The recent decision of the Union Cabinet to leave it to the courts’ discretion to do away with the mandatory six-month waiting period for couples seeking divorce to move a joint petition by mutual consent,is being seen as a positive move but only for a limited range of divorce-seekers.
It is a positive step in terms of speeding up divorce procedures. It will help those educated lot of litigants who are seeking divorce after they have put in enough throught into it and concluded that their marriage is indeed irretrievable. However,there are many rural and uneducated litigants who are advised to file for divorce or are misguided,for whom the six-month cooling-off period is important, said advocate Rekha Koratkar,who has been practising in the Pune district family court for over two decades.
Giving her views on the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, she added that the six-month period could be brought down to two or three months,instead of completely waiving it. Agreeing with her,advocate Asim Sarode said the cooling-off period sometimes resulted in reconciliation of couples,thus saving a marriage.
According to Smita Joshi,a counsellor with the Pune district family court,it is mandatory for all divorce-seekers to see a counsellor during these six months.
We counsel them and look for any potential where the couple can get back together. There are couples that start living together and withdraw the divorce petition after counselling, she said. The counsellor’s report is mandatory and is taken into consideration by the court while granting divorce.
“If the six months time is waived,couples will not get enough time to think over their decision. There are many who file for divorce out of outrage. The cooling-off period is necessary in such cases,where there are chances of reconciliation, said advocate Asunta Pardhe,who is also a women’s rights activist.
All the three other amendments in the marriage laws approved by the cabinet,giving rights to adopted children on par with biological offspring in case a couple goes for divorce,allowing a woman a share in her husband’s property and provision of one-time maintenance to the woman,have been hailed by lawyers and activists.
The decision of paying one-time maintenance to women will help in reducing pendency in family courts by at least 30 to 40 per cent, said Koratkar,who was the first president of the Pune district family court bar association.