Divorce granted by Church Court will not be valid as it cannot override the Law: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ruled out a plea to legalise Canon Law, which is the personal law for emancipation for the Catholics where church court allows separation

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A Church in India, Pixabay

New Delhi, Jan 19, 2017: The Supreme Court ruled today,  Divorce which is granted by the ecclesiastical tribunal under Christian personal law will not be valid as it cannot override the law, rejecting a PIL that asked for according legal sanction to such annulments granted by the Church Court.

The plea lodged by Clarence Pais, a former president of a Karnataka Catholic association was dismissed by a bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud, saying this matter has been settled in its 1996 verdict delivered in the Molly Joseph versus George Sebastian case, mentioned PTI.

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“Canon Law (personal law of Christians) may have theological or ecclesiastical implications to the parties. But after the Divorce Act came into force, a dissolution or emancipation granted under such personal law cannot have any legal impact as statute has provided a different procedure and a different code for divorce or annulment,” the apex court had given out its verdict.

In his PIL filed in 2013, Pais had said the divorce allowed by a Church, set up under its personal law, should be considered valid under the Indian common law as was done in the case of Muslims when it comes to ‘triple talaq’.

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Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee who appeared for Pais, had mentioned that when oral ‘triple talaq’ could get legal sanctity for granting divorce to Muslim couples, why could Canon law decrees not be made legal on courts of law.

According to his allegations, many Catholic Christians, who married after getting divorce from Christian courts were subject to criminal charges of bigamy as such separations are not recognised by the criminal and civil courts.

Pais, in his plea, had stated, “It is reasonable that when the courts in India recognises dissolution of marriage (by pronouncing the word talaq three times) under Mohammedan Law which is Personal law of the Muslims, the courts should also recognise for the purpose of dissolution of marriage Canon Law as the personal law of the Indian Catholics.”

The plea also pointed out that Canon Law is the personal law of Catholics and has the right to be applied and enforced by a criminal court while looking into a case under section 494 (bigamy) of IPC.

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“This is also applicable for sanction of prosecution considered for alleged bigamy of a Catholic spouse who has married after obtaining a decree for nullity of the first marriage from the Ecclesiastical Tribunal (Christian court),” the plea had stated.

The Centre, however, had protested the plea saying Canon law cannot be accepted to override Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and Divorce Act, 1869.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang