The irretrievable breakdown of a marriage will be made an additional ground for divorce under an amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act and the Special Marriage Act approved by the cabinet Thursday.
“This would provide safeguards to parties who file petitions for grant of divorce by mutual consent but who wilfully avoid coming to court thus causing harassment to the other party,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters after a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The amendment would be effected through the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2010 that would be tabled in parliament.
Explaining the rationale for the move, recommended by the Law Commission of India in its 217th report, Soni said various grounds for the dissolution of a marriage through divorce are laid down in section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act.
These grounds include adultery, cruelty, desertion, conversion to another religion, unsoundness of mind, virulent and incurable form of leprosy, venereal disease in a communicable form, renouncement of the world and not heard as being alive for a period of seven years or more.
Section 27 of the Special Marriage Act also lays down similar grounds.
Section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act and Section 28 of the Special Marriage Act provide for divorce by mutual consent. They say that if such a petition is not withdrawn six months after its presentation or not later than 18 months, then a court may grant the divorce.
“However, it has been observed that the parties who have filed a petition for mutual consent suffer in case one of the parties abstains himself or herself from court proceedings and keeps the divorce proceedings inconclusive,” Soni pointed out.
“This has been causing considerable hardship to the party in dire need of divorce and hence the amendment,” she added.
The Law Commission’s recommendation apart, the Supreme Court had on two occasions observed and recommended that irretrievable breakdown of marriage should be incorporated as another ground for granting a divorce, Soni said