Recognition of Foreign Divorce in India

  1. As regards applicability of foreign judgments in matrimonial cases – there is a direct judgment on this aspect delivered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.  Y.Narasimha Rao and Ors. Vs. Y. Venkata Lakshmi and Anr.; Decided on 9 July 1991;(1991)3SCC451, the relevant part reads as under :-

Para 13 reads “13. From the aforesaid discussion the following rule can be deduced for recognising foreign matrimonial judgment in this country. The jurisdiction assumed by the foreign court as well as the ground on which the relief is granted must be in accordance with the matrimonial law under which the parties are married. The exceptions to this rule may be as follows: (i) where the matrimonial action is filed in the forum where the respondent is domiciled 01 habitually and permanently resides and the relief is granted on a ground available in the matrimonial law under which the parties are married; (ii) where the respondent voluntarily and effectively submits to the jurisdiction of the forum as discussed above and contests the claim which is based on a ground available under the matrimonial law under which the parties are married; (iii) where the respondent consents to the grant of the relief although the jurisdiction of the forum is not in accordance with the provisions of the matrimonial law of the parties.”

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Para – 12 of the said judgment further reads : “The second part of clause (c) of Section 13 states that where the judgment is founded on a refusal to recognise the law of this country in cases in which such law is applicable, the judgment will not be recognised by the courts in this country. The marriages which take place in this country can only be under either the customary or the statutory law in force in this country. Hence, the only law that can be applicable to the matrimonial disputes is the one under which the parties are married, and no other law. When, therefore, a foreign judgment is founded on a jurisdiction or on ground not recognised by such law, it is a judgment which is in defiance of the Law. Hence, it is not conclusive of the matters adjudicated therein and therefore, unenforceable in this country. For the same reason, such a judgment will also be unenforceable under clause (f) of Section 13, since such a judgment would obviously be in breach of the matrimonial law in force in this country

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Another recent Delhi High Court Judgment is the case of Pritam Ashok Sadaphule v. Hima Chugh (2013) 200 DLT 374, where the Court refused to recognize a decree passed in a foreign court on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage. Para 12 of the said judgment reads as under :-

“12. It is admitted position that both the parties are Indians and marriage between them was solemnised at New Delhi according to Hindu rites and ceremonies and both are governed by Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Their marriage has been dissolved by Ilford County Court in UK on the ground of having been broken down irretrievably which is not a ground for divorce  under the Hindu Marriage Act…”

The Hon’ble High in para 14, after upholding the trial court judgment, not recognizing the foreign decree, held :-

“The learned trial court has also considered the judgment of this court in Harmeeta Singh vs. Rajat Taneja reported in MANU/DE/0010/2003 : I (2003) DMC 443 and Mrs. Veena Kalia vs. Dr. Jatinder Nath Kalia and anr. reported as MANU/DE/0012/1996 : 59 (1995) DLT 635 in coming to the conclusion that decree of dissolution of marriage granted by the Ilford County Court, Essex, UK cannot be recognised as the facts of the case fall within the purview of the exceptions of Section 13 of CPC”

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Another Delhi High Court judgment is Harmeeta Singh v. Rajat Taneja 2003IIAD(Delhi)14 – which supports the preposition that in case parties are Hindus, married as per Hindu Rites and Ceremonies – a Divorce decree in conformity with Hindu Law is imperative and if no such decree is obtained – the marriage of the parties would still subsist in the eyes of Indian law, which would result in the anamolous position of parties being married as per law in India, and divorced as per Colorado Law. Another consequence that would flow out from such a situation is that if the petitioner after obtaining a divorce from the present Hon’ble Court – marries again – since he is married under the law of India – would still be bound for bigamy as per the law of India. There is no gainsaying the fact that bigamy in India is a serious penal offence attracting punishment upto 7 years.

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