SC asks why Christians have longer wait for divorce says it’s discrimination

NEW DELHI: It’s a law that’s a hundred and forty six years old! And petitioner Albert Anthony is up against it in his jousting gear. What’s more, the Indian Supreme Court sees the logic in his petition. Why do Christian couples in India have to wait twice as long before filing for divorce by mutual consent?

The Supreme Court on Monday questioned why a Christian couple has to live separately for two years to seek divorce by mutual consent when the period is just one year for non-Christian couples in India.

A bench of Justices Vikramajit Sen and A M Sapre said different criteria for Christian couple “does not make sense” and agreed to examine the validity of a 146-year-old provision which states that divorce cannot be granted to a Christian couple by mutual consent if they were not living separately for at least two years.

The bench sought response from the Centre on a PIL seeking quashing of Section 10 A(1) of the Divorce Act, 1869 which governs the law of divorce between the members of the Christian community.

Advocate Rajeev Sharma, appearing for petitioner Albert Anthony, told the bench that Kerala high court read down the provision by reducing the time period to one year but Karnataka HC gave a divergent opinion.

The bench then questioned the Centre for not taking remedial steps in view of divergent opinions among the high courts and posted the case after two weeks to decide the issue.

Anthony in his petition said the two years separation period for Christians while specifying a separation period of one year for others is unjustified.

“Provisions for divorce by mutual consent in other statutes such as Section 28 of The Special Marriage Act, 1954, Section 13-B of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and Section 32 B of The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 require and prescribe statutory period of separation as one year. Consequently, it acts as oppression to the members of Christian community intending to seek divorce by mutual consent,” the petition said.

The petitioner pleaded the court to declare the portion of Section 10 A (1) of the Divorce Act, 2001 that prescribed two years as the separation period for filing a petition for divorce by mutual consent as discriminatory and unconstitutional and read down the minimum mandatory period of separation from a period of two years to one year.

“Only on the basis of religion there exists a hostile discrimination as only the Christians, who are governed by the provisions 10 A (1) of the Divorce Act, require to observe separation for a period of two years before applying for divorce by mutual consent. However, members of other communities are required to observe separation for a period of one year only before applying for divorce by mutual consent under similar provisions in other statutes,” it said.

“A specification that prescribes different separation periods for different communities to obtain safe relief is wholly discriminatory, arbitrary and unsustainable. It is violative of the fundamental rights of people seeking relief of divorce by mutual consent under the Divorce Act,” the petition said.

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Posted by on April 21, 2015. Filed under Breaking News,India. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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