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Mutual Divorce Within One Year Of Marriage

S.14 HMA Applies To Section 13B; Couples Can Seek Relaxation To File For Mutual Divorce Within One Year Of Marriage: Punjab & Haryana HC. Invoking Section 14 of the Hindu Marriage Act which bars married couples from seeking divorce before one year of marriage except in exceptional cases, the Punjab & Haryana High Court has allowed a couple, who lived together for only 15 days, to file for divorce by mutual consent under Section 13-B.

The marriage between the parties stated to have been taken place on 27 March, 2023 and they started living separately from 13 March, 2023 due to " different temperamental nature."

A Family Court dismissed their joint application filed under Section 14(1) of HMA and resultantly the petition filed under Section 13-B of the Act for grant of divorce by mutual consent has been disposed of, for being not maintainable at that stage.

For context, as per Section 14(1) of HMA, Courts are not competent to entertain any petition for dissolution of a marriage unless at the date of the presentation of the petition one year has elapsed since the date of the marriage, provided there is "exceptional hardship to the petitioner or of exceptional depravity on the part of the respondent."

A division bench of Justice Sudhir Singh and Justice Sumeet Goel said, "when viewed in backdrop of statutory scheme of the Act (HMA), unequivocally shows that proviso to Section 14(1) of the Act does fully apply to Section 13-B of the Act as well. This legislative intent is clearly exhibited by words “Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act” stipulated in Section 14(1) of the Act."

It further added that, "The aim and objective behind insertion of Section 13-B in the Act, vide the amendment Act of 1976, further amplifies this interpretation. In other words, the parties are entitled to seek permission from Court for filing a petition under Section 13-B of the Act within one year of date of marriage in accordance with Section 14 of the Act."

The Court was hearing the plea of a couple who started living separately within "15 days" of their marriage "due to different temperamental nature," challenging the dismissal of their joint application under Section 14(1) of HMA, by a Family Court.

Along with the plea for mutual divorce under Section 13-B, an application under Section 14(1) of the Act was filed seeking permission to file the divorce within one year from the date of marriage.

Considering the submissions, the Court said that an analytical perusal of Section 13-B (divorce by mutual consent) of HMA shows that the same is irenic in essence as compared to Section 13 of the Act which is based on fault proving philosophy. "Hence provision of Section 13-B deserves to be interpreted and applied accordingly since it is aimed at bringing about a peaceful and mutually agreeable final solution to matrimonial discord."

Furthermore, the bench explained that in order to successfully get permission to file a petition under Section 13-B of the Act within one year of date of marriage, the parties ought to fulfill the pre-requisites as provided under Section 14 of the Act.

The Court while considering the prayer for such permission, ought to be satisfied that there exists requisite grounds to accord such permission & there is no concealment/misrepresentation on behalf of parties. No detailed enquiry, as akin to a preliminary trial, is ordinarily required to be undertaken by the Court while considering an application under Section 14 of the Act, it added.

The bench noted that the wife is stated to be about 37 years old whereas husband is stated to be aged about 41 years. Both the spouses are well educated and "there appears to be no scope of rehabilitation of matrimonial life."

While noting further that the parties have lived together as husband and wife for a very short span after marriage i.e. only for about 15 days, the reconciliation efforts have failed, the Court said, "the parties have bright prospects of resettlement in their respective lives."

In the light of the above, the Court allowed the plea stating that, "permission is granted to the parties under Section 14(1) of the Act to file the petition under Section 13-B of the Act before the expiry of period of one year from date of marriage."

The Court also directed the Family Court to expeditiously proceed further with the petition under Section 13-B of HMA.

Appearance: Bhupinder Banga and Imran Ahmad Ali, Advocates for the appellant.

H.S. Deol and Amandeep Kaur Advocates for the respondent.

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