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Report No. 15

Report on the Law of Christian Marriage and Divorce

1. The need for revision.-

The law relating to divorce amongst Christians is contained in the Indian Divorce Act, 1869, and that relating to marriage in the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872. Both these enactments are based on the law as it then stood in England. Since then considerable changes have taken place in the social conditions both in England and in India. With a view to adjusting the law to those changes, the British Parliament has enacted a number of statutes on the above topics, culminating in the Marriage Acts, 1949, and 1954, and the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1950.

In India, however, the law as originally enacted in the statutes of 1869 and 1872 has remained practically unchanged, and the criticism that it has become antiquated and to some extent obsolete is well-founded. The need has thus arisen for enacting a law on the topic of marriage and divorce such as will be suitable to the present conditions. Indeed private Bills on the subject were introduced in Parliament, and the question of revision of the law on the subject has since been referred by the Government to the Commission.

We invited suggestions from all persons interested in the matter. The response was large, and written representations were received from dignitaries of the Christian Church, representatives of Christian associations, members of the Christian community, Bar Associations and Judicial Officers. Special mention must be made of two draft Bills which were prepared and sent to us, one by the National Christian Council, Nagpur, and the other by the Catholic Bishops' Conference, India. It may be mentioned that in England, a Royal Commission was appointed in 1951 to "inquire into the law of England, and the Law of Scotland concerning divorce and other matrimonial causes and to consider whether any changes shall be made in the law or its administration".

The report1 of the Commission contains valuable discussion on several problems, which arise for our decision. In the light of the above materials, we prepared a draft of the Law on marriage and matrimonial causes and had it circulated for opinion, and in answer thereto, we received quite a large number of suggestions and comments. Some of the correspondents desired to make oral representations, and in view of the importance of the subject, we acceded to this suggestion and took their evidence at Bombay, Madras and Delhi. The names of witnesses who were so examined are set out in an Appendix2. The draft was then finalised by us after taking their evidence into consideration and the same is annexed to this report.

1. Report of the Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce, 1955 Cmd. 9678.

2. See Appendix IV.

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