S.c Rejects 89-Year-Old Man’s Plea for Divorce to his 82-Year-Old Wife
The Supreme Court of India recently made headlines by rejecting an 89-year-old man’s plea to divorce his 82-year-old wife in the case of Nirmal Singh Panesar v Paramjit Kaun Panesar. The verdict, delivered by Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi, carries significant implications regarding the interpretation of the “irretrievable breakdown of marriage.”
The “Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage” Not a Blanket Formula
The court’s decision firmly states that the concept of an “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” should not be rigidly applied as a one-size-fits-all formula for granting divorces, especially under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution. This reiterates the court’s commitment to considering the unique circumstances of each case.
The Sanctity of Marriage in Indian Society
The judges underscored the continued reverence for marriage in India, despite the increasing prevalence of divorce cases. Marriage is still regarded as a sacred and profound emotional bond between spouses in Indian society. This acknowledgment sets the stage for the court’s ruling.
Wife’s Willingness to Maintain the Relationship
In this specific case, the court noted that the wife expressed her commitment to caring for her husband, even in their later years. She adamantly stated her desire not to carry the “divorcee” label, further emphasizing the significance of her sentiments.
Potential Injustice to the Wife
The court expressed concerns that granting a divorce based on the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage would be unjust to the wife. It highlighted the importance of respecting the wife’s feelings and sentiments, emphasizing her reluctance to bear the stigma of being a “divorcee.”
Background of the Case
The court considered the plea filed by an 89-year-old man seeking a divorce. The dispute arose from the deterioration of the couple’s relationship when the husband, a retired Indian Army serviceman, was stationed in Madras (now Chennai) in January 1984, and the wife chose not to accompany him. Instead, she opted to reside with her husband’s parents and later with her son.
The husband pursued a divorce, citing his wife’s refusal to join him in Chennai as evidence of her intention to permanently terminate cohabitation without justifiable grounds. Initially, a district court granted the divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act, but the Punjab and Haryana High Court later overturned this decision, prompting the husband to file an appeal with the Supreme Court.
The appellant argued that the High Court erred by overturning the divorce decree that concluded the wife had cruelly deserted him without explanation. In contrast, his wife’s counsel contended that a prolonged separation alone does not constitute an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. She emphasized the wife’s unwavering dedication to their sacred relationship.
The Court’s Verdict
Ultimately, the Supreme Court concurred with the wife’s submissions. They noted that the wife had maintained the sanctity of the marriage since 1963 and had nurtured three children, even when her husband displayed hostility towards them. Consequently, the court rejected the husband’s plea for a divorce and dismissed the appeal.
Advocate Vipin Gogia represented the appellant-husband, while Advocate Madhurima Tatia represented the respondent-wife.