Delhi High Court playing with “Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage”

Is “irretrievable breakdown” of marriage is ground for dissolution of marriage by divorce, under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955? The answer to this question clearly is that no such express provision has been incorporated by the Parliament in Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (HMA). Then why did the Delhi High Court by its Judgement dated 21st October 2016, in the case of Sandhya Kumari v. Manish Kumar [(2016) 234 DLT 381 (DB)], agree to grant divorce on the ground of “irretrievable breakdown” of marriage?

Precisely a month before the above-mentioned judgement, the Delhi High Court in the judgment dated 21st September 2016, in case of Mini Appa Kanda Swami v. M. Indra [(2016) 234 DLT 243 (DB)], came up with decision that the High Court lacks the jurisdiction to grant divorce on the doctrine of “irretrievable breakdown”.

Why did the Delhi High Court reverse its stance on granting divorce on the basis of the “Doctrine of Irretrievable Breakdown”? Is it following the principles of stare decisis? Many more question arises after the Sandhya Kumari v. Manish Kumar case.

The rationale given by Delhi High Court, in the said judgment[1], was that, by virtue of Madhvi RameshDudani v. Ramesh K. Dudani [2006 (2) Mh.L.J. 307], Shrikumar V. Unnithan v. Manju K. Nair, [2007 (4) KHC 807],  V. Bhagat v. D. Bhagat [(1994) 1 SCC 337], andNavinKohli v. NeeluKohli [(2006) 4 SCC 558], “the concept of cruelty has been blended by the courts with irretrievable breakdown of marriage.”Hence, directly or indirectly, Delhi High court has read doctrine of irretrievable breakdown under ‘cruelty’, which is a ground for granting divorce.

Now coming to Madhvi RameshDudanicase, divorce was granted on the ground of cruelty, and it was only an observation of the Bombay High Court that marriage has been irretrievably broken. There was no observation regarding the blending of the same.

Moving on to another case of  V. Bhagat v. D. Bhagat, theApex Court has said that, HMA does not permit dissolution of marriage on doctrine of “irretrievable breakdown”, and cautioned to keep that in mind while ascertaining the type of cruelty contemplated by Section 13(1)(i-a).

The Apex court gave a clarification that “Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is not a ground by itself … The unusual step as the one taken by us herein can be resorted to only to clear up an insoluble mess, when the court finds it in the interest of both the parties.”Therefore, this case did not suggest any blending of cruelty with irretrievable breakdown of marriage.On the other hand, it granted divorce on that ground of mental cruelty.

Now here the word”court” can be widely interpreted to include “HighCourt” or any other court, but moving along the line with Anil Kumar Jain v. Maya Jain [(2009) 10 SCC 415], where the Apex court has held that only the Supreme Court can invoke“its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India in order to do complete justice to the parties when faced with a situation where the marriage ties had completely broken and there was no possibility whatsoever of the spouses coming together again.”

It further indicated that, the High Courts, which do not possess the powers vested in the Supreme Court under Article 142 of the Constitution cannot grant divorce despite the fact that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Another decision which was mentioned in Sandhya Kumari case, was NavinKohli v. NeeluKohli case. In which the Apex Court discussed major cases where, either the divorce was granted under Section 13B of HMA, stating “irretrievable breakdown” of marriage; or, under Article 142, when divorce was prayed under Section 13.  Mostly, the alleged grounds for divorcee were adultery, desertion, or cruelty. Navin Kohli casewas alsosolved by granting divorce on ground of cruelty and not by invoking the doctrine of “irretrievable breakdown”.

Coming back to the Sandhya Kumaricase, in which the breakdown theory (Doctrine of “irretrievable breakdown”) and fault theory (mental cruelty) regarding divorce has been blended by the Delhi High Court, while foundation of thetwo, lies on two different kinds of bed rocks.

This judgement[2] has violated the precedent laid down by Apex Court in the case of Vishnu Dutt Sharma v. Manju Sharma [(2009) 6 SCC 379], by indirectly reading “irretrievable breakdown” of marriage as ground for divorce. In Vishnu Dutt Sharma Case it washeld that Supreme Court cannot add “irretrievable breakdown” of marriage as ground for divorce under section 13, as that would amount to amending the act, which is thefunction of legislature.

Delhi High Court in Sandhya Kumari Casehas either, acted arbitrarily or, opened a new road  of hope for people who would like to seek divorce easily, by reading “irretrievable breakdown” in cruelty. This decision can be appraised for judicial activism, as much as, it can becriticized, for not following the principle of Stare Decisis.

[1] Sandhya Kumari v. Manish Kumar [(2016) 234 DLT 381 (DB)]

[2] Sandhya Kumari v. Manish Kumar [(2016) 234 DLT 381 (DB)]\



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

dhruv-chandora

DHRUV CHANDORA

Dhruv Chandora is currently pursuing 4th year of BA LLB (Hons) course at Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab. A voracious reader and a keen learner, Dhruv is also a moot court enthusiast.

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