Leher Kala, IE,March 13 , 2017: A bench of the Supreme Court justices have recently ruled that isolated incidents of cruelty in a marriage cannot be grounds for divorce. Justices RK Agarwal and AM Sapre decided that cruelty has to be recurring and current — people cannot seek divorce because of fights that took place years before the petition was filed (www.livelaw.in March 8, 2017).
In a recent case, Suman Singh vs Sanjay Singh, the court rejected the husband’s accusation of cruelty, that his wife had misbehaved with him in front of his colleagues nine years ago. The apex court allowed the plea of the wife for restitution of her conjugal rights and advised the couple to live in an atmosphere of peace, harmony and happiness. “And see their grown up daughters are well-settled,” the bench has said.
Quoting a row nine years back sounds like an extremely flimsy shot for divorce but most couples I know can rake up decades old grievances with amazing clarity. The bench has a point that if they got past them and continued living together they can’t use those same fights as valid reasons for divorce nine years later. Or every married couple in India would be on tenterhooks, enraged all the time and the courts would be doing nothing else but tackling citizens’ domestic issues.
Mercifully, last year the Madras High Court said if a couple wants a divorce by mutual consent the court cannot insist they try to reconcile ,or seek the reasons for separation. Like in this particular case, the husband’s argument may be flimsy but he doesn’t sound like he’s seeking a divorce impulsively. The court’s assumption that after this level of discord they will now forever live in peace, harmony and happiness seems improbably optimistic.
An argument can be made that there’s reason to celebrate that Indian marriages are on the rocks in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai. It’s finally not only because of dowry, property disputes or the bride being made to do house work like Cinderella. Thousands of couples in India are seeking divorce for the simplest and best of reasons, that they no longer like each other. Old timers may tut tut about changing values and how the new generation has absolutely no patience. But the fact is people of all generations have trouble getting along, they just never got divorced. There was a stigma associated with it and women weren’t independent. Freedom and control (over your own choices) are two words that crop up in conversations about relationships more and more. It sounds perfectly sensible and can hardly be so wrong to want a better life with a compatible partner.
The only advantage the older generation had is they entered a marriage with extremely low or realistic expectations. They were hopeful of being pleasantly surprised, and resigned to making it work if they were not. One has to wonder whether, all those Hollywood expectations of a marriage — to expect a spouse to be a be all and end all, the yin to your yang, is a set-up for hopeless disappointment, out of sync with our times. The romantic aspect of life is overemphasized, while till death do us part seems more and more unlikely. Even in Indian cities we’re entering an era where two-three marriages in a lifetime will become normal with the first ideal for women’s liberation gaining ground: don’t look to a partner to provide all your happiness.