Christians in India should have the same divorce provisions as other religions under new proposals by the Indian government.
The current 2001 Divorce Act requires Christians to be separated by mutual consent for two years before they can apply for a divorce. Individuals of other religions only have to wait one year. This week, the Indian government told the Supreme Court of India that a change in the law would bring uniformity in divorce laws across all religions.
The proposed changes to the law come at the same time as the Supreme Court hears the case of a Christian man who was denied a divorce in the lower courts because of the current two year rule.
The original legislation defining divorce procedure for Christians was the Indian Divorce Act of 1869, which was drawn up by the then British government. It stated that couples could only get divorced if one party could prove that the other had committed adultery or changed religion. The law was changed in 2001 to make it easier for Christians to divorce, but the two year rule was added to appease those opposed to divorce.
There is no specified timescale for the new proposals. The Supreme Court has been told that government is currently considering changes to Section 10A (1) of the Divorce Act which contains the two year rule, and that a decision would be taken after a consultation with all stakeholders.
The Supreme Court has passed a formal order urging government action. The order states,
“We expect the Ministry of Law and Justice to not only file its reply in the matter but also expeditiously take a decision on whether Section 10A (1) requires to be amended,”
In India, each religious group has their own laws relating to marriage, divorce and inheritance. Those who marry in civil ceremonies also have separate legislation.
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