Marriages may be made in heaven, but eventually they meet their fates in courts. The divorce rates in India have gone up in recent years. In May this year, the Supreme Court observed that divorce rates were higher in love marriages. Perhaps, we have a low threshold for accepting each other’s differences.
The courts however grant a cooling off time for six months to a couple seeking divorce to save marriages.
In a peculiar case, the top court hasn’t even granted divorce to a couple who applied for it 27 years ago.
According to a report, the SC dismissed the petition, reminding the 89-year-old and his wife, now 82, that “marriage is still considered to be a pious, spiritual and invaluable emotional life-net between husband and wife in Indian society”.
The couple who tied the knot in March 1963 had two daughters and a son. There was trouble in paradise when the officer was from Amritsar to Madras in January 1984. His wife, a teacher, chose to stay with her in-laws and later with her son.
The husband, reportedly after exhausting options of arriving at a solution, filed a petition seeking divorce on the grounds of desertion and cruelty.
He claimed that his wife did not even call upon him when he was admitted to an Army hospital following a heart attack and went to the extent of complaining to his superiors against him to tarnish his image. He said her actions were tantamount to cruelty.
Adding that they had been staying separately since March 1997 when he filed the divorce petition in a District Court, he said the Court should exercise powers under Article 142 of the Constitution and grant a decree of divorce. However, his wife said she did not want to live with the stigma of a divorcee. She claimed she made efforts to preserve the sanctity of marriage.
According to a report, she contended that a “mere long period of separation could not tantamount to irretrievable breakdown of the marriage”.
Although the Chandigarh District Court granted them divorce in February 2000, a single-judge bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court reversed the order in December that year, following an appeal by the wife.
Nine years later, a division bench of the High Court confirmed the order of the single-judge bench after which the husband approached the Supreme Court.
The October 10 judgement by the bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi, according to the report, said, “There is no dispute that the parties are staying separate since last many years and all the efforts to bring them together have failed. Under the circumstances, one may presume that the marriage is emotionally dead and beyond salvation and that there is an irretrievable breakdown of marriage between the parties.”
The bench added, “However, in our opinion, one should not be oblivious to the fact that the institution of marriage occupies an important place and plays an important role in society. Despite the increasing trend of filing divorce proceedings in the courts of law, the institution of marriage is still considered to be a pious, spiritual, and invaluable emotional life-net between the husband and the wife in Indian society.
“It is governed not only by the letters of law but by social norms as well. So many other relationships stem from and thrive on the matrimonial relationships in society. Therefore, it would not be desirable to accept the formula of ‘irretrievable breakdown of marriage’ as a strait-jacket formula for the grant of relief of divorce under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.”