Marriages are considered to be the most sacred and pure bond between, not just two individuals, but between two families. Ancient India has seen divorce as a taboo, not to be spoken aloud in the public. Manu opined marriage as a sacred concept, where the husband and wife can neither be separated nor their martial tie can be broken. Gradually, with time, the society started institutionalizing marriage as a custom which can be put to an end if extreme necessity calls for.
The epitome of secularism in our mainland has given birth to several Personal Laws, deriving their emergence from different religious faiths and intakes. Hindus, Christians and Muslims have separate institution of Marriage Acts and grounds for divorces to regulate upon.
Grounds for divorce under Hindu marriage act, 1955 and Indian divorce act, 1869
- Adultery is the act of indulgence in intimate intercourse outside one’s standing marriage. It is accounted as a criminal offence and the commission of adultery can be fueled for filing petition for divorce.[i]The concept of adultery was inserted under the Act by the Marriage Laws Amendment Act, 1976.[ii]
- Intangibility of cruelty must be uncalled for. It is the mental and physical torture causing danger to life and health. It is calculated through a chain of events and incidents. Dowry and rape remains two of the burning reasons behind inflicting cruelty. Wife can file a divorce based on the grounds of rape, sodomy and bestiality.[iii]
- Desertion is when one of the spouses abandons the other, voluntarily, for atleast a period of two years; the abandoned party can seek to file a divorce plea on this ground.[iv]Further, if the marriage is solemnized before the Hindu Marriage Act and the husband remarries in spite of the first wife being alive, the first wife can seek for a divorce.
- Disease or disorder can be a ground for filing divorce if the spouse is suffering from incurable insanity or suffering from a venereal disease.[v]The situation must be grave enough to necessitates or render the couple to stay apart.
- A spouse is entitled to file for a divorce if the other renounces all worldly affairs by embracing a religious order.
- In case one of the spouses converts into another religion, the conversion can vitiate the willingness and the other spouse can file a divorce case.[vi]
- Most importantly, if a person is not seen/heard alive for a continuous period of seven years, the person is presumed to be dead. The other partner can move forward in filing a divorce.
- Grounds for divorce under the dissolution of Muslim marriage act, 1939
A Muslim lady can seek for divorce on the following grounds with regards to the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, 1939:
- If the husband fails to meet the marital obligation.
- If the husband’s whereabouts remain unknown for 4 years
- If the husband fail to provide maintenance for at least 2 years.
- If the husband indulges in cruelty
- If the women is married before fifteen and wants to end the relationship before she turns eighteen.
- Grounds for Divorce under the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936
Divorce can be filed of the following grounds under the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936:
- If the spouse remains in exile (unknown) for seven continuous years.
- Non-consummation of marriage within one year.
- Adultery, cruelty, bigamy, rape, desertion etc. are strong grounds for filing divorce.
- Non-resumption of cohabitation after passing an order of maintenance or a decree of judicial separation.
- Unsound mind; provided the other spouse was unaware of this fact at the time of marriage and the divorce must be filed within three years of marriage.
- Grounds for divorce under the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872
The Act enlists a ground of 10 reasons for dissolution of marriage (similar to that of Hindu Marriage Act). The District Court is competent to dissolve the marriage when either of the parties files for a petition. The wife can file for divorce on the pangs that the husband has, since the solemnization of the marriage, been guilty of rape, sodomy or bestiality. The Competent court decides on the custody of the child as well. Interesting to be noted, the church holds no authority or play no role in this regard.
- Grounds for divorce under the special marriage act. 1954
Special Marriage Act presents a generality on its application. It is not farfetched and drives its inclination from all the existing religions within India and world at large. For instance, on adultery, either of the party can seek statutory divorce.[vii] Exclusivity provided to women; rape, sodomy or bestiality can be the grounds for instant divorce. The Act is an answer to the latent lapse in the previous laws in matrimonial causes pertaining to divorces.
For the interest of the society, the marital relationship needs to be surrounded by every safeguard for the cause specified by law. Divorce is permitted only for grave reasons, otherwise given other alternative.
“The views of the authors are personal“
[i]Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, § 13, No. 25, Acts of Parliament, 1973 (India).
[ii]Swapna Ghose v. Sadanand Ghose, AIR 1989 Cal 1 (India).
[iii] Balram Prajapati vs Susheela Bai, II (2003) DMC 708 (India).
[iv] Bipin Chander Jaisinghbhai Shah vs Prabhawati, 1957 AIR 176 (India).
[v]Vinita Saxena vs Pankaj Pandit, Appeal(Civil) 1687/2006 (India).
[vi] Suresh Babu vs Leela, 2006 (3) KLT 891 (India).
[vii] Special Marriage Act, 1954, § 27, No. 43, Acts of Parliament, 1973 (India).