sc-calls-for-reforms-in-grounds-for-divorce

Context: The Supreme Court recently states that the legislature has so far been reluctant to introduce “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” as a ground for divorce because marriage is considered “sacramental” and is supposed to be an “eternal union of two people” under the Hindu law.

Background

  • The judgment came in a case in which the wife left on the wedding day itself. The court stated that she had gone on to initiate complaints and allegations against her estranged spouse.
  • This conduct shows disintegration of marital unity and thus disintegration of the marriage. In fact, there was no initial integration itself which would allow disintegration afterwards

Bench Observation

  • Society at large does not accept divorce, given the heightened importance of marriage as a social institution in India. Or at least, it is far more difficult for women to retain social acceptance after divorce. 
  • This coupled with law’s failure to guarantee financial security to women in the event of a breakdown of marriage is stated to be the reason for the legislature’s reluctance to introduce irretrievable breakdown as a ground for divorce.
  • The court also noted that repeated allegations and litigation against a spouse amount to cruelty which is a ground for divorce.

Bench Upheld

  • The court dissolved the marriage on both the grounds of irretrievable breakdown of marriage and cruelty.

Related Facts

Grounds for divorce under Hindu law:

  • The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, lays down the law for divorce that applies to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs.
  • Under Section 13 of the Act, the grounds for divorce include: 
    • Voluntary sexual intercourse with any person other than his or her spouse.
    • Cruelty.
    • Desertion for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.
    • Ceasing to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion and 
    • Being incurably of an unsound mind.
  • In addition, Section 13B provides for divorce by mutual consent.
  • Section 27 of The Special Marriage Act, 1954 provides the grounds for grant of divorce in the case of marriages solemnised under that Act.

The Law Commission of India in its 71st Report titled “The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 - Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage as a Ground of Divorce” 

  • Recommended amendments in the Hindu Marriage Act to make irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a new ground for granting divorce among the Hindus.

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