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Hindu Marriage Act is breaking homes: SC

Expressing concern over the huge number of divorces, the court laments that nowadays, divorce petitions are ready even before the wedding, reports Bhadra Sinha.
By Bhadra Sinha | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 18, 2008 02:34 AM IST

The Supreme Court says the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) is breaking more homes than uniting them.

Expressing concern over the huge number of divorces, the court lamented that nowadays, divorce petitions were being prepared even before the nuptial knot had been tied.

"When a marriage takes place, the respective spouses keep a divorce petition ready, anticipating a breakdown,” Justices Arijit Pasayat and GS Singhvi said, hearing a case where a couple is fighting for the custody of their 11-year-old son.

The court commented on provisions like insanity and leprosy, which are grounds for divorce under the HMA. “Our grandparents also suffered from mental illness. But spouses never parted company... The effort was to save the home,” Justice Pasayat said.

The concept of divorce has been traditionally alien to Hindu marriage. In 1955, parliament enacted the HMA, allowing divorce. Either spouse may seek dissolution of marriage on grounds of infidelity, cruelty, desertion and conversion, or if the other party has renounced the world, suffers from a mental illness, incurable leprosy or communicable venereal disease.

Divorce is allowed by mutual consent, or if a spouse has been thought to be dead for seven years. Law Commission member Tahir Mahmood agreed with the court’s views. “The law doesn’t conform to the ethos of Hindus. We don’t expect Hindu men or women to charge their spouses with cruelty and seek divorce. Also, the law has certain shortcomings... like, the word cruelty has not been defined,” he said.

Liberal judicial interpretations of the HMA is contributing to increasing divorces in India, Mahmood said.

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