Supreme Court’s historical Judgement on quick divorce and incidental matters?

The Constitution Bench made it clear that in cases when it is obvious that a couple's marriage cannot be saved, the Supreme Court may award divorces to the parties without first sending them to a family court. The Supreme Court of India has the authority to provide complete justice under Article 142(1) of the Indian Constitution.

Courts Take Into Account Certain Factors When Deciding Whether a Marriage Has Irretrievably Broken Down:
  • The marriage is completely unworkable
  • The marriage is emotionally dead
  • The marriage is beyond salvage, and hence, dissolution of the marriage is the only feasible solution.
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The SC also stated that the divorce it granted on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown was not a right but rather a decision that had to be used with the utmost care while taking into account all pertinent facts. When the Court has taken into account all the relevant circumstances and determines that the marriage is a failure with no room for a couple to live together and where it would not be appropriate to maintain a formal legal partnership, discretion will help offer "complete justice" to both parties. Additionally, the SC emphasized that it must take into account the pertinent laws that are applicable and implemented in the case when using its discretion and not completely disregard them.

The Powers of Article 142

There are times when the Supreme Court of India must make judgments that might not follow the customary procedure but are necessary to uphold justice. The Supreme Court may exercise its plenary power, which is authorized by Article 142, to make such rulings.

  • In situations where a rigid application of the law might not be appropriate to produce a just decision, Article 142 offers a power of equity that may be applied.
  • To make a choice that is fair and just, the legal entity must not only see the law's benefits but also take into account its primary goals.
  • Even though the law is unambiguously established, the Court may nonetheless give an order reflecting justice because of the purposefully expanded authority afforded by Article 142. Justice is the cornerstone of all legal entities and the fundamental precept upon which the law itself is built.
  • It has been argued that a relaxation based on equity should not contravene the substantive mandate of the law, which is based on the underlying fundamental general and specific issues of public policy. Nevertheless, this power, like all others, must be regulated and kept in check.

What has the SC decided?

  • The Supreme Court has decided that it has the authority to dissolve a marriage if it has irretrievably broken down in the case of ShilpaSailesh vs. Varun Sreenivasan (2023). Even if one of the parties was unwilling, the court could disregard the Hindu Marriage Act's (HMA), 1955, six-month waiting time requirement and grant the divorce on the grounds of irretrievable collapse. According to SC, it would be pointless to prolong the suffering of the parties to the marriage if there is no chance of reconciliation. Even if one of the parties consents, dissolving such a marriage would offer a swift resolution for partners who are unable to live together and have concurred that the marriage should be dissolved. The Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) of 1955 does not yet recognize the irretrievable collapse of marriage as a basis for divorce, hence the verdict is noteworthy in this regard. The most recent SC ruling does not suggest that individuals can go straight to the SC for a fast divorce. The SC's decision to issue a divorce based on an irretrievable collapse of the marriage is "not a matter of right, but rather a discretion that needs to be acted upon with extreme care and discretion." A party cannot expressly demand the dissolution of their marriage in a writ petition under Article 32 (or Article 226), the SC further emphasized of the Indian Constitution on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
  • In Mit Kumar v. SumanBeniwal (2021), the SC ruled that the cooling-off period of six months following the filing of the divorce petition should be upheld when there is even a remote possibility of reconciliation. To prolong the suffering of the parties to the marriage, however, would be pointless if there is no chance of reconciliation.
  • PitambarBorse against Anusayabai, Bhagwat (2018) Bhagwat BorseThe Bombay High Court ruled that the wife's desertion for more than seven years without a good reason or any intent to return is a sufficient basis for divorce.
  • A two-judge bench referred the issue of the court's use of its authority under Article 142 to award a divorce without bringing the parties before a family court to the bigger bench of five judges in June 2016. It also requested clarification on the wide guidelines for the exercise of powers under Article 142 to dissolve a marriage between the consenting parties, citing inconsistent opinions expressed by several benches of the top court. To support the Constitution bench, the smaller bench had chosen senior attorneys Indira Jaising, Dushyant Dave, V Giri, and Meenakshi Arora as amici curiae (friends of the court) in 2016.

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