If a marriage fails, it is important for the couple to separate for their own peace and for the well-being of their offspring, if any, the Supreme Court said on November 22.
“Irretrievable breakdown of marriage is now considered, in the laws of a number of countries, a good ground for dissolving the marriage by granting a decree of divorce,” the court said.
The occasion for the court’s observations was a matrimonial dispute between a couple from Kolkata – Kajal Kumar Ghosh and Sanghamitra Ghosh, who married in 1999 and separated in 2001. Sanghamitra took the couple’s son with her when she left her home and charged Kajal Kumar with cruelty and forcibly driving her out of their house.
Kajal Kumar denied the allegations and said their differences were due to cultural, economic, and social mismatch. He said Sanghamitra could not adjust to a life with him and voluntarily left their house to live with her parents.
The couple had been engaged in litigation over dowry, cruelty, divorce, custody of their child, and maintenance.
The Supreme Court intervened when Sanghamitra approached it for transfer of cases pending in West Bengal to Bangalore , the city where she was posted by her employer, ICICI Bank.
Approving an agreement between Sanghamitra and Kajal Kumar, under which the latter will pay her Rs10 lakh as final settlement, the bench comprising Justice GB Mathur and Justice Dalveer Bhandari said it frequently adjourned the case to “ensure that the parties may reconcile their differences and live together again, but this has not happened”.
Following the settlement, the couple have withdrawn all cases against each other. While their child will stay with his mother, the father will be allowed to visit him freely.
The bench noted that “when a marriage is totally dead… nothing is gained by trying to keep the parties tied forever”. So, when is a marriage considered to be “irretrievably broken down”? When the husband and wife have been living apart for a period of five to ten years and it has become impossible to resurrect the marriage.
The judges said tying the separated couple together with litigation would be like “cruelty to the spouse” and would “give rise to crime and even abuse of religion to obtain annulment.”