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Foreign courts can’t decide divorce pleas for Hindu marriage registered in India: Bombay HC

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Divorce proceedings in a marriage solemnised as as per the Hindu rites and registered in India cannot be initiated in foreign courts, the Bombay High Court has ruled.

Justice R D Dhanuka on Tuesday allowed a petition filed by a woman seeking a stay on the divorce proceedings initiated by her estranged husband, an Indian who is a domicile of the UK, before a family court at Manchester in the UK.

The couple got married in December 2012 in Mumbai as per the Hindu rites and registered the marriage in January 2013 before the Mira Bhayandar Municipal Corporation.

Soon after their marriage, the man returned to the UK and the woman joined him there in July 2013.

She claimed in her petition that since then she was harassed by him and was also asked to leave his home and go back to India.

The woman returned to India in November 2013 and since then till June 2014, the woman and her family members tried to reconcile issues between the couple.

In June 2014, the woman received a legal notice informing her that her husband has initiated divorce proceedings against her in a family court in the UK.

The woman then approached the high court challenging the proceedings initiated in the UK on the ground that since they got married as per the Hindu rites, their case should be heard and decided as per the Hindu Marriage Act in a court in India.

The man’s lawyer opposed the plea and said since the man was a domicile of the UK, the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act do not apply to him.

The high court in its order noted that both the parties were Hindus and their marriage was registered at the Mira Bhayandar civic body.

“Admittedly in this case, the marriage was solemnised in Mumbai and thus merely because the defendant (man) is having a domicile of the UK whether by birth or by choice or otherwise would be of no significance and would not divest the jurisdiction of the court provided under Section 19 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for the purpose of filing the proceedings under the provisions of the said Act,” Justice Dhanuka said.

The court noted that the man has sought relief before the UK court under the provisions of the English Personal Law, which does not apply to either the man or the woman as they got married under the Hindu Marriage Act.

The court further noted that the man has not paid any maintenance to the woman and has thus created such a situation that the woman is unable to defend the divorce proceedings initiated in the UK.

Justice Dhanuka observed that the man, in his petition before the UK court, sought divorce on the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and also on the ground that the woman has alleged to have behaved in such a way that he cannot reasonably be expected to live with her.

“Under the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, no decree of divorce can be granted on the ground that marriage has been broken down irretrievably,” Justice Dhanuka said.

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