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6-Month 'Cooling Off Period' Unnecessary, Divorce Can Be Finalised In 1 Week: SC

DIVYIA ASTHANA | 0
1742
| } September 13 , 2017 , 19:41 IST

The Supreme Court after announcing a landmark judgment in the annulment of marriages amongst Muslims by ruling against triple talaq, has now also adjusted divorce requirements amongst Hindus by directing that a 6-month 'cooling off period' is not mandatory and can be waived off in case of divorce by mutual consent. Based on the apex court ruling, a couple married under the Hindu Marriage Act can legally terminate their marriage in just 1 week by mutual consent.

The ruling said that if all efforts for mediation and conciliation between the two parties had failed, the mandatory 6-month wait could be done away with and the divorce can be granted directly especially in cases where the couple had already lived separately for at least a year. The Supreme Court viewed that delay in proceedings would only prolong the subsequent resettlement.

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"The object of the provision is to enable the parties to dissolve a marriage by consent if the marriage has irretrievably broken down and to enable them to rehabilitate them as per available options. The amendment was inspired by the thought that forcible perpetuation of status of matrimony between unwilling partners did not serve any purpose. The object of the cooling off period was to safeguard against a hurried decision if there was otherwise possibility of differences being reconciled," said the court.

A bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit viewed that the purpose of a cooling off period is to safeguard against a couple taking a hurried decision to separate and allow them to try to work out their differences, but this could not be made mandatory.

According to Section 13B(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act, if both the parties do not change their plea for divorce in a time period not less than 6 months and not later than 18 months, then the court shall pass a decree declaring the marriage as dissolved. The stipulated period of 6 to 18 months was given so as to give the couple an opportunity to reconsider.

"The object was not to perpetuate a purposeless marriage or to prolong the agony of the parties when there was no chance of reconciliation. 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 bench said.

The Supreme Court directive came after a petition filed by a couple seeking to wave off the cooling period as they had already lived separately for 8 years and that delay in divorce would affect their chances to resettle.

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Senior advocate K V Vishwanathan assisting the court said the waiting period under the Act was directory and not mandatory and could be waived if the couple had been living separately for a period of one year or more and mutually agreed on the dissolution of the marriage

"The discretion to waive the period is a guided discretion by consideration of interest of justice where there is no chance of reconciliation and parties were already separated for a longer period or contesting proceedings for a period longer than the period mentioned in Section 13B(2)," he said.

After examining the issue, the apex court bench also came to the conclusion that the Section 13B(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act was not mandatory but directory and could be waived if the concerned court was satisfied.