By Ushan Dhar:
Marriage Laws should represent the social realities of a country and thus by virtue, be evolutive. The Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2013 passed by Rajya Sabha on the 26th of August is a step towards the positive. The Bill amends the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 which is the defining body of law relating to marriage among Hindus and the Special Marriage Act, 1954 that provides for special form of marriages in certain cases. Finally, it codifies a thirty five years long debate about allowing divorce on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown of marriage.
The Seventy First Law Commission Report of 1978 first argued the importance of formulating legislation relating to irretrievable breakdown of marriage as grounds for divorce. The report identified that objectives of any good divorce law are two folds; one, to buttress, rather than undermine, the stability of marriage and two, when regrettably, a marriage has irretrievably broken down, to enable the empty shell to be destroyed with the maximum fairness, and the minimum bitterness, distress and humiliation.
Ever since, several case laws have backed this argument and over time it has come to represent a social reality. Our society has drastically changed, and so has our attitude and aptitude towards marriage. Thus, our laws must allow for the fact that sometimes spouses may commit, with or without intention, mistakes which lead to a communication gap between them and create havoc in the matrimonial home. In such cases, if their marriage has broken down beyond all possibilities of repair, then it should be brought to an end.
Divorce, in India, still has a sociocultural stigma attached to it. Divorce rate in India is 0.3 per cent for males and 0.2 per cent for females, out of a population where more than 50 per cent have been married at least ones. This is despite the fact that, in the same country, spousal violence is the most common form of domestic violence. Currently married women and widowed women have a much higher prevalence of violence (37 and 38 per cent) than women who have never married (16 per cent). Hence, in the present context, divorce should be seen as a solution and an escape route out of a difficult situation, rather than a social stigma.
This amendment stops injustices in those cases where the situation is such that, although none of the parties are at direct fault, yet a situation has arisen in which the marriage isn’t working out due to certain circumstances. The law, is then unconcerned with the wrongs of the past, but is concerned with working out the best basis solution to regulate the relationship of parties and children alike in the changed circumstances.