Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage How Supreme Court can grant Divorce…

Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is not a ground by itself. But while scrutinizing the evidence on record to determine whether the ground(s) alleged is/are made out and in determining the relief to be granted, the said circumstance can certainly be borne in mind. The unusual step as the one taken by us herein can be resorted to only to clear up an insoluble mess, when the court finds it in the interest of both the parties.

Till date, the prevailing laws in India regarding the issue of divorce have not recognized a situation where the spouses are facing a situation that despite the fact that they live under the same roof, their marriage is equivalent to a separation.

That is, there is still no codified law for irretrievable breakdown of marriage. The Hindu Marriage Act recognize few grounds for dissolution of marriage in Section 13.But with the change in the social mores and in view of the changing nature of marriage in the society, the supreme court has shown special concern over the matter of making irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground for divorce.

The Supreme Court has with a view to do complete justice and shorten agony of the parties engaged in long drawn battle, directed dissolution of marriage. Indeed, these were exceptional cases, as the law does not specifically provides for the dissolution of marriage on the grounds other then those given in Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Irretrievable breakdown of marriage is not a ground for divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Because of the change of circumstances and for covering a large number of cases where the marriages are virtually dead and unless this concept is pressed into services, the divorce cannot be granted.

In V Bhagat vs. D Bhagat

she has not chosen to say that on that account she cannot reasonably be expected to live with the petitioner-husband nor has she chosen to claim any relief on that ground. Even so, allegations of ‘paranoid disorder’, ,mental patient’, ‘needs psychological treatment to make him act a normal person’ etc. are there coupled with the statement that the petitioner and all the members of his family are lunatics and that a streak of insanity runs through his entire family. These assertions cannot but constitute mental cruelty of such a nature that the petitioner, situated as he is and in the context of the several relevant circumstances, cannot reasonably be asked to live with the respondent thereafter. The husband in the position of the petitioner herein would be justified in saying that it is not possible for him to live with the wife in view of the said allegations. Even otherwise the peculiar facts of this case show that the respondent is deliberately feigning a posture which is wholly unnatural and beyond the comprehension of a reasonable person. She has been dubbed as an incorrigible adulteress. She is fully aware that the marriage is long dead and over. It is her case that the petitioner is genetically insane. Despite all that, she says that she wants to live with the petitioner. The obvious conclusion is that she has resolved to live in agony only to make life a miserable hell for the petitioner as well. This type of callous attitude in the context of the facts of this case, leaves no manner of doubt in our mind that the respondent is bent upon treating the petitioner with mental cruelty. It is abundantly clear that the marriage between the parties has broken down irretrievably and there is no chance of their coming together, or living together again. Having regard to the peculiar features of this case, we are of the opinion that the marriage between the parties should be dissolved under Section 13(1)(i-a) of Hindu Marriage Act and we do so accordingly. Having regard to the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case and its progress over the last eight years detailed hereinbefore we are of the opinion that it is a fit case for cutting across the procedural objections to give a quietus to the matter.

Manish Kakkar and Nidhi Kakkar

 If parties agree, they can always go back to the trial court for a motion by mutual consent, or this Court has exercised jurisdiction at times to put the matter at rest quickly. But that has not been the only circumstance in which a decree of divorce has been granted by this Court. In numerous cases, where a marriage is found to be a dead letter, the Court has exercised its extraordinary power under Article 142 of the Constitution of India to bring an end to it.

20. We do believe that not only is the continuity of this marriage fruitless, but it is causing further emotional trauma and disturbance to both the parties. This is even reflected in the manner of responses of the parties in the Court. The sooner this comes to an end, the better it would be, for both the parties. Our only hope is that with the end of these proceedings, which culminate in divorce between the parties, the two sides would see the senselessness of continuing other legal proceedings and make an endeavour to even bring those to an end.

21. The provisions of Article 142 of the Constitution provide a unique power to the Supreme Court, to do “complete justice” between the  parties, i.e., where at times law or statute may not provide a remedy, the Court can extend itself to put a quietus to a dispute in a manner which would befit the facts of the case. It is with this objective that we find it appropriate to take recourse to this provision in the present case.

22. We are of the view that an end to this marriage would permit the parties to go their own way in life after having spent two decades battling each other, and there can always be hope, even at this age, for a better life, if not together, separately.

23. We, thus, exercising our jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution of India, grant a decree of divorce and dissolve the marriage inter se the parties forthwith.

24. The respondent is a qualified lawyer; she claims to have not gone back to her family in Canada, but stayed in India only to battle this litigation. The respondent is being paid Rs.7,500 per month by the appellant. With a law degree she would be able to meet her needs better, though she claims that her sole concentration has been on the inter se  dispute. Be that as it may, we are of the view that the maintenance of Rs.7,500 per month should be continued to be paid by the appellant to the respondent, and it is open for the parties to move appropriate proceedings for either enhancement of this maintenance or reduction and cessation thereof. We only hope that this aspect can also be reconciled between the parties once a decree of divorce is granted.

Naveen Kohli (supra), a three Judge Bench of this Court has observed as under:

“74. ……Once the marriage has broken down beyond repair, it would be unrealistic for the law not to take notice of that fact, and it would be harmful to society and injurious to the interests of the parties. Where there has been a long period of continuous separation, it may fairly be surmised that the matrimonial bond is beyond repair. The marriage becomes a fiction, though supported by a legal tie. By refusing to sever that tie  the law in such cases does not serve the sanctity of marriage; on the contrary, it shows scant regard for the feelings and emotions of the parties.

85. Undoubtedly, it is the obligation of the court and all concerned that the marriage status should, as far as possible, as long as possible and whenever possible, be maintained, but when the marriage is totally dead, in that event, nothing is gained by trying to keep the parties tied forever to a marriage which in fact has ceased to exist….

86. In view of the fact that the parties have been living separately for more than 10 years and a very large number of aforementioned criminal and civil proceedings have been initiated by the respondent against the appellant and some proceedings have been initiated by the appellant against the respondent, the matrimonial bond between the parties is beyond repair.

A marriage between the parties is only in name. The marriage has been wrecked beyond the hope of salvage, public interest and interest of all concerned lies in the recognition of he fact and to declare defunct de jure what is already defunct de facto….” [emphasis supplied] A similar view has been expressed in the case of Samar Ghosh (supra).

In the similar set of facts and circumstances of the case, this Court in the case of Sukhendu Das (supra) has directed to dissolve the marriage on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage, in exercise of powers under Article 142 of the  Constitution of India. 6. Now so far as submission on behalf of the respondent­wife that unless there is a consent by both the parties, even in exercise of powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India the marriage cannot be dissolved on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage is concerned, the aforesaid has no substance. If both the parties to the marriage agree for separation permanently and/or consent for divorce, in that case, certainly both the parties can move the competent court for a decree of divorce by mutual consent. Only in a case where one of the parties do not agree and give consent, only then the powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India are required to be invoked to do the substantial Justice between the parties, considering the facts and circumstances of the case. However, at the same time, the interest of the wife is also required to be protected financially so that she may not have to suffer financially in future and she may not have to depend upon others.

In R.Srinivas Kumar vs R.Shametha the application for divorce filed by the appellant­ husband for dissolution of marriage is hereby allowed. The marriage between the appellant ­husband and the respondent­wife is ordered to be dissolved in exercise of powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India on the condition and as agreed by the learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of the appellant­ husband that the appellant­husband shall pay to the respondent­ wife a lump sum permanent alimony, quantified at  Rs.20,00,000/­ (Rupees Twenty Lakhs) to be paid directly to the respondent­wife by way of demand draft within a period of eight weeks from today. Till the permanent alimony as above is paid to the respondent­wife, the appellant­husband to continue to pay the maintenance as being paid to her.

This court in a series of judgments has exercised its inherent powers under Article 142 of the Constitution for dissolution of a marriage where the Court finds that the marriage is totally unworkable, emotionally dead, beyond salvage and has broken down irretrievably, even if the facts of the case do not provide a ground in law on which the divorce could be granted [Manish Goel v. Rohini Goel2].Admittedly, the Appellant and the Respondent have been living separately for more than 17 years and it will not be possible for the parties to live together and there is no purpose in compelling the parties to live together in 1 (2007) 4 SCC 511 [para101 (xiv)] 2 (2010) 4 SCC 393 [para 11]  matrimony [Rishikesh Sharma v. Saroj Sharma3]. The daughter of the Appellant and the Respondent is aged about 24 years and her custody is not in issue before us. In the peculiar facts of this case and in order to do complete justice between the parties, we allow the Appeal in exercise of our power under Article 142 of the Constitution of India, 1950.

In recrent Judgement of


Having said so, we wish to clearly state that grant of divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage by this Court is not a matter of right, but a discretion which is to be exercised with great care and caution, keeping in mind several factors ensuring that ‘complete justice’ is done to both parties. It is obvious that this Court should be fully convinced and satisfied that the marriage is

totally unworkable, emotionally dead and beyond salvation and, therefore, dissolution of marriage is the right solution and the only way forward. That the marriage has irretrievably broken down is to be factually determined and firmly established. For this, several factors are to be considered such as the period of time the parties had cohabited after marriage; when the parties had last cohabited; the nature of allegations made by the parties against each other and their family members; the orders passed in the legal proceedings from time to time, cumulative impact on the personal relationship; whether, and how many attempts were made to settle the disputes by intervention of the court or through mediation, and when the last attempt was made, etc. The period of separation should be sufficiently long, and anything above six years or more will be a relevant factor. But these facts have to be evaluated keeping in view the economic and social status of the parties, including their educational qualifications, whether the parties have any children, their age, educational qualification, and whether the other spouse and children are dependent, in which event how and in what manner the party seeking divorce intends to take care and provide for the spouse or the children. Question of custody and welfare of minor children, provision for fair and adequate alimony for the wife, and economic rights of the children and other pending

matters, if any, are relevant considerations. We would not like to codify the factors so as to curtail exercise of jurisdiction under Article 142(1) of the Constitution of India, which is situation specific. Some of the factors mentioned can be taken as illustrative, and worthy of consideration.