple of a guru, or her admission of renouncing material life.

Such religious renunciation indicates the wife has repudiated her domestic duties and conjugal relationship, deserting normal married life.

No Resumption of Cohabitation After Court-Ordered Separation

When a court passes an order or decree for judicial separation of the spouses, if there is no resumption of cohabitation for one year or more after this order, it is a ground for divorce.

The husband must prove that there was a judicial decree of separation and in spite of it, his wife made no attempt to reconcile or resume living together as husband and wife for over a year. Usually, documentary proof of legal separation and non-cohabitation is required.

Such willful separation of a long duration evidences the complete breakdown of the marriage with no chance of reconciliation.

No Restitution of Conjugal Rights

If either spouse abandons or separates from the other, the abandoned spouse can file a petition for restitution of conjugal rights in court. If the other spouse refuses to comply with the decree for restitution within the specified time, it becomes grounds for divorce.

Here, the husband needs to provide the court decree calling upon the wife for restitution of conjugal rights along with proof of her refusal to do so despite the decree. This demonstrates her unwillingness to reconcile or cooperate to continue the conjugal relationship.

The wife’s sustained unwillingness to restore conjugal rights makes divorce the only remedy left.

Missing Spouse for Seven Years

If the wife has been missing and not heard alive for a continuous period of seven years, it constitutes legal grounds for divorce under Hindu law. Her uncertain disappearance for seven years gives rise to a presumption under law that she is dead.

The husband must prove that he has made reasonable efforts to locate his missing wife but she has not been heard alive for seven or more years since her disappearance. A First Information Report and proclamation in newspapers calling upon the missing wife provide supporting evidence.

Such a long absence indicates the wife has severed marital ties and abandoned the husband permanently, even if she may still be alive, enabling divorce.

Evidentiary Requirements

For divorce on any grounds, adequate proof is essential. The testimony of the husband alone may not suffice – corroboration by witnesses or authentic documents is usually required. Relevant documentary evidence like photographs, medical certificates, communication records establish circumstances favoring divorce.

Witness statements supporting the husband’s version of events often provide critical evidence. Witnesses can include neighbors, domestic helpers, relatives, or colleagues privy to the marital discord or wife’s conduct. Their depositions bolster the adultery, cruelty, desertion allegations.

Circumstantial evidence that indicates the wife’s adulterous character, cruelty, or desertion can supplement direct evidence. The conduct, demeanor, dealings of the wife may allow the court to draw adverse inferences against her.

Any confession or admission made by the wife herself constitutes strong evidence favoring the husband’s divorce case.

Proper procedure must be followed in gathering evidence – it should not breach privacy, be unethical, or illegal. The evidence must directly pertain to circumstances involved in the divorce grounds.

Key Considerations


If the husband condones or forgives any prior act of adultery, cruelty, or desertion by the wife, he cannot subsequently seek divorce on those grounds. Cohabiting with the wife after such conduct amounts to condonation, ruling out divorce.

However, if the wife repeats the same offensive acts after condonation, the husband can take those prior acts along with fresh ones as grounds for divorce.


If the husband connives or willfully encourages, abets or consents to the wife’s alleged adultery or cruelty, divorce is not possible on these grounds. Active promotion or willing participation by the husband in the wife’s conduct bars divorce.

However, passive awareness or negligent disregard of the wife’s actions does not amount to connivance. Innocent oversight or failure to object does not take away grounds for divorce.


If the husband colludes or conspires with the wife to make false or exaggerated allegations of adultery, cruelty or desertion to secure divorce, it cannot be granted. Mutual collaboration between the spouses to fabricate evidence bars divorce.

But if the grounds for divorce are true, collusion relating to procedural aspects may be condoned. The court can still decree divorce if the marital wrongs actually took place.


Acquiescence occurs when the husband consents to the acts of adultery, cruelty or desertion by the wife, depriving him of grounds for divorce. Express or implied consent through words or conduct takes away the right to divorce.

However, mere inactive acceptance or submission does not amount to acquiescence. If the husband did not willfully agree to the wife’s behavior, divorce can still be sought subject to proof.

Limitation Period

The husband must file the divorce petition within one year from the date of the alleged offense like adultery or cruelty, and within two years from cessation of cohabitation in case of desertion under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Condonation interrupts this timeline, with a fresh limitation period starting from repeat of the offense.

For exceptions like unsound mind of the wife or irregular marriages, the court can discretionarily extend the time limit and condone delays if justified in the interests of justice.

Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage

In granting divorce, courts also consider whether the marriage has suffered irretrievable breakdown with no scope of reconciliation due to the wife’s actions. Adultery, cruelty or desertion often provide evidence that it is impossible for the husband to live with the wife, leading to breakdown.

The court analyzes whether the matrimonial bond is beyond repair because of the wife’s wrongful actions to determine whether divorce should be permitted.

Comparative Hardship

Courts also weigh comparative hardship – whether refusal of divorce would cause more hardship to the husband than granting divorce would cause the wife. This assessment of respective hardship due to continuation or termination of marriage influences the decision to allow divorce.

Greater hardship for the husband is a relevant factor in granting him divorce on specified grounds against a wife who has severely harmed the marriage.


Adultery, cruelty, desertion are most common grounds for divorce available to husbands under Hindu law. Conversion, incurable illness, venereal disease, renunciation and missing spouse are other grounds. Adequate proof through evidence and witness testimony is necessary. The husband should be vigilant regarding condonation, connivance, collusion or acquiescence. Limitation periods must be kept in mind. Irretrievable breakdown and comparative hardship are also considered by courts in decreeing divorce.

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