A six-month waiting period for Hindu couples seeking divorce is not mandatory, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday, laying down directions for lower courts to speed up separation if both spouses agree upon the terms.
The decision will bring significant respite to couples who file for divorce “by mutual consent”.
“The period mentioned in Section 13B(2) is not mandatory but directory, it will be open to the Court to exercise its discretion in the facts and circumstances of each case where there is no possibility of parties resuming cohabitation and there are chances of alternative rehabilitation,” the bench of judges Adarsh Goel and UU Lalit said.
“That an application for waiver of the six month period set out in the Hindu Marriage Act can be given a go-by if parties have genuinely settled their differences including alimony, custody of child or any other pending issues between the parties, and the waiting period will only prolong their agony.”
The court said that every effort has to be made to save a marriage, but pointed out that “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”.
As per the Hindu Marriage Act, a divorce petition can be filed at a district court on the ground that a couple has been living separately for one year or more, has not been able to live together and has mutually agreed the marriage should be dissolved.
After the petition is filed, the couple has to wait for six months before the court hears or decides.
After Tuesday’s verdict, couples can make an application to the court to waive off the waiting period of six months and ask the court to decide the case.