‘Cooling-off time’ for Christian divorces may be cut

Judicial separation to be reduced to one year as in other personal laws

The government is going ahead with a proposal to amend a condition in a 147-year-old divorce law mandating Christian couples to live separately for two years before they can apply for dissolution of marriage. The Centre’s move is triggered by the Supreme Court’s comments that this condition, called judicial separation, “makes no sense” today.

The Law and Justice Ministry is proposing to amend the Divorce Act, 1869 to reduce by half — from two years to one — the waiting period for Christians who have already decided to divorce.


This proposed amendment would end the disparity between the Christian divorce law and other personal laws, including the Hindu Marriage Act, the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act and even the Special Marriage Act, all of which mandate only a year’s judicial separation.

This is after the apex court, in two separate orders on July 13 and October 12 last year, urged the Centre to take a decision and amend the law.

“We expect the Ministry of Law and Justice not only to file its reply but also take a decision on whether or not Sub-Section (1) of Section 10A [the legal provision which mandates a two-year pause before filing for dissolution of marriage] of the Divorce Act, 1869 is to be amended,” the Supreme Court had said, pushing for an amendment of the provision on July 13.

In October, the court had gone on to seek the assistance of Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar on this question of law.

The court’s intervention began in March 2015 when a petition was filed by Albert Anthony, who contended that the two-year mandatory waiting period for Christians amounted to “hostile discrimination”. The petition argued that this was plain “oppression to the members of the Christian community intending to seek divorce by mutual consent.” Mr. Anthony wanted Section 10A (1) of the 1869 Act declared unconstitutional.

Asked in the Lok Sabha on May 5 if the Centre would amend the Act, Law Minister Sadananda Gowda replied in the affirmative.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 6:49:13 AM |

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