SC on Divorce : One Secular Law Should be Applicable to All

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NEW DELHI: In a relief to a Christian couple seeking divorce by mutual consent, the Bombay high court last week set aside an order of the family court and allowed a the couple to get divorced though they had not resided apart for two years as the law required.

This is the first such order in the city and significant for the community , said a lawyer. In March and April, the HC had questioned the Centre over difference in the law for Christians when married couples in other communities needed only a year’s separation before they could move for divorce.

Even the Supreme Court took up the issue recently and asked the Centre to consider amending the Indian Divorce Act. The couple–before a bench of Justices A S Oka and C V Bhadang at the HC–was married in 2013.

Their marriage was registered in Mumbai under a law that governs Christian marriages. But irreconcilable differences led the couple apart and they started living separately since June 2013. In 2014, the two filed for a mutual consent divorce in the family court. But to their dismay , it was rejected on July 8, 2014. The family court judge held that the law prohibited Christian couples from filing a mutual consent divorce after one year of marriage and separation. The couple challenged the order and also the Indian Divorce Act in the HC. Their lawyer, Prashant Chavan, argued that its provisions were discriminative and arbitrary .

Workshop on CSR Brand and Communication by IndiaCSRSection 10 A(1) of the Act mandates a two-year separation before a lifeless, unhappy and irretrievably broken down marriage can be legally ended through a mutual consent divorce. Christians across India had independently challenged the discriminatory law.

Rui Rodrigues, appearing entre, had informed the HC in April that he would as certain whether or not the Centre had de not the Centre had de cided to challenge judgments by two other high courts of Kerala and Karnataka, which had read down the law to mean a year’s separation, to bring in equity.

The SC also in a separate petition filed before it last month questioned the inequity in law over the stringent separation conditions laid down under the Indian Divorce Act. On May 8, the bench of Justices Oka and Bhadang said that “for reasons to be recorded separately“, the order of the family court is quashed and set aside.

The HC allowed the couple’s di vorce plea and held that, “The marriage between the petitioners is dissolved by mutual consent under Section 10A of the Divorce Act, 1869”

Favouring implementation of uniform civil code, the SC on Monday said one secular law should be made applicable to all people cutting across communities and religions all over the country . A bench of Justices Vikramajit Sen and Abhay Manohar Sapre raised questions as to why there were different laws for different communities for governing matrimonial issues.The court asked the Centre why it was reluctant to bring uniformity in laws.

It said Christian divorce law provision making separation for two years mandatory for any couple to get divorce under mutual consent should be done away with and the period must be reduced to one year as applicable to couples of other communities. The bench suggested the Centre itself come forward with amendments. “One secular law should be made applicable across the board regardless of communities and religions affiliation of a person. It should be applicable all over the country .

You should yourself spring up and tell the court that you would do it. Why are you contesting on the issue?” the bench asked the Centre which sought more time to take a stand. The SC is examining the validity of a 146 year old provision that says divorce can’t be granted to Christian couples on mutual consent if they were not living separately for at least two years.

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