Only a court can grant divorce, says HC

MUMBAI: A division bench of the Bombay high court recently dealt with a unique case where an educated couple sought to dissolve their marriage through a mutual agreement entered into by them. Jaishree Gala (31), an architect and Suresh Gala, a chemical engineer, got married on February 2, 2006 but were separated by the second week of June, the same year. They entered into an agreement which said that they had "dissolved their marriage through mutual consent.

However, to satisfy the demands of statutory law, Jaishree and Suresh approached a family court in May 2007 to obtain a divorce decree. They presented a copy of the agreement they had already entered into to dissolve their marriage, before the judge.

The family court judge looked at the agreement and said that as the couple had already dissolved their marriage themselves, the same marriage could not be said to be in existence at the time they filed a divorce plea in court. He held in November 2007 that the divorce petition was not maintainable as the marriage "did not subsist.

To settle the issue, the Galas then approached the high court, which had to consider whether their marriage had ended with the execution of a mutual agreement. The couple’s advocates said that both Suresh and Jaishree were "educated and had realised that it was not possible for them to stay together.

After going through various case laws, justices P B Majmudar and R P Sondurbaldota said under the law, "spouses cannot dissolve a marriage on their own by entering into any sort of agreement.” They said that under the Hindu Marriage Act, a marriage can only be dissolved by getting a divorce decree from a court of law.

The high court held that the agreement between Suresh and Jaishree to dissolve their marriage was "nothing but a mere piece of paper which had no evidentiary value at all. Their marriage would be in existence until it was dissolved by a competent court.

The judges said that under different circumstances, they would have sent the matter back to family court but on interviewing Jaishree and Suresh they realised that it was not possible "to save the marriage as they have hardly stayed together for a few months, and had been separated for a considerable period of time. The high court itself dissolved their marriage and passed a divorce decree.

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