Government favors changing Christian divorce act

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The government is, however, silent on how much time would the process take.

New Delhi (UCAN): 

The federal government yesteray said changes to a century-old divorce act governing Christians could be made only in consultation with state governments, and not before necessary initiatives come from a sizable section of the community.

A case challenging a clause in the law is pending before the court. The clause says a two-year separation period is mandatory for Christian couples wanting divorce by mutual consent. The government responded favoring doing away with the clause.

In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the federal law ministry said any decision to amend the Indian Divorce Act, 1869 under which Christians move the court for divorce, has to be preceded by consultation with the state governments. It would then be introduced in the Parliament.

The government is, however, silent on how much time would the process take.

The government also clarified that it “does not interfere with the personal laws of the minority communities unless the necessary initiatives for such changes come from a sizeable section of such communities”.

The Centre gave its affidavit in response to a petition in the SC that wants the separation period to be reduced to one year.

According to the petitioner, Albert Anthony the provision in the Indian Divorce Act, 1869 which prescribes a minimum two-year period of separation for Christian couples is discriminatory.

He said the personal laws governing divorce for couples of other religion has limited this period to just a year. The petitioner stated the provision discriminated against the Christian community from Hindus, Parsis and those who get married under the Special Marriage Act as they can file a divorce suit within a year of living separately.

Asking the government for its stand, a bench headed by Justice Vikramjit Sen had termed the issue raised by Anthony as valid.

Though the Kerala and Karnataka high courts have read down the section, the ruling is applicable to the two states only. Anthony said the respective high courts have held that divorce can be sought within a year of separation.

However, Christians residing in other states are unable to take benefit of the verdicts, he said.

Source: Hindustan Times

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