In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court has held that it can grant divorce to consenting couples on the grounds of 'irretrievable breakdown' of marriage. It has also directed that the six-month waiting period for divorce be done away with.
The five-judge constitution bench, has said that the top court can invoke its special powers under Article 142 to do the above, without referring the issue to a family court.
"We have held that it is possible for this court to dissolve marriage on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage. That will not contravene the specific or fundamental principles of public policy", the Court said.
Why this matters: Previously couples would have to take such cases to family courts, where the waiting period for divorce by mutual consent was 6-18 months. But now the Supreme Court can grant divorce.
The case: The verdict comes concerning the use of the top court's special powers to dissolve a marriage between consenting parties without referral to family courts to wait for the mandatory period prescribed under Section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act.
However, during the hearing, the Constitution Bench decided to consider the issue whether marriages could be dissolved on the ground of irretrievable breakdown.
"We do believe that another question which would require consideration would be whether the power under Article 142 of the Constitution of India is inhibited in any manner in a scenario where there is an irretrievable breakdown of marriage in the opinion of the Court but one of the parties is not consenting to the terms", the bench had said in September.
The conditions: For it to grant a divorce, the top court has to be fully convinced that the marriage is beyond salvation and divorce is the only solution.
While deciding on these cases, the court will consider multiple factors - for instance, period of time the couple has cohabited after marriage; when the couple had last cohabited, the nature of allegations made by the parties against each other and so on.
However, none of these factors are set in stone and the court has said that it will decide on the status of the marriage on a case-by-case basis.