A division bench of Apex Court granted divorce to a husband, on the grounds of Cruelty apart from irretrievable breakdown of marriage.
From Paras 4 and 5,
4. Insofar as irretrievable breakdown of marriage is concerned, no doubt, it does not exist as a ground of divorce under the Act. The issue has been debated by the Law Commission in its various reports. Breakdown of marriage was incidentally considered by the Law Commission in its 59th report (1974), but the Commission made no specific recommendations in this regard. Thereafter in its 71st report (1978), the Law Commission departed from the fault theory of divorce to recognise situations where a marriage has completely broken down and there is no possibility of reconciliation. Neither party need individually be at fault for such a breakdown of the marriage – it may be the result of prolonged separation, clash of personalities, or incompatibility of the couple. As the Law Commission pithily noted, such marriages are ‘merely a shell out of which the substance is gone’. For such situations, the Commission recommended that the law be amended to provide for ‘irretrievable breakdown of marriage’ as an additional ground of divorce. This recommendation was reiterated by the Law Commission in its 217th Report in 2010, after undertaking a suo moto study of the legal issues involved. So far, the Law Commission’s recommendations have not been implemented. In 2010, the government introduced the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2010, which inter alia proposed to add irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a new ground for divorce in both the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and the Special Marriage Act, 1954. After receiving suggestions from relevant stakeholders, the bill was amended and re- introduced as the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2013. This bill was never passed.
5. The result is that, in appropriate cases, this court has granted decrees of divorce exercising its unique jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution of India, to do complete justice between the parties. Such a course is being followed in varied kinds of cases, for instance where there are inter se allegations between the parties, in order to put a quietus to the matter, the parties withdraw these allegations and by mutual consent, this court itself grants divorce. There are also cases where the parties accept that there is an irretrievable breakdown of marriage and themselves request for a decree of divorce. One of the more difficult situations is where, in the opinion of the court, there is irretrievable breakdown of marriage but only one of the parties is willing to acknowledge the same and accept divorce on that account, while the other side seeks to oppose it even if it means carrying on with the marriage.
From Para 7,
7. A marriage is more than a seemingly simple union between two individuals. As a social institution, all marriages have legal, economic, cultural, and religious ramifications. The norms of a marriage and the varying degrees of legitimacy it may acquire are dictated by factors such as marriage and divorce laws, prevailing social norms, and religious dictates. Functionally, marriages are seen as a site for the propagation of social and cultural capital as they help in identifying kinship ties, regulating sexual behaviour, and consolidating property and social prestige. Families are arranged on the idea of a mutual expectation of support and amity which is meant to be experienced and acknowledged amongst its members. Once this amity breaks apart, the results can be highly devastating and stigmatizing. The primary effects of such breakdown are felt especially by women, who may find it hard to guarantee the same degree of social adjustment and support that they enjoyed while they were married.
From Para 14,
14. We are conscious that the Constitution Bench is examining the larger issue but that reference has been pending for the last five years. Living together is not a compulsory exercise. But marriage is a tie between two parties. If this tie is not working under any circumstances, we see no purpose in postponing the inevitability of the situation merely because of the pendency of the reference.
From Paras 17-19,
Sivasankaran Vs Santhimeenal on 13 Sep 2021
17. There are episodes of further harassment by the respondent even at the place of work of the appellant including insulting the appellant in front of students and professors, as is apparent from the judgment of the Trial Court. She is stated to have threatened the appellant of physical harm in front of his colleagues as per the testimony of PW.3 and complained to the appellant’s employer threatening to file a criminal complaint against him (PW.3). The first appellate court somehow brushed aside these incidents as having not been fully established on a perception of wear and tear of marriage. The moot point is that the marriage has not taken of from its inception. There can hardly be any ‘wear and tear of marriage’ where parties have not been living together for a long period of time. The parties, undisputedly, never lived together even for a day.
18. We are, thus, faced with a marriage which never took of from the first day. The marriage was never consummated and the parties have been living separately from the date of marriage for almost 20 years. The appellant remarried after 6 years of the marriage, 5 years of which were spent in Trial Court proceedings. The marriage took place soon after the decree of divorce was granted. All mediation efforts have failed.
19. In view of the legal position which we have referred to aforesaid, these continuing acts of the respondent would amount to cruelty even if the same had not arisen as a cause prior to the institution of the petition, as was found by the Trial Court. This conduct shows disintegration of marital unity and thus disintegration of the marriage.10 In fact, there was no initial integration itself which would allow disintegration afterwards. The fact that there have been continued allegations and litigative proceedings and that can amount to cruelty is an aspect taken note of by this court. 11 The marriage having not taken of from its inception and 5 years having been spent in the Trial Court, it is difficult to accept that the marriage soon after the decree of divorce, within 6 days, albeit 6 years after the initial inception of marriage, amounts to conduct which can be held against the appellant.
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