As reported by The Times of India, Indian lawmakers are debating whether to change the country’s Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 and Special Marriage Act of 1954, and allow spouses to cite “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” as grounds for divorce.
Currently, there are three ways that spouses in India can apply for and be granted a divorce:
Matrimonial fault, where one spouses alleges (and must prove) that the other has caused the marital breakdown.
Divorce by mutual consent, where both parties mutually accept that the marriage cannot be salvaged.
Frustration due to specified circumstances, which applies in cases where one spouse has experienced so-called “civil death”; that is, he or she has disappeared without contact for seven or more years, or has renounced the world for spiritual pursuits.
The proposed new ground for divorce, which has support from the country’s Law Commission and several Supreme Court verdicts, would allow one spouse to seek a divorce if the other refuses to live with them, will not try and repair the marriage, and the courts become convinced that a normal married life is impossible.
Yet, despite the above-noted support from India’s influential legal corners, overall views on the proposed change are divided.
Those who support the change see it as a rational and humane step that would allow divorcing spouses to dissolve their marriage in a respectful manner without being forced (by existing laws) to take crushing verbal swings at each other in court. It would also allow spouses to end their marriage when it (allegedly) cannot work despite neither of them being at fault. Plus, it allow spouses to quietly dissolve their marriage when neither of them wants to publicly reveal the sensitive issues that caused the breakdown.
However, those opposed to the change predict dire consequences, claiming that the move would dramatically favor men – especially in rural areas – because it would allow them to leave their former wives with little (or nothing) in the way of support or assets. To this point, former Law Commission member Kirti Singh advises that: “The amendment should only be brought when women are given adequate share in household assets and maintenance. Most women get a pittance from the courts and most do not want to get out of a marriage only because there is nothing to sustain them outside it.”