Church Courts Cannot Grant Decree of Divorce: SC

The Supreme Court came down heavily on Courts popularly known as Church Courts among the Christians who were granting divorce decrees to the Catholic Christians. The Supreme Court said clearly that such Courts cannot grant the decree of divorce as they have no legal sanctity and anybody remarrying after such a divorce decree is committing an offense of bigamy.

The petition was filed by the advocate Mr. Clarence Pais of Bengaluru, who has sought legal sanctity of divorce decrees granted by such Church courts. He has pursued the recognition of such courts and pleaded that Church governs marriages and divorce among the Catholic Christians and in the absence of the appreciation of the law, numerous person has to suffer the prosecution for the offenses of bigamy, etc.

Mr. Neeraj Kishan Kaul, Additional Solicitor General of India, argued that the present issue of recognition of divorce decrees granted by Church Courts has already been settled by Supreme Court in 1996 in the matter of Molly Joseph vs. George Se Bastian case.

Pardeep Sharma, the divorce lawyer at Chandigarh, said that Supreme Court has already given its detailed verdict on the authority of the Church Courts in 1996. The court has observed that unless the divorce act recognizes the jurisdiction of Church Courts, any order, decree granted by such ecclesiastical tribunal known as Church Courts cannot be binding and is unconstitutional.

The matter was before the bench of Chief Justice of India T. S. Thakur and Justice D Y Chandrachud, who observed that unless the divorce decree granted by regular courts established under the law, such orders issued by Church Courts have no legal sanctity. The bench has commented that anybody who remarries after such divorce decree is liable to be prosecuted for the offense of bigamy.

The petitioner counsel Mr. Soli J. Sorabjee though finding it tough requested for an adjournment but the bench was hesitant in while granting him an adjournment. The petitioner has asserted that 100’s of application for dissolution of marriage is pending in Church Courts.

Before the church courts, thousands of requests for dissolution of marriages are pending as asserted by the petitioner. He also said that The Code of Canon Law regulates and provides for the validation of marriages by the church priest, as also the declaration of nullity of the wedding.

Saurav Goyal, the divorce advocate at Chandigarh, said that Church Courts cannot grant the decree of divorce. He also stated that it would be a serious condition if criminal courts reject the Law of Canon as the personal law of the Catholics and as the result thousands of spouses who are done remarriages after the decree of divorce by Church Courts will have to face prosecution which can also land the person behind bars.

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