BOLT FROM THE BLUE: Divorce decrees by church courts not valid: SC;

Jul 05 2016 : The Times of India (Mumbai)
Divorce decrees by church courts not valid: SC
New Delhi:

The Supreme Court on Monday said divorce decrees granted by ecclesiastical tribunals, popularly known among Christians as church courts, had no legal sanctity and anyone remarrying after such a divorce decree would be com mitting an offence.The observation came from Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice D Y Chandrachud while hearing a plea from Bengaluru’s octogenarian Catholic advocate Clarence Pais, who has sought legal sanctity for divorce decrees granted by church courts. He has pleaded that marriage and divorce among Catholic Christians were governed by the church and in the absence of its recognition by law, unsuspecting men were facing prosecution for bigamy. Additional solicitor general Neeraj Kishan Kaul said the SC, in the Molly Joseph vs George Sebastian case in 1996, had settled the issue and ruled that “unless Divorce Act recognizes the jurisdiction, authority or power of ecclesiastical tribunal, any order passed by a tribunal cannot be binding on courts which have been recognized under the provisions of the Divorce Act to exercise power in respect of granting divorce and adjudicating in respect of matrimonial matters“. After the bench went through the judgment, it told Pais’s counsel Soli J Sorabjee, “Unless a divorce decree is granted by a competent court, the decrees granted by church court are not valid. Any man who remarries after divorce decree granted by church court will be committing an offence.“

Finding the going tough, Sorabjee said he just wanted to request an adjournment for a detailed hearing later.Though the court was reluctant, it decided to accept the former attorney general’s request. The petitioner had said hundreds of applications seeking dissolution of marriage were pending before church courts. “The Christian Marriage Act provides for the solemnization of marriage in a Catholic church in accordance with the provisions of the canon law and declaration of its nullity is regulated by the Code of Canon Law,“ the petitioner argued. “If criminal courts, while considering prosecution under IPC Section 494 (bigamy), reject the application of canon law as the personal law of the Catholics, a very serious result will follow and hundreds of spouses who have married a second time will face prosecution, jail and fine. Canon law is the personal law of Catholics of India and it has to be applied and enforced by a criminal court while deciding a case under Section 494 of the IPC and sanction of prosecution considered for alleged bigamy of a Catholic spouse who has married after obtaining a decree for nullity of the first marriage from the ecclesiastical tribunal.“ he said.



  1. July 18, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    Hi guys , After the judgment is out since 1st week of July, still the authorities of our dioceses are still wondering and moreover are confused and still have not made any official statement related the judgment. If it is good bad ugly.
    Nor our preachers who preach endlessly without practice, has a word to talk about it. Is the Bombay diocese ran out words? First they said the Birth certificate was not valid, then the marriage certificate is not valid and now the divorce.
    However, if you go by the records, the Bombay Diocese has never before challenged any of the judgments so do not get surprised if this is also not challenged. Because they are not interested in doing so as they are not affected by the judgment.
    The 700 add strength of the clergy is busy collecting funds from the parishes to the Diocese and selling the church properties and enjoying the trusteeship in the school and colleges leading to a VIP status.
    There are driven into a permanent phobia of relaxation and leisure and they are not going to move from the situation what so ever happens to the laity. These so-called clergy would not even move a thought in their mind, that we should protest or act against it, or even explain it to the parishioner they just don’t care.
    That is the reason I always say, Catholics were headless chickens, are and will always be, all thanks to the Cardinal, Bishops and Clergy.


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