A Supreme Court Bench of Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Bela M Trivedi has observed that divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage is not always desirable, especially in India.

In that context, the Court said that "Despite the increasing trend of filing the Divorce proceedings in the courts of law, the institution of marriage is still considered to be a pious, spiritual, and invaluable emotional life-net between the husband and the wife in the Indian society. It is governed not only by the letters of law but by the social norms as well. So many other relationships stem from and thrive on the matrimonial relationships in the society. Therefore, it would not be desirable to accept the formula of “irretrievable break down of marriage” as a strait-jacket formula for the grant of relief of divorce under Article 142 of the Constitution of India."

Counsel Madhurima Tatia appeared for the respondent-wife, while Counsel Vipin Gogia appeared for the appellant-husband.

In this case, the Apex Court was considering a plea for divorce filed by an 89-year-old man from his wife of about 82 years old, citing an irretrievable breakdown of marriage.

Notably, the respondent had maintained the sacred relationship since 1963 and cared for her three children all these years, although the appellant-husband had exhibited total hostility towards them. The respondent was still ready and willing to care for her husband and did not wish to leave him alone at such a late stage of life. She also expressed that she did not want to die with the stigma of being a “divorcee” woman.

The issue dealt with by the Court was:

Should the irretrievable break down of marriage necessarily result into a decree of divorce to be granted under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.

Referring to the case of Shilpa Shailesh vs. Varun Sreenivasan, the Court observed that there was no shadow of doubt that the Court could depart from the procedure as well as the substantive laws, and exercise its discretion under Article 142 for dissolving the marriage between the parties by balancing out the equities between the conflicting claims of the parties. It was further cautioned that such discretion should be exercised with great care.

On the facts of the case, the Court took the considered view that, "In contemporary society, it may not constitute to be stigma but here we are concerned with the respondent’s own sentiment. Under the circumstances, considering and respecting the sentiments of the respondent wife, the Court is of the opinion that exercising the discretion in favour of the appellant under Article 142 by dissolving the marriage between parties on the ground that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, would not be doing “complete justice” to the parties, would rather be doing injustice to the respondent."

In light of the same, the Court dismissed the appeal.

Cause Title: Dr. Nirmal Singh Panesar vs Mrs Paramjit Kaur Panesar @ Ajinder Kaur Panesar

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