Punjab and Haryana High Court has clarified that a Panchayati divorce has no recognition in the eyes of law and therefore the marriage cannot be considered dissolved on the basis of divorce accorded by Panchayat.
The bench of Justice Alka Sarin noted that the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is a complete Code and provides for the conditions of marriage as well as the procedure for divorce. The court held that in view of Section 4 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 all customs like ‘Panchayati’ divorce and related usages ceased to have effect.
The court was hearing a criminal writ petition seeking protection to a couple as they apprehend the danger to their lives and liberty.
Both the petitioners married each other in Dashmesh Pita Gurudwara of Kharar under Sikh rites on January 21st, 2021. It was mentioned in the plea that petitioner No. 1, Nisan Singh was married to one Mandeep Kaur. He had taken a Panchayati divorce on 19th June 2017.
While petitioner No. 2 was earlier married to one Harjinder Singh. She got divorced under Section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 vide judgment with a decree dated 14th July 2000.
Taking note of the marital status of the petitioner No. 1, the court noted, “Strangely, the learned counsel is relying upon a Panchayati divorce which has no recognition in the eyes of law. There is no decree of dissolution of marriage of petitioner No. 1 by a court of competent jurisdiction and his first marriage subsists in the eyes of law.”
The court order further observed, “The learned counsel has also not been able to show as to how this Court can provide protection to the petitioners as a couple when petitioner No.1 has not legally divorced his earlier spouse. The petitioner Nos.1 and 2 are alleged to have got married without petitioner No.1 obtaining a legally valid divorce from his first wife.”
Justice Alka Sarin also added that the alleged marriage itself between petitioner No.1 and petitioner No.2 would be illegal and against the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 inasmuch as this marriage has been contracted without the petitioner No.1 being legally divorced.
“However, as an individual either of the petitioners, if they apprehend any threat to their life or liberty, would be entitled to approach the Police for redressal of their apprehensions regarding threats to their life and liberty,” said the order.
The court further observed that the instant petition is not maintainable at the behest of the petitioners as the petitioner No. 1 is not legally divorced.
“The petitioners, as individuals, would always be at liberty to approach the concerned Senior Superintendent of Police for redressal of their apprehensions regarding threats to their life and liberty,” the order said.