SC allows couple to separate without waiting for six-month mandatory ‘cooling-off’ period

The Supreme Court has allowed a couple to go their own way without waiting for the mandatory “cooling-off” period of six months on learning that they have decided to part as friends.

A Bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and S.K. Kaul said the court found both the husband and wife “well educated”. The judges had a long interaction with the couple and were “convinced that they have taken a conscious decision to part as friends” after entering into an amicable settlement. In terms of the settlement, the husband has paid the woman ₹. 12.5 lakh.

The court dissolved the marriage by a decree of divorce by mutual consent. It also quashed criminal proceedings before a Gujarat court.

Though the couple had come to the Supreme Court on a transfer of their legal dispute from a family court in Delhi to that in Gujarat, the apex court intervened to end the acrimony itself and smoothened the way for them to gain their divorce without bitterness.

“Having regard to the background of the litigations between the parties, we are convinced that there is no point in requiring the parties to wait for another six months. Accordingly, the period between first motion and the second motion is waived,” the Bench recorded in a September 25 order.

Court follows its own September 2017 ruling

This is one of the first cases in which the Supreme Court has followed its own ruling in September 2017 that Hindu couples who have mutually agreed to separate need not wait anymore for the mandatory “cooling-off ” period of six months before divorce.

The 2017 judgement was pronounced by a Bench of Justices (now retired) A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit. Previously, under the Hindu Marriage Act, once a couple moves a court of law for divorce, they have to wait for a minimum period of six months before the court actually passes a decree of divorce.

Divorce by mutual consent was introduced as an amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act in 1976. The waiting period under Section 13B was mandated to prevent couples from taking any hasty decision to end their marriage. Marriage is a sacrament in the Hindu religion.

Divorce was granted only after the cooling-off period and once the court found there was no further chance for reconciliation.

“The waiting period will only prolong their agony,” Justice Goel said in the 2017 judgement.

The apex court had held that the waiting period should be done away with in cases where there is no way to save the marriage and all efforts at mediation and conciliation have run their course; where parties have genuinely settled their differences including alimony, custody of child, etc, between themselves; and already a year and a half has passed since their first motion for separation.

The court had observed that application for waiver of waiting period can be filed in court within a week of their first motion for separation. The proceedings can be done through video-conferencing

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