Christian

Grounds of Divorce

The grounds on which Christian marriage may be dissolved either by the husband or wife are now set out in section 10 of the Indian Divorce (Amendment) Act, 2001

1. Any marriage solemnized, whether before or after the commencement of the Indian Divorce (Amendment) Act,2001, may, on petition presented to the District Court either by the husband or the wife be dissolved on the ground that since the solemnization of the marriage, the respondent —

i. has committed adultery; or

ii. has ceased to be Christian by conversion to another religion; or

iii. has been of incurably of unsound mind for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition; or

iv. has, for a period of not less than 2 years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition, been suffering from a virulent and incurable form of leprosy; or

v. has, for a period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition, been suffering from a venereal disease in a communicable form; or

vi. has not been heard of as being alive for a period of seven years or more by those persons who would naturally have heard of the respondent if the respondent had been alive; or

vii. has willfully refused to consummate the marriage and the marriage has not therefore been consummated; or

viii. has failed to comply with the decree for restitution of conjugal rights for a period of two years or upwards after the passing of the decree against the respondent; or

ix. has deserted the petitioner for at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition; or

x. has treated the petitioner with such cruelty as to cause a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the petitioner that it would be harmful or injurious for the petitioner to live with the respondent.

2. A wife may also present a petition for the dissolution of her marriage on the ground that the husband has, since the solemnization of the marriage, been guilty of rape, sodomy or bestiality.

Dissolution of marriage by mutual consent

Section 10-A of the Amendment Act of 2001 has introduced the concept of divorce by mutual consent. This vital change makes the Christian law of divorce nearly at par with the Hindu law and Parsi law of divorce. Now, a petition for dissolution of marriage my be presented to the District Court by both the parties to a marriage together, on the ground —

i. that they have been living separately for a period of two years or more;

ii. that they have not been able to live together; and

iii. they have mutually agreed that the marriage should be dissolved.

Subject to the provisions of this Act and the rules made there under, a petition for dissolution of marriage may be presented to the District Court by both the parties to a marriage together, whether such marriage was solemnized before or after the commencement of the Indian Divorce (Amendment) Act, 2001 on the ground that they have been living separately for a period of two years or more, that they have not been able to live together and they have mutually agreed that the marriage should be dissolved.

After the date of presentation of the petition made by both the parties, not earlier than six months and not later than eighteen months after the said date, if the petition is not withdrawn by both the parties, the court shall, after hearing the parties and making such inquiry as it think fit, that a marriage has been solemnized and that the averments in the petition are true, pass a decree declaring the marriage to be dissolved with effect from the date of decree.

Judicial Separation

Either party to a marriage, whether solemnised before or after the commencement of the Christian Marriage Act, may present a petition praying for a decree for judicial separation on the ground that the other party-

(a) has, since the solemnisation of the marriage committed adultery; or

(b) has ceased to be a Christian by conversion to another religion; or

(c) has been incurably of unsound mind for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition; or

(d) has for a period of not less than one year immediately preceding the presentation of the petition, been suffering from a virulent form of leprosy; or

(e) has for a period of not less than one year immediately preceding the presentation of the petition, been suffering from venereal disease in a communicable form, the disease not having been contracted from the petitioner; or

(f) has not been heard of as being alive for a period of seven years or more by those persons who would naturally have heard of the other party if that party had been alive; or

(g) has failed to comply with a decree for restitution of conjugal rights for a period of two years; or

(h) has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition; or

(i) has after the solemnisation of the marriage treated the petitioner with cruelty.

Where a decree for judicial separation has been passed, it shall no longer be obligatory for the petitioner to cohabit with the respondent.

The court may, on the application by petition of either party and on being satisfied of the truth of the statements made in such petition, rescind the decree where the parties have expressed a desire to come together and to resume cohabitation or where for any other reason the court considers it just and reasonable to rescind the decree.

Nullity of Marriage

Any marriage solemnised after the commencement of the Christian Marriage Act, shall be null and void and may, on a petition presented for the purpose, be so declared by a decree of nullity, if it contravenes the condition specified in clause (i) or clause (ii) of section 4 and a marriage solemnised before such commencement shall also be null and void and may, on a petition presented for the purpose, be so declared by a decree of nullity, if it contravenes the condition specified in clause (I) of section 4.

Void marriages

(1) Any marriage solemnised after the commencement of the Act, shall be voidable and may be annulled by a decree of nullity on any of the grounds, namely: –

(a) that the marriage is in contravention of the condition specified in clause (iii) of section 4 of the Christian Marriage Act; or

(b) that the respondent was impotent at the time of the marriage and continued to be so till the institution of the proceeding; or

(c) that the consent of the petitioner, or where the consent of the guardian in marriage of the petitioner is required under clause (v) of section 4, the consent of such guardian, was obtained by force or fraud; or

Voidable marriages

(d) that the marriage has not been consummated owing to the wilful refusal of the respondent to consummate the marriage; or

(e) that the marriage is in contravention of the condition specified in clause (iv) of section 4.

(2) A marriage solemnised after the commencement of this Act or within one year immediately before such commencement shall also be voidable and may be annulled by a decree of nullity on the ground that the respondent was, at the time of the marriage, pregnant by some person other than the petitioner.

(3) no petition for annulling a marriage on the ground specified in clause (c) of sub-section (1) shall be entertained, if –

(i) the petition is presented more than one year after the force had ceased to operate or, as the case may be, the fraud had been discovered; or

(ii) the petitioner has, with his or her full consent, lived with the other party to the marriage as husband or wife after the force had ceased to operate or, as the case may be, the fraud had been discovered.

(4) no petition for annulling a marriage under that sub-section(1) (e) shall be entertained if the petition is presented more than one year after the petitioner has completed the age of eighteen years.

(5) no petition for annulling a marriage on the ground specified in that sub-section (2) shall be entertained, unless the Court is satisfied –

(i) that the petitioner was at the time of the marriage ignorant of the facts alleged;

(ii) that the proceedings have been instituted, in the case of a marriage solemnized before the commencement of this Act, within one year of such commencement and, in the case of a marriage solemnized after such commencement, within one year from the date of the marriage; and

(iii) that marital intercourse with the consent of the petitioner has not taken place since the discovery by the petitioner of the existence of the grounds for a decree.

Legitimacy of children of certain void and voidable marriages

(1) Where a marriage is dull and void under section 23 by reason of the contravention of the condition specified in clause (i) of clause (ii) of section 4, any child begotten or conceived before the marriage is declared to be null and void, who wou1d have been the legitimate child of the parties to the marriage if the marriage had been valid, shall be deemed to be their legitimate child notwithstanding that the marriage is null and void.

(2) Where a marriage is annulled by a decree of nullity under section 24, any child begotten or conceived before the decree is made, who would have been the legitimate child of the parties to the marriage if the marriage had been dissolved instead of having been annulled by a decree of nullity, shall be deemed to be their legitimate child notwithstanding the decree of nullity.