A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court, on Thursday, brought down from two years to one the minimum period of separate living, as contemplated under Section 10(A) of the Divorce Act, before Christian couples can file a petition seeking dissolution of marriage by mutual consent before a district court.

The Bench, comprising Justice R. Basant and Justice M.C. Hari Rani, held that the stipulation of two years could be “severed” and “read down” to one year to bring it in conformity with the provisions of other divorce laws to avoid the vice of unconstitutionality.

The court, while dealing with a divorce petition filed by Saumya Ann Thomas of Thiruvananthapuram, held unconstitutional the prescription of two year as it offended Articles 14 (equality before law) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution. The court pointed out that no such long period was prescribed in other laws relating to the divorce of other communities.

(The Divorce Act is applicable to Christians. Besides, laws of other religions prescribe a period of one-year separate living before filing such a petition).

The court held that the stipulation of different periods for different religions was not just and fair. Therefore, it rendered the stipulation “unreasonable, arbitrary and fanciful and oppressive.”

The court said the period was prescribed to ensure that a hasty decision to dissolve marriage was not taken.

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