30 July 1982
Supreme Court


Bench: PATHAK,R.S.
Case number: Appeal Civil 2631 of 1980








CITATION:  1982 AIR 1261            1983 SCR  (1)  32  1982 SCC  (2) 474        1982 SCALE  (1)566

ACT:      Indian Divorce  Act 1869,  Ss. 7, 10 - ‘Mutual consent’ whether a ground for divorce.      Interpretation  of   Statutes-Matrimonial  statutes   - Legislation  by  incorporation  -  Post  1947  British  laws whether incorporated into Indian law.

HEADNOTE:      The appellants,  who were husband and wife belonging to the Roman  Catholic Community  were married under section 27 of the  Indian Christian  Marriage Act  1872. They  filed  a joint petition  under Section 28 of the Special Marriage Act for a  decree of  divorce by  mutual consent in the District Court. The  trial court dismissed the petition on the ground that section  28 of  the Special  Marriage Act  could not be availed of.  The Supreme  Court allowed  the  appellants  to amend their joint petition to enable them to rely on section 7 of  the Indian Divorce Act 1869 read with section 1 (2)(d) of the  Matrimonial Causes  Act 1973  of England and to seek divorce on  the ground  that they had been living separately for more  than two  years and  had not  been  able  to  live together   and   that   the   marriage   had   broken   down irretrievably, and  that therefore  they were  entitled to a decree of  divorce. The District Court however dismissed the petition holding  that they  were not  entitled to  rely  on section 1  (2)(d) of the English Statute. In appeal the High Court affirmed the view taken by the trial Court.      In the  appeal to this court it was contended on behalf of the  appellants: (1)  that the  trial court  and the High Court were  wrong and  that section  7 of the Indian Divorce Act 1869  incorporated the  provisions of section 1(2)(d) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and that the appellants were entitled to  the benefit  of the  ground for  divorce as set forth in  the latter  enactment, and  (2) that  the  Letters Patent jurisdiction enjoyed by the High Court in Matrimonial matters is  sufficiently extensive  to enable the High Court to make a decree for divorce. Dismissing the appeal, ^      HELD: [By the Court] 33



    Mutual consent  is not  a ground  for divorce under the Indian Divorce  Act 1869.  The provisions of section l(2)(d) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 of England cannot be read into section 7 of the Indian Divorce Act, 1869. [39 A] [Per Pathak and Baharul Islam, JJ.]      1. Whether  a provision  for divorce  by mutual consent should be included in the Indian Divorce Act is a matter for legislative policy.  The courts  cannot  extend  or  enlarge legislative policy  by adding  a provision  to  the  statute which was  never enacted  there. It  is  for  Parliament  to consider whether  the Indian  Divorce Act,  1869  should  be amended so  as to  include a provision for divorce by mutual consent. [38 C-D; 39 F]      2. The  Letters Patent jurisdiction enjoyed by the High Court in  matrimonial matters cannot be construed to include a ground  for divorce  not specifically set forth in section 10 of the Indian Divorce Act, 1869. [39 E]      M. Barnard  v. G.H.  Barnard A.I.R. 1928 Cal. 657; Miss Shireen Mall  v. John James Taylor A.I.R. 1952 Pb. 277: T.M. Bashiam v.  M. Victor  A.I.R. 1970  Mad. 12;  aad A.  George Cornelius v.  Elizabeth Dopti  Samadanam A.l.R.  1970,  Mad. 240. approved. [Per Chinnappa Reddy and Baharul Islam, JJ.]      Legislation whenever  made by  Parliament of  a foreign state cannot automatically become part of the law of another sovereign state. Whatever interpretation of section 7 of the Indian Divorce  Act, 1869  was permissible before August 15, 1947 when  the British  Parliament  had  plenary  powers  of legislation over  Indian territory, no interpretation is now permissible which  would incorporate  post-1947 British laws into the Indian laws. [39 G-H; 40 A]

JUDGMENT:      CIVIL APPELLATE  JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal No. 2631 of 1982.      Appeal by  special leave  from the  judgment and  order dated the  3rd October,  1980 of the Delhi High Court in C.. (Main) No. 184 of 1980.      Miss Lily  Thomas, K  S. Gill  and S.K.  Arora, for the Appellant.      S.T. Desai and Miss A. Subhashini for the Respondent.      The following Judgments were delivered;      PATHAK J.  The appellants,  who  belong  to  the  Roman Catholic community, were married on December 30, 1967 in 34 Podannur in  the State  of Tamil  Nadu under  s. 27  of  the Indian Christian  Marriage Act,  1872. On July 26, 1979 they put in  a joint petition under s. 28 of the Special Marriage Act for  a decree  of divorce by mutual consent in the Court of the  learned District Judge, Delhi. On March 11, 1980 the trial court  dismissed the petition on the ground that s. 28 of the  Special Marriage  Act could  not be  availed of. The appellants filed ’a writ petition in the High Court of Delhi which having been dismissed they proceeded in appeal to this Court. In  the appeal  they applied  for permission to amend the joint  petition to  enable them to rely upon s. 7 of the Indian Divorce  Act, 1869  read with  s. 1  (2) (d)  of  the Matrimonial Causes  Act, 1973  of England. The amendment was allowed, and  the appellants filed an amended joint petition i n  the trial  court -  seeking divorce  on the ground that they had  been living separately for more than two years and had not  been able  to live  together and their marriage had broken down  irretrievably and  therefore they were entitled



to a  decree of  divorce under  the aforesaid provisions. On August 16,  1980 the  trial  court  dismissed  the  petition holding that  the appellants were not entitled to rely on s. I (2)  (d) of  the English  statute. The appellants took the matter to  the High  Court or  Delhi and  the High Court has affirmed the view taken by the trial court.      In this  appeal Miss  Lily Thomas,  appearing  for  the appellants, contends that the trial court and the High Court are wrong  and that  in reading  s. 7  of the Indian Divorce Act, 1869  the provisions of s. I (2) (d) of the Matrimonial Causes Act,  1973 must  be deemed to be incorporated therein and therefore  the appellants are entitled to the benefit of the ground for divorce set forth in the latter enactment. In deference to  Miss Thomas’s  vehement submissions and having regard to  the importance  of the  question we  heard her at length but we indicated that the point raised by her did not carry conviction,  and we reserved judgment in order to give a fully reasoned order Shortly thereafter, Miss Thomas’s put in an  application asserting  that she  had information that the  Government   of  India   was  proposing  to  amend  the matrimonial law  in relation  to the  Christian community in India and praying that in the circumstances judgment may not be delivered  for sometime.  There  has,  however,  been  no Change in  the law  since, and  it is appropriate, we think, that judgment  should  be  pronounced  now  without  further delay. 35      The main  contention raised  by Miss Thomas is that the appellants are entitled to the benefit of s. 7 of the Indian Divorce Act  and therefore,  by reason of that provision, to rely on  s. 1  (2) (d)  of the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1973. There is  no doubt that if the provisions of s. 1 (2) (d) of the English  statute can  be read  in s.  7  of  the  Indian Divorce Act  and  the  appellants  can  establish  that  the conditions set  forth in  s. i  (2) (d)  are  made  out  the appellants will  be entitled  to claim  a decree of divorce. But we  are not  satisfied that  s. I (2) (d) of the English statute can  be read  in s. 7 of the Indian Divorce Act Sub- ss. (l)  and (2) of s. I of the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1973 provides:-      "(I) Subject to section 3 below, a petition for divorce           may be presented to the court by either party to a           marriage on  the  ground  that  the  marriage  has           broken down irretrievably.      (2)  The court hearing a petition for divorce shall not           hold   the    marriage   to   have   broken   down           irretrievably unless  the petitioner satisfies the           court of  one or more of the following facts, that           is to say-           (a)   that the  respondent has  committed adultery                and the  petitioner finds  it intolerable  to                live with the respondent;           (b)  that the respondent has behaved in such a way                that  the  petitioner  cannot  reasonably  be                expected to live with the respondent;           (c)     that  the   respondent  has  deserted  the                petitioner for  a  continuous  period  of  at                least two  years  immediately  preceding  the                presentation of the petition,           (d)   that the  parties to the marriage have lived                apart for a continuous period of at least two                years immediately  preceding the presentation                of  the   petition  (hereafter  in  this  Act                referred to  as "two  years’ separation") and                the respondent  consents to  a  decree  being



              granted; 36           (e)   that the  parties to the marriage have lived                apart for  a continuous  period of  at  least                five   years    immediately   preceding   the                presentation of  the petition  (hereafter  in                this  Act   referred  to.   as  "five  years’                separation)." The circumstances set forth in sub-s. (2) of s. 1 constitute the basis  for holding  that the  marriage has  broken  down irretrievably. Can  these provisions  be deemed incorporated in s. 7 of the Indian Divorce Act ? S. 7 provides:-           "7. Subject  to the  provisions contained  in this      Act, the  High Courts and District Courts shall, in all      suits and proceedings hereunder, act and give relief on      principles and  rules which, in the opinion of the said      Courts, are  as nearly  as may  be conformable  to  the      principles and rules on which the Court for Divorce and      Matrimonial Causes  in England  for the time being acts      and gives relief:           Provided  that   nothing  in  this  section  shall      deprive the said Courts of jurisdiction in a case where      the parties  to  a  marriage  professed  the  Christian      religion at  the time of the occurrence of the facts on      which the claim to relief is founded." The section  requires that in all suits or proceedings under the Indian  Divorce Act  the High  Court and District Courts shall "act  and give  relief on  principles and rules" which conform as  nearly as  may be to the principles and rules on which the  Court  for  Divorce  anc  Matrimonial  Causes  of England acts  and gives  relief. What is contemplated is the manner in which the court will exercise its jurisdiction for the purpose of disposing of a pending suit or proceeding The expression "principles  and rules" does not mean the grounds on which a suit or proceeding may be instituted. The grounds are ordinarily  placed in  the suit  or proceeding  when the petitioner comes  to court  and invokes its jurisdiction. It is after  the suit  or proceeding  is entertained  that  the question arises  of deciding  on the  norms to be applied by the court  for the  purpose of  disposing of  it. If it were otherwise, plainly  there would  be a conflict with s. 10 of the Indian  Divorce Act.  For s.  10 sets fourth the limited grounds on which a petition may be presented by a husband or wife for dissolution of the marriage. 37      It  cannot   be  denied   that  society   is  generally interested in  maintaining the  marriage bond and preserving the matrimonial  state with  a view  to protecting  societal stability,  the  family  home  and  the  proper  growth  and happiness of  children of  the marriage. Legislation for the purpose of  dissolving the  marriage constitutes a departure from  that   primary  principle,   and  the  Legislature  is extremely, circumspect in setting forth the grounds on which a marriage  may be dissolved. The-history of all matrimonial legislation  will  show  that  at  the  outset  conservative attitudes influenced  the grounds  on  which  separation  or divorce could  be granted.  Over the decades, a more liberal attitude has  been adopted, fostered by a recognition of the need for  the individual  happiness  of  the  adult  parties directly involved. But although the grounds for divorce have been liberalised,  they nevertheless  continue  to  form  an exception to the general principle favouring the continution of the  marital tie.  In our  opinion,  when  a  legislative provision specifies  the grounds  on which  divorce  may  be granted they  constitute the  only conditions  on which  the



court has  jurisdiction to grant divorce. If grounds need to be added  to those  already specifically  set forth  in  the legislation, that is the business of the Legislature and not of the  courts. It  is another matter that in construing the language in  which the  grounds are  incorporated the courts should give  a liberal  construction to it. Indeed, we think that the  courts must  give the fullest amplitude of meaning to such  a provision.  But it  must  be  meaning  which  the language of the section is capable of holding. It cannot’ be extended  by  adding  new  grounds  not  enumerated  in  the section.      When  therefore   s.  10  of  the  Indian  Divorce  Act specifically sets  forth the grounds on which a marriage may be dissolved,  additional grounds  cannot be included by the judicial construction  of some  other  section  unless  that section plainly  intends so.  That, to  our mind,  s. 7 does not. We  may point out that in M. Barnard v. G.H. Barnard(l) the Calcutta  High Court  repelled a  similar contention and held that  s. 7 could not be construed so as to "import into Indian Divorce  Jurisprudence any  fresh ground  for  relief other than  those set  forth in  s. I()"  and that "the only grounds on  which a  marriage may be dissolved are those set forth in s. 10 of the Act...". The Punjab High Court in Miss Shireen Mall v. John James Taylor(2) has also taken the view that the grounds set forth in s. 10 of the Indian      (l) AIR 1928 Cal. 657.      (2) AIR 1952 Pb. 277. 38 Divorce Act  cannot be  enlarged by reference to s. 7 of the Act. So also has a Special Bench of the Madras High Court in T.M. Bashiam v.  Victor(l) and  a Single Judge of that Court in A. George Cornelius v. Elizabeth Dopti Samadanam.(2)      Miss Thomas  appeals to us to adopt a policy of "social engineering" and  to give to s. 7 the content which has been enacted in  s. 28  of the  Special Marriage Act, 1954 and s. 13B of  the Hindu  Marriage Act, 1955, both of which provide for divorce  by mutual  consent. It  is possible to say that the  law  relating  to  Hindu  marriages  and  to  marriages governed  by  the  Special  Marriage  Act  presents  a  more advanced stage  of development  in this area than the Indian Divorce Act.  However, whether  a provision  for divorce  by mutual consent  should be included in the Indian Divorce Act is a  matter of legislative policy. The courts cannot extend or enlarge  legislative policy  by adding a provision to the statute which was never enacted there.      Reference is  made by  Miss Thomas  to s. 2 (ix) of the Dissolution of  Muslim Marriage Act, 1939 which empowers the court to dissolve a Muslim marriage on any ground other than those already enumerated in the section "which is recognised as valid  for the  dissolution  of  marriages  under  Muslim law.’’ No such provision is contained in s. 10 of the Indian Divorce Act.      Learned counsel of the appellants has referred us to B. Iswarayya  v.  Swarnam  Iswarayya(3)  and  George  Swamidoss Joseph v.  Miss Harriet  Sundari Edward.(4)  Nothing said in those  cases  helps  the  appellants.  The  first  case  was concerned with  the question  whether an appellate court can increase the amount of alimony payable by the husband to the wife without an appeal by her. And the second deals with the question whether  the Indian  Courts can  make a decree nisi for nullity  absolute within  a  shorter  period  than  that specifically mentioned in the Indian Divorce Act.      (1) A.l.R. 1970 Mad. 12.      (2) A.l.R. 1970 Mad. 240.      (3) A.I.R. 1931 Privy Council 234.



    (4) A.l.R. 1955 Mad. 341. 39      We are  not satisfied  that s.  7 of the Indian Divorce Act can be read to include the provisions of s. I (2) (d) of the Matrimonial  Causes Act,  1973. This  contention of  the appellant must fail.      Learned counsel for the appellants then points out that a Christian  marriage can  be registered  under the  Special Marriage Act,  1954 and  that  there  is  no  reason  why  a marriage registered  under the Indian Christian Marriage Act should not  enjoy an  advantage  which  is  available  to  a marriage registered under the Special Marriage Act. Reliance is  placed   on  the   constitutional  prohibition   against discrimination embodied  in Article  14 of the Constitution. Assuming that  the marriage  in this  case could  have  been registered under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, inasmuch as it was  solemnised in  1967 it  was open  to the  parties to avail of  that Act  instead of  having resort  to the Indian Christian Marriage  Act, 1872.  In the  circumstances, it is not open  to the appellants to com plain of the disadvantage now suffered by them.      It is  also urged  by the  appellants that  the Letters Patent jurisdiction enjoyed by the High Court in matrimonial matters is  sufficiently extensive  to enable the High Court to make  a decree  for divorce on the ground now pleaded. We have examined  the matter  carefully and  we do  not see how that jurisdiction can be construed to include a ground which is not  specifically set  forth in  E s.  10 of  the  Indian Divorce Act.      We are  not satisfied  that this appeal can succeed. It is for  Parliament to  consider whether  the Indian  Divorce Act, 1869 should be amended so as to include a provision for divorce by  mutual  con-  sent.  The  appeal  fails  and  is dismissed but  in the  circumstances there is no order as to costs.      CHINNAPPA REDDY,  J. I agree with my brother Pathak, J. that ’mutual  consent’ is not a ground for divorce under the Indian Divorce  Act and that the provisions of s. 1(2)(d) of the British  Matrimonal Causes Act, 1973 cannot be read into the Indian  Divorce Act  merely  because  of  s.  7.  lt  is unthinkable that legislation whenever made by the Parliament of a  foreign state may automatically become part of the law of another sovereign State. Legislation by incorporation can never go  so  far.  Whatever  interpretation  of  s.  7  was permissible  before   August  15.   1947  when  the  British Parliament 40 had plenary  powers of legislation over Indian territory, no interpretation is  now permissible  which would  incorporate post-1947 British laws into Indian law.      My brother  Pathak J.  has pointed out that the history of matrimonial  legislation has  been towards liberalisation of the  grounds for  divorce. Inevitably  so. The history of matrimony itself,  in the  recent past,  has been a movement from ritual  and sacrament  to reality  and contract even as the history  of the  relationship of the sexes has been from male dominance  to equality between the sexes. But the world is still  a man’s world and the laws are man-made laws, very much so. We have just heard that in an advanced country like the United  States of  America, the  Equal Rights  for Women Amendment could  not  be  successfully  pushed  through  for failure to  obtain the  support of  the necessary  number of States. Our  constitution-makers  and  our  Parliament  have certainly done  better. We  have  constitutional  and  legal equality for  the sexes.  But even  so, economic  and social



equality between  the sexes  appears to  be a  very  distant goal. One  has only  to read  the daily  sickly  reports  of ’dowry deaths’  and ’atrocities  on women’  to realise  that women, in  our country,  are yet  treated as commodities and play-things. The  root cause  of the  inequality between the sexes, like  other class  inequalities, is  their social and economic inequality. All inequality will end when social and economic inequality  ends. It  isl therefore,  obvious  that true equality  between the  sexes and else where is possible only when  economic and  social inequalities  disappear. Our Constitution proclaims,  in the  Preamble, the establishment of a  socialist State  where there  will be justice, social, economic and  political, as our constitutional goal and this is reiterated  in  the  Fundamental  Rights’  and  Directive Principles’ Chapters.  But, the  march towards equality’ and economic and  social justice  is still  a ’long  march’  and meanwhile, what  of divorce by mutual consent ? Yes, I agree with Miss  Lily Thomas that divorce by mutual consent should be available to every married couple, whatever religion they may profess  and however,  they were  married.  Let  no  law compel the  union of  man  and  woman  who  have  agreed  on separation. If  they desire  to be  two, why  should the law insist that  they be  one ?  But I have a qualification, The woman must  be protected. Our society still looks askance at a divorced  woman. A  woman divorcee  is yet  a suspect. Her chances of  survival are  diminished by the divorce. So, the law which  grants the decree for divorce must secure for her some measure of economic 41 independence. It  should be  so whatever  be the  ground for divorce, A whether it is mutual consent, irretrievable break down of  the marriage,  or  even  the  fault  of  the  woman herself. Every divorce solves a problem and creates another. Both  problems   need  to   be  solved,  no  matter  who  is responsible for  the break  down of  the  marriage.  If  the divorce law  is  to  be  a  real  success,  it  should  make provision  for  the  economic  independence  of  the  female spouse. After  all, Indian-  society today is so constituted that a  Woman is  generally helpless and her position become worse if  she is  divorced. It  is necessary  that  the  law should protect  her interest.;  even if  she  be  an  erring spouse, lest  she  become  destitute  and  a  dead  loss  to society. N.V.K.                                     Appeal dismissed. 42