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India: “Irretrievable Breakdown” of Marriage Not Grounds for Divorce

(Mar. 13, 2009) In a recent decision, allegedly contrary to its earlier rulings about matrimonial causes, the Supreme Court of India refused to grant a decree of divorce on the ground that there was an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. Interpreting section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, a bench of the Supreme Court stated that there are several grounds for granting a divorce, but “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage was not one of them in the statute.

In the case at hand, the matrimonial court and the Delhi High Court, after the wife had opposed divorce proceedings, had dismissed the husband's plea for a divorce decree. Filing an appeal in the Supreme Court, the husband argued that, in its earlier decisions, the Court had granted a divorce to couples due to the “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. While dismissing the appeal, the Court observed that, since the enactment does not provide for such a ground for a divorce, the Court cannot assume the legislative function by adding it to the statute. (No Divorce for 'Irretrievable Breakdown' of Marriage, The TRIBUNE (Chandigarh, India), Mar. 9, 2009, available at