Six months cooling period in divorce cases can be waived off

Six months cooling period in divorce cases can be waived off”

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the "six-months cooling off period" in divorce cases can be waived off and Hindu married couples can straightaway get separation order with mutual consent.

The judgment was delivered by a Bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit in an appeal against a judgment of the Delhi High Court. The current verdict has come in response to a Delhi couple's petition, who insisted for the six-month waiting period to be waived off, because they had been living separately for eight years and were confident that they would not reconcile. The stipulated period of 6 to 18 months was given so as to give the couple an opportunity to reconsider. The court observed that the objective of introducing the provision of the cooling off period could not have been to extend couples' agony.

The SC however cautioned subordinate courts that divorce should not be granted immediately just because there is a provision to waive waiting period.

It noted that cooling off period was a safeguard against "hurried decision", especially in cases where there was a possibility of a reunion between the two partners.

The object of the cooling period was not to "perpetuate a purposeless marriage or to prolong the agony of the parties" when there was no chance of reconciliation, it added.

The Court then proceeded to consider whether the cooling-off period is mandatory or directory.

A bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit viewed that the goal of a cooling off period is to safeguard against a couple taking a hurried decision to separate and allow them to try to work out their differences, but this could not be made mandatory. "Once the parties decide to end the marriage, even one month is too long", said Dr Laxmi Rao, former principal judge of Mumbai's Family Court. "The true meaning of Section 13B of the Hindu Marriage Act has finally been understood by the Supreme Court".

Going into details, the 1995 Hindu Marriage Act provides for a statutory cooling period of six months between the first motion and the last motion for seeking divorce by mutual consent to explore the possibility of settlement and cohabitation. Discussions between husbands and wives should be held, and a final decision should be taken after understanding individual circumstances, it stated.

"In determining the question whether the provision is mandatory or directory, language alone is not always decisive".

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