Hindu Couples no Longer Have to Wait 6 Months For Divorce, Says Supreme Court
New Delhi, Sept 12: The Supreme Court on Tuesday made a big change to the rules for Hindu couples looking to divorce, ruling that the mandatory six-month cooling-off period can be waived for married couples who agree that they want separation. It means a Hindu couple will not have to wait for six months for a separation order in the case of mutual consent and the marriage can be legally terminated in just a week. The apex court said it will be upto individual judges to decide if a mandatory six-month wait can be waived.
“We are of the view that the period mentioned in section 13B(2) is not mandatory but directory; it will be open to the court to exercise its discretion in the facts and circumstances of each case where there is no possibility of parties resuming cohabitation and there are chances of alternative rehabilitation,” a bench comprising Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit said. The estranged couples, who are seeking divorce with mutual consent, can file waiver application after a week of filing the first motion and the minimum period of six months can be relaxed, said the bench.
The 1955 Hindu Marriage Act provides for a statutory cooling period of six months between the first and the last motion for seeking divorce by mutual consent to explore the possibility of settlement and cohabitation. “Though every effort has to be made to save a marriage, if there are no chances of reunion and there are chances of fresh rehabilitation, the court should not be powerless in enabling the parties to have a better option,” the top court said. “In determining the question whether the provision is mandatory or directory, language alone is not always decisive. The court has to have the regard to the context, the subject matter and the object of the provision,” it said.
The Supreme Court ruling came during a hearing of a plea filed by an estranged couple which had sought waiver of the six month period on the ground that they have been living separately for the past eight years and there was no possibility of their reunion.