The Supreme Court has ordered dissolution of a marriage of an estranged couple, living separately for 22 years and failing to reconcile their differences. The court termed the marriage "unworkable, emotionally dead, beyond salvage and broken down irretrievably".
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.R. Shah said: "We are of the opinion that while protecting the interest of the respondent wife to compensate her by way of a lump sum permanent alimony, this is a fit case to exercise the powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India and to dissolve the marriage between the parties."
Article 142, 'Enforcement of decrees and orders of Supreme Court and unless as to discovery, etc', empowers the apex court to "...pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it...".
The husband had filed an appeal in the Supreme court against the 2012 Andhra Pradesh High Court judgement, upholding the family court decision to refuse to pass a decree of divorce against the wife.
The couple had got married in 1993, but later, a difference of opinion emerged, with the husband alleging that cruelty was meted out to him. Till 1997, for a majority of time, the wife stayed at her parental house. The husband filed a divorce petition in 1999 before a family court in Hyderabad.
"If both parties to the marriage agree for separation permanently, in that case, certainly both the parties can move the competent court... Only in a case where one of the parties do not agree and give consent, only then the powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India are required to be invoked to do substantial justice between the parties, considering the facts and circumstances of the case," said the court observing all the efforts to continue the marriage have failed, and there is no possibility of reunion.
The court opined for a lump-sum permanent alimony of Rs 20 lakh for the wife, and referred the case,"a fit case to exercise the powers under Article 142 of the Constitution and to dissolve the marriage between the parties". It directed the husband to pay the wife within a period of eight weeks.
The top court declined to entertain the submission of the wife, who emphasized consent by both the parties before dissolving the marriage and the same is applicable even in exercise of powers under Article 142. In a series of judgements, the court has exercised its inherent powers under Article 142 for dissolution of a marriage.