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Supreme Court Rules: Maintaining Union Despite Irreparable Marital Damage Inflicts Cruelty; Dissolves Marriage

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court has ruled that forcing a married couple to stay together despite the irretrievable breakdown of their marriage constitutes cruelty. The court further stated that under such circumstances, keeping the legal marriage bond intact served no meaningful purpose, instead causing undue harm and distress to both parties involved. This revolutionary verdict paves the way for individuals trapped in dysfunctional marriages to seek and attain legal dissolution, thus ensuring their right to personal happiness and mental well-being.


The core of this ruling lies in recognizing the concept of an “irretrievable breakdown of marriage.” This refers to a situation where a married couple’s relationship has deteriorated to a point where it cannot be mended, and there is no realistic chance of reconciliation. While this concept has been accepted in various legal systems worldwide, the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, which governs marriage and divorce for Hindus in India, did not initially recognize this as a valid ground for divorce.

The Prevailing Law with The Supreme Court’s Perspective:

Under the existing legal framework in India, including the Hindu Marriage Act, the grounds for divorce often revolve around assigning fault or blame to one party or the other. These traditional fault-based grounds can include cruelty, adultery, desertion, and more. In practice, this means that one spouse has to prove that the other is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage, which can lead to acrimonious legal battles and further emotional distress for both parties.

The Supreme Court’s ruling acknowledges the limitations of the existing legal framework in handling divorce cases. It recognizes that the traditional fault-based approach often exacerbates the agony and misery experienced by the parties involved. In such cases, both the husband and the wife may be subjected to legal proceedings that can be emotionally draining and financially burdensome.

The court emphasized that continuing to keep spouses together when the marriage has irretrievably broken down can be cruel to both parties. This perspective considers the emotional and psychological toll a dead-end marriage can have on individuals. Staying in a broken marriage can lead to prolonged suffering and hinder the personal growth and happiness of the individuals involved.

The court stated that it could use Article 142, a provision of the Indian Constitution, to quash pending criminal or legal proceedings related to issues such as domestic violence or dowry against either party. This means the court can intervene and resolve these legal problems to ensure a smoother divorce process. By doing so, it aims to protect the rights and interests of both parties. The Supreme Court’s decision balances legal formalities and humanitarian considerations. It acknowledges that while the legal system must have procedures and regulations, it must also be compassionate and just. In cases of irretrievable breakdown, it is more humane to allow the parties to separate legally, acknowledging the reality of their situation.

The Supreme Court’s decision to dissolve a marriage despite the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship represents a compassionate and pragmatic approach to divorce cases in India. It acknowledges that forcing spouses to stay together in a broken marriage is cruel to both parties. This ruling will likely lead to positive changes in divorce laws, reducing the emotional and financial toll on individuals seeking to move on from failed marriages while emphasizing the importance of the best interests of the parties involved and the public at large.