Questioning the existing law which prescribes that Christian couples have to be separated for at least two years before filing for divorce by mutual consent while the corresponding period for other communities is only one year, the Supreme Court on Monday urged the Centre to make necessary amendments.
“Should Christians stay separated for minimum two years when the period prescribed for others is one year? It does not make sense to us. It is a pure question of law and you (government) should have acted on your own,” said a bench of Justices Vikramjit Sen and A M Sapre.
Christians file for divorce under Section 10 A (1) of the Divorce Act, which lays down 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 provision 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, prescribe the statutory period of separation as one year.
The bench told the counsel for the government that some high courts had held this law for Christians as violating Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution.
“Many high courts have struck down this provision or read it down to put it at par with other religions. They have said one year is good for them (Christians) as well. Why did government not take remedial action after these orders were passed? Somebody should have taken note of this,” it said.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by a Delhi-based Christian, Albert Anthony. The plea pointed out that while members of communities like Hindus and Parsis can file for divorce after living separately for a year, the separation period for Christians was two years. The petition said this amounted to “hostile discrimination” and reflected a bias against Christian community.
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