Long overdue

The Law Commission’s recommendation that deserted Christian women be allowed to file divorce petitions against their husband living abroad will provide some respite to Christian women trapped in unhappy marriages. Under the existing law, a deserted Christian woman whose husband has taken foreign citizenship or is domiciled in another country is denied that right. If the Union government acts upon the Law Commission’s recommendation, Indian courts will be empowered to decide on dissolution of marriages of Christian couples solemnised abroad in cases where either of the parties is domiciled in India at the time of filing the petition.

This will be welcomed by thousands of Christian women in this country who would like to seek divorce. This change was long overdue. A relic of colonial times, the law was enacted to favour British men married to Indian women. It aimed at preventing a woman from divorcing her husband here in India, when the husband had gone back to Britain and deserted her. It was an iniquitous provision even during colonial times. It is all the more unacceptable today. The Law Commission’s recommendation thus hopes to correct this wrong.

To many women and men in this country, existing divorce laws and the slow pace at which our courts work has meant the loss of several years in wasted marriages. Some justify and even welcome the delay in divorce proceedings on the grounds that this gives the couple time to rethink what could be a hasty decision to end a marriage. This is based on the argument that an easy divorce will encourage couples to turn to this as the first option. However, there are procedures like counselling that family courts put couples through and these can ensure that the decision is not a hasty one.

Delays in awarding divorces put couples through needless stress and uncertainty. Children caught in the divorce and custody battles go through deep insecurity, unsure of what lies ahead. Quick disposal of such cases can reduce this uncertainty and enable the parties to get on with their lives. It is in this context that Law Minister Veerappa Moily’s proposal to amend the law to speed up disposal of divorce and custody cases is welcome and the government should go ahead with it without wasting any more time.

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