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SC strikes down six-month waiting period for divorce under Hindu Marriage Act

NEW DELHI: After declaring triple talaq as unconstitutional, now the apex court in a judgement has cut off the waiting period for divorce by 6 months under the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955. It has made it clear that a couple will not have to wait for the mandatory 18 months period for separation.

Supreme Court

A bench of Justice U U Lalit and Justice Adarsh K Goyal noted that if the couple settled through mutual consent then the 6 month cooling off period can be scrapped, “Section 13B(2) contains a bar to divorce being granted before six months of time elapsing after filing of the divorce petition by mutual consent. The said period was laid down to enable the parties to have a rethink so that the court grants divorce by mutual consent only if there is no chance for reconciliation.”

The provisions of section 13 (B) of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 a couple seeking divorce through mutual consent had to wait for 18 months. 13 B (1) of the Hindu marriage act allows the couple to file a divorce petition for a judicial separation of one year and under 13 B (2) the couple then have to go through another 6 months waiting period.

The Court concluded that since the period mentioned in Section 13B (2) is not mandatory but directive in nature, it will be open to the Courts to exercise its discretion in the facts and circumstances of each case where there is no possibility of parties resuming their relationship and there are chances of alternative rehabilitation.

The top court also said that in conducting such proceedings, the trial court “can also use the medium of video conferencing and permit genuine representation of the parties through close relations, such as parents or siblings, where the parties are unable to appear in person for any just and valid reason as may satisfy the court, to advance the interest of justice”.

The court noted in its verdict that the object of the cooling off period was to safeguard against a “hurried decision” if there was otherwise a possibility of differences being reconciled.

“Though every effort has to be made to save a marriage, if there are no chances of reunion and there are chances of fresh rehabilitation, the court should not be powerless in enabling the parties to have a better option,” it said.

“In determining the question whether the provision is mandatory or directory, language alone is not always decisive.

The court has to have the regard to the context, the subject matter and the object of the provision,” it said.

The bench was dealing with a plea filed by an estranged couple which had sought waiver of the six month period on the ground that they have been living separately for the past eight years and there was no possibility of their re-union.

With inputs from PTI