That divorce is not legal-SC

January 20, 2017


A divorce granted by the Church court, cannot be considered as legal, the Supreme Court declared today.

Dismissing the plea filed by Clarence Pais, a former president of a Karnataka Catholic association, the apex court said that, the issue has been settled by it in its 1996 verdict delivered in the case of Molly Joseph versus George Sebastian.

"Canon Law (personal law of Christians) can have theological or ecclesiastical implications to the parties. But after the Divorce Act came into force, a dissolution or annulment granted under such personal law cannot have any legal impact as statute has provided a different procedure and a different code for divorce or annulment," the court had then ruled.

In the 2013 filed PIL, Pais had said the Church granted divorce should be considered valid under the Indian common law, as was done in the case of Muslims with regard to triple talaq.

Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, appearing for Pais, supported the latter's statement. He had alleged that many Catholic Christians, who married after getting divorce from Christian courts, faced criminal charges of bigamy as such divorces are not recognized by the criminal and civil courts.

Pais, in his plea, had said, "It is reasonable that when the courts in India recognize dissolution of marriage (by pronouncing the word talaq three times) under Mohammedan Law which is Personal law of the Muslims, the courts should also recognize for the purpose of dissolution of marriage Canon Law as the personal law of the Indian Catholics."

He contended that Canon Law is Catholics personal law and has to be applied and enforced by a criminal court, while deciding a case under section 494 (bigamy) of IPC.

"This is also applicable for sanction of prosecution considered for alleged bigamy of a Catholic spouse who has married after obtaining a decree for nullity of the first marriage from the Ecclesiastical Tribunal (Christian court)," it had said.

But the Centre opposed the plea saying Canon law cannot be allowed to override Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and Divorce Act, 1869. 

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