Nudged by the Supreme Court, the government has agreed to consider amending the legal provision that compels Christian couples to wait for at least two years for divorce, whereas this period of separation is one year for other religions. The apex court also urged the government to bring uniformity in the divorce laws across religions.
A bench of Justices Vikramjit Sen and Shiva Kirti Singh was informed by the government’s counsel that the Ministry of Law and Justice has initiated a proposal to amend Section 10A (1) of the Divorce Act.
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Christians file for divorce under Section 10A (1), which states that a petition for dissolution of marriage by mutual consent can be presented before a court only after a judicial separation of two years. However, the period of separation is one year in other statutes such as the Special Marriage Act, the Hindu Marriage Act and the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act.
The note forwarded by the Law Ministry stated that the proposal for a review of Section 10A (1) was under consideration and a decision would be taken after consulting all the stakeholders.
After going through the note, the bench told the counsel that it was only a proposal and that the government should not come back after a considerable period of time with a statement that the proposal has been shot down.
It then passed a formal order, urging the government to bring uniformity in the divorce laws across the religions. “We expect the Ministry of Law and Justice to not only file its reply in the matter but also expeditiously take a decision on whether Section 10A (1) requires to be amended,” the order stated.
Meanwhile, advocate Rajeev Sharma, who appeared for petitioner Albert Anthony, pointed out difficulties that Christian couples will have to face till the time the government takes a decision on amending the law. He pointed out that various high courts had held this provision to be arbitrary and discriminatory but family courts, outside such states, do not accept high court judgments as binding.
Accepting his submission, the bench asked Sharma to specify the particular case where such problems have cropped up and said the court will pass appropriate orders therein. When the lawyer said that his client’s case was being simply adjourned by a family court in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad, the bench directed the subordinate court to decide the matter within a month. “You take an order there and come to us. We are totally in agreement with you,” it told Sharma.
The court had in the last hearing said Section 10A (1) lacked rationale and asked the government why it did not amend the law even after some high courts held it to be violative of Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life and liberty).