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No divorce for ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of marriage: SC

New Delhi, March 8
In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court has ruled that a Hindu couple cannot be granted divorce on the ground that there was “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage.

So far, all courts, including the Supreme Court, had granted divorce to couples on the ground that marriage between the two had irretrievably broken down.

Interpreting Section 13 of the Hindu Marriages Act which provides for grant of divorce, a bench of Justice Markandeya Katju and VS Sirpurkar said there were several grounds for granting a decree of divorce like cruelty, adultery, desertion etc., but no such ground of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage has been mentioned for it.

The bench passed the order while dismissing the appeal of Vishnu Dutt Sharma who sought divorce from his wife Manju Sharma on the ground that their marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Though the husband had sought divorce, the wife was unwilling for the same. Sharma filed the appeal in the apex court after the matrimonial court and the Delhi High Court both dismissed his plea.

In the apex court, the husband claimed that he was entitled to divorce and cited a number of earlier rulings of the apex court wherein it had granted divorce to couples on the ground of “irretrievable breakdown” of marriage.

Rejecting the contention, the bench said it was “crystal clear” from a bare reading of Section 13 of the Act that no such ground of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is provided by the legislature for granting a decree of divorce.

“This court cannot add such a ground to Section 13 of the Act as that would be amending the Act, which is a function of the legislature,” the bench observed.

It disagreed with the husband’s plea that since the apex court itself had earlier granted divorce to couples on the ground, there was no reason why he should be deprived of a similar relief.

“In our opinion, those cases have not taken into consideration the legal position which we have mentioned above, and hence they are not precedents. A mere direction of the court without considering the legal position is not a precedent. If we grant divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown, then we shall by judicial verdict be adding a clause to Section 13 of the Act to the effect that irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is also a ground for divorce,” the bench observed. — PTI



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