Indian legal changes make divorce easier

An amendment to India’s 1955 Marriage Act on 10th June by the Federal Government adds “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” as a possible ground for divorce. The amendment will make it easier for Hindus to divorce has been hailed by activists and religious leaders across India.

Until last week, couples could only divorce on grounds including adultery, cruelty and desertion. Under the new amendment it will now be open to either party to seek a divorce on the basis that they consider the marriage to have ended with no hope of reconciliation or that they file an agreed statement that they do not wish to live together.

This is very similar to the UK legislation concerning the only ground for divorce being that of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage but is proved by one of the five facts adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion or two or five years separation.

The act is applicable only to Hindus in India and other laws such as the Cristian Personal Law apply to other religions.

The reforms which closely follow the decision of the High Court in Kerala state in March where the court struck out a section of law stating that Christians could only divorce after two years of marriage. It suggested reducing the waiting period to one year making it similar to laws applicable to people of other faiths.

The Thomas case involved a couple who were married on 6th April 2008 and filed for “divorce by mutual consent” in a lower court 8 months later in December. The Court dismissed the application saying the marriage was not two years old so they approached the High Court which ruled that Hindus and Parsis could file for divorce by mutual consent within one year of marriage.

The clause violated the Indian constitution that guarantees equality before the law irrespective of religion.

Separate personal laws govern each religious community in India and those with no religion can marry under the Special Marriage Act of 1954.

Mark Sage

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