A Thane-based Christian couple has been granted divorce by the Bombay high court (HC) after living apart for just one year, even though the Indian Divorce Act requires couples from the community to live separately for at least two years before seeking divorce by mutual consent.
Christians across the country have independently challenged the law on several occasions, as, for other communities, the period is just one year.
A division bench of justice AS Oka and justice CV Bhadang is yet to give out a detailed order dwelling upon the contentious section 10 A(1) of the Indian Divorce Act. However, lawyers and experts say the order can set a precedent and come to the aid of many other Christians in the country.
In the case before the Bombay HC, the couple got married in January 2013 and registered their marriage according to the Indian Christian Marriage Act in Thane. They started living separately since June 2013, because of “irreconcilable differences.”
They filed a petition seeking divorce in a family court in July 2014. But the petition was dismissed because they had approached the court within just over a year’s time. It was then that they approached the HC.
In their plea, they challenged the stipulation of two years for Christians under section 10A(1), stating it was “arbitrary, capricious and fanciful and offended their Right to equality.”
Earlier, in 2010 and 2014 respectively, the Kerala high court and the Karnataka high court had ruled the law violated constitutional freedoms, and granted divorce to couples living apart for less than two years.
The Karnataka high court had cited the Kerala HC’s judgement and said that since the Centre had not appealed against it, the judgement was bound to be cited as “law for the entire country.”
During a previous hearing in the case, the Bombay HC had asked the Centre’s counsel, Rui Rodrigues, whether the Union intended to challenge the judgments of the Kerala and the Karnataka high courts.
The law ministry is yet to respond to the court’s query. A similar matter questioning the section 10A (1) is also pending before the Supreme Court.