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Supreme Court examines self; ‘Are we being too liberal with law in granting divorce?’

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

A bench of Supreme Court has decided to examine whether the top court should grant divorce to couples on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage, without taking into consideration the mandatory 18-month period of separation.

Under Article 142 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has been exercising its authority to grant divorce to married couples even when the Hindu Marriage Act demands the couple to stay apart for 18 months before separating with mutual consent.

The Article 142 states that the Supreme Court has the power to deliver any order required “for doing complete justice.” The court has used this act as a provision to grant divorce in many cases, dispensing the six-month waiting period after a judicial separation of one year, which makes it 18 months under Section 13B of the Act.

As reported in The Indian Express, the government has informed the top court that there is no proposal in the Article to include irretrievable breakdown of marriage as one of the conditions to grant divorce. However, a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana has decided to examine whether judges should override the legislative will. As per the report, while negotiating a bunch of petitions wherein couples wanted the waiting period to be dissolved since there was an “irretrievable breakdown of marriage,” Justices Gogoi and Ramana conjectured on whether they should exercise such power against what the Act permits.

They asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi for his perspective. AG Rohtagi reportedly stated that the legislature was not considering irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a basis for granting divorce.

Rohatgi said that there have been dissenting views of different benches of the apex court between 1996 and 2010, regarding the dissolution of the six-month notice period. While some judges agreed for the relaxation of six-month notice period, the others said if legislature had a specific provision, couples should be sent to family courts for getting divorce .

According to the report, Rohatgi decided to leave it on the constitution bench to decide whether divorce can, at all, be granted on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage and the waiting period should be done away with.

While the bench is waiting to hear the case in August, NewsGram asked general public for their opinions on the subject.

Himanshu Kumar, a working professional, states, “Irretrievable breakdown will be a too flexible law to grant divorces, because the definition for irretrievable varies from person to person. And even a futile situation could be irretrievable for some people. Like, I once read in news where a woman demanded divorce because her husband used to switch off the fan at night. So, instead of making flexible laws, proper & mature counseling should be provided to the couples.”

While Himanshu seems to be against considering irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground for divorce, Tanuj Mitra, a Kolkata resident, is of the opposite views. Tanuj states, “What I feel is that granting divorce on grounds of irretrievable breakdown of marriage should be flexible enough and justice should prevail without the mandatory 18-month separation. The top court should override the legislative will irrespective of government proposals. Since it’s a pro-Hindutva government, it will look to preserve the marriage in the set parameters of the Hindu Marriage Act and might not introduce any such legislature. As per my view, the waiting period should be curtailed and the SC should exercise its power on granting absolute justice. Sending the divorce cases to family courts will only leave the case as well as the panel perplexed as human beings are complex individuals.”

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India Gets A Win, Supreme Court Decriminalizes Homosexuality

In December 2013, a Supreme Court bench said that it was for the legislature to look into desirability of deleting section 377 of IPC.

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Homosexuality, India
SC decriminalises homosexuality, victory for gay rights. Pixabay

 In a historic verdict, the Supreme Court on Thursday decriminalised homosexuality between consenting adults by declaring Section 377, the penal provision which criminalised gay sex, as “manifestly arbitrary”.

In separate but unanimous verdicts, a five-judge Constitution Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Rohinton Nariman, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra partially struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as unconstitutional.

The bench said it is no longer an offence for LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, intersex and queer/questioning) community to engage in consensual sex between two adults in private.

Reading out the judgment, Chief Justice Misra said attitudes and mentality have to change to accept others’ identity and accept what they are, and not what they should be.

Homosexuality, India
LGBTIQ people have a right to live unshackled from the shadow.
Pixabay

“It is the constitutional and not social morality which will prevail,” said the court.

The verdict sparked celebrations in the LGBTIQ community across India even as the judgment was being read out. Many of the community members who had assembled outside the apex court jumped in joy and distributed sweets.

Chief Justice Misra said consensual sex between adults in a private space, which is not harmful to women or children, cannot be denied as it is a matter of individual choice.

Section 377 will not apply to consensual same-sex acts between homosexuals, heterosexuals, lesbians, the court said, clarifying that sexual act without consent and bestiality will continue to be an offence under section 377.

“An individual has full liberty over his or her body and his or her sexual orientation is a matter of one’s choice,” said the Chief Justice.

“Time to bid adieu to prejudicial perceptions deeply ingrained in social mindset. Time to empower LGBTIQ community against discrimination. They should be allowed to make their choices,” he added.

Homosexuality, India
In separate but unanimous verdicts, a five-judge Constitution Bench struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as unconstitutional. Pixabay

 

In a concurring judgement, Justice Nariman said homosexuality is “not a mental disorder or disease”.

He said the LGBTIQ community has an equal right to live with dignity and are entitled to equal protection of law. He directed the Centre to give wide publicity to this judgment to remove the stigma attached to homosexuality.

Justice Chandrachud said to deny the LGBTIQ community their right to sexual orientation is a denial of their citizenship and a violation of their privacy.

“They cannot be pushed into obscurity by an oppressive colonial legislation… Sexual minorities in India have lived in fear, hiding as second class citizens,” said Justice Chandrachud, adding “the state has no business to intrude on such matters”.

Justice Indu Malhotra said that history owes an apology to the LGBTIQ community for all that they have suffered on account of the ignorance of the majority about homosexuality.

“LGBTIQ people have a right to live unshackled from the shadow,” she said.

Homosexuality, India
People Participated in Hundreds for the Gay Pride Parade Held In Delhi.

The Supreme Court verdict, which overruled its own earlier judgment, assumes significance as in the earlier round of litigation in 2013, the top court had reversed a Delhi High Court ruling decriminalising homosexuality.

The Delhi High Court bench, headed by then Chief Justice A.P. Shah, had in July 2009 legalised homosexual acts between consenting adults by overturning the 149-year-old law — finding it unconstitutional and a hurdle in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

In December 2013, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya in the Suresh Kumar Koushal and another vs Naz Foundation and others case, had set aside the high court’s judgment and said that it was for the legislature to look into desirability of deleting section 377 of IPC.

The matter was subsequently resurrected in July 2016, when a fresh petition was filed by members of the LGBTIQ community — dancer N.S. Johar, journalist Sunil Mehra, chef Ritu Dalmia, hotelier Aman Nath and business executive Ayesha Kapur — which was then marked to the Constitution Bench by a Division Bench.

Homosexuality, India
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The reference was made on the basis of submission that it was the first time that individuals directly affected by the provision were approaching the court.

Among the petitioners are a batch of current and former students of Indian Institutes of Technology. Claiming to represent more than 350 LGBTIQ alumni, students, staff and faculty from the IITs, the petitioners said that the existence of Section 377 had caused them “mental trauma and illnesses, such as clinical depression and anxiety and relegated some of them to second-class citizenship”. (IANS)