Consent of parties not necessary to order dissolution of marriage on ground of irretrievable breakdown under Article 142 of the Constitution: SC

The Supreme Court ruled that consent of parties not necessary to order dissolution of marriage on grounds of irretrievable breakdown under Article 142 of the Constitution.

Background 

The appellant and the respondent were married as per the Hindu rites and customs on. According to the appellant, there were certain differences between his sister and the respondent’s brother, who were married to each other, which led to the appellant’s sister returning to her parental house. Further, the case of the appellant is that the respondent left the appellant and returned to her parental home. She did not return home. 

She stood accused of cruelty and accordingly, the divorce petition was filed seeking dissolution. The Family Court allowed the petition by its decree. An appeal was carried by the respondent before the Madras High Court under Section 19 of the Family Courts Act, 1984. According to the appellant, since the period for filing an appeal by the respondent had expired, he got remarried on the strength of the decree of dissolution. He was served with the notice in the matter in May, 2005. Respondent, in fact, filed a petition seeking restitution of conjugal rights under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act and the same is still pending.

Arguments 

Advocate K.S Mahadevan, appearing for the appellant, contended that the High Court clearly erred in reversing the judgment of the Family Court. He submitted that this is a case of matrimonial cruelty practised by the respondent.

Advocate Gautam Narayan, appearing for the respondent, pointed out that no case whatsoever was made out at any point of time for the appellant to seek a dissolution of marriage. After the marriage, finding that she was pregnant, and as is natural, she went to her parental house. The pregnancy was not a smooth affair. It was actually complicated. Her father passed away. Circumstances beyond her control constrained her to stay at her parental house and it has nothing to do with lack of inclination on the part of the respondent to fulfill her obligations under the marital tie. 

Decision 

The division bench of Justice K.M. Joseph and Justice Hrishikesh Roy stated that Article 142 of the Constitution undoubtedly clothes the Court with a reservoir of power to pass orders as would reach complete justice to the parties. What comes to mind is the concept of irretrievable breakdown of marriage. 

The court said that undoubtedly, though there have been reports of the Law Commission in this regard recommending changes in the law, as of today the statute does not provide for irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground. However, the Court has on a number of occasions exercised its power and granted dissolution of marriage on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage based on Article 142. 

The court noted that not even the slightest possibility of rapprochement between the appellant and the respondent exists for reasons which are entirely due to the actions of the appellant and for which the respondent cannot be blamed. The marriage between the appellant and the respondent has become dead. It can be described as a point of no return. 

The court further noted that both the parties are living separately for more than 22 years.  

The court made it clear that this decision is not based on its approval of the conduct of the appellant nor is it based on sitting in judgment over the conduct of the respondent. 

In other words, the court found that respondent is blameless in the matter but the facts as they have unfolded and the developments which have taken place, render it unavoidable to consider dissolution of marriage as the best course open in the interest of justice. 

Case title: N. Rajendran v/s S.Valli 

Citation: CIVIL APPEAL NO.3293 OF 2012

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