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Irretrievable breakdown is no ground for divorce

A marriage cannot be dissolved on the ground of “irretrievable breakdown” as the law does not recognise it as a valid ground for divorce.

delhi Updated: Mar 04, 2009 23:14 IST
Satya Prakash
Satya Prakash
Hindustan Times

A marriage cannot be dissolved on the ground of “irretrievable breakdown” as the law does not recognise it as a valid ground for divorce.

Dismissing a Hindu husband’s plea for divorce on the ground of “irretrievable breakdown” of marriage, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Markandey Katju said the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 did not recognise it as a ground for dissolution of marriage.

The legal position on the grounds on which a Hindu marriage can be dissolved had been getting blurred with courts saying if there was an irretrievable breakdown, courts should not force a couple to live together.

The apex court’s ruling has now clarified the legal position regarding grounds for dissolution of a Hindu marriage.

The court noted that Section 13 of the Act provided for several grounds for divorce — cruelty, adultery, desertion, conversion, etc, but irretrievable breakdown of the marriage was not there.

“This court cannot add such a ground to …the Act as that would be amending the Act, which is a function of the legislature… It is for Parliament to enact or amend the law and not for the courts,” the bench said. The husband’s counsel had argued that the court in some cases had dissolved a marriage on the ground of irretrievable breakdown.

But the bench rejected the argument. “In our opinion, those cases have not taken into consideration the legal position…and hence they’re not precedents. A mere direction of the court without considering the legal position is not a precedent.”

The ruling came on an appeal filed by a Delhi man, whose plea for divorce from his wife on the grounds of cruel behaviour was turned down. The Delhi High Court, too, did not find any merit in his case. It concluded that it was the husband who was being cruel to the wife.

The man urged the SC to grant him divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown, contending that the marriage was over for all practical purposes as his wife didn’t stay with him for more than 25 days.