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Report No. 164

1.5. Previous Reports of the Commission and later developments.-

The Law Commission had suggested comprehensive amendments to the Act in the Bill titled "The Christian Marriage and Matrimonial Causes Bill, 1960" submitted along with its 15th Reports1 whereby both husband and wife were given the right to seek dissolution of marriage on almost all grounds mentioned in the Special Marriage Act, 1954, including the ground of adultery simpliciter, cruelty and desertion as per clause 30 of the Bill. In clause 31, the Law Commission also recommended that a provision be made for the grant of divorce if after a decree for judicial separation, cohabitation had not been resumed. On receipt of the 15th Report, the Government finalised a Bill on the lines suggested by the Law Commission and again referred the matter to the Law Commission for its views after inviting opinion from the public.

Accordingly, the Law Commission after ascertaining public opinion submitted the 22nd Report2 reiterating its earlier stand. Though on receipt of the 22nd Report, the Christian Marriage and Matrimonial Causes Bill, 1961 was introduced in the Parliament, the same lapsed on the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. It further appears from the counter-affidavit filed by the Union of India in Mary Sonia v. Union of India, 1995 (1) Ker LT 644 that after consulting the leaders of the Christian community, the Central Government had prepared another Bill called Christian Marriage Bill, 1994 but it is not clear why this has not been enacted by Parliament so far. The following extracts from the counter-affidavit are relevant:

"In view of the fact that owing to the strong opposition from certain segments of the Christian community, the earlier action of the Government of India for bringing in a comprehensive legislation relating to marriage and matrimonial causes of the Christian community could not be got enacted. Now we have, through the efforts of the Joint Women's Programme, a voluntary women's organisation, received comprehensive proposals in the form of draft Bills for changes in the personal laws of the Christian community from the Christian churches.

These Bills include the draft Christian Marriage Bill, 1994 which seeks to consolidate, amend and codify the law relating to marriage and matrimonial causes of persons professing the Christian religion and to repeal the Indian Divorce Act, 1869 and Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 among other things. The grounds for divorce proposed in the aforesaid Bill are more liberal in nature in tune with the changed social-economic conditions of the community and the prevailing law relating to marriage and divorce available under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.

The grounds for divorce include desertion of the petitioner by the other spouse for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition. It has been stated that the Bill has the support of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) and 27 Member Churches of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and some other independent churches. Since the Christian churches have now come forward with the necessary legislative proposal, the Government are actively considering the same with a view to bringing in necessary legislation as early as possible. The proposals are being studied and examined."

1. 15th Report of the Law Commission of India on Law Relating to Marriage and Divorce Amongst Christians in India with Christian Marriage and Matrimonial Causes Bill, 1960, appended.

2. 22nd Report of the Law Commission of India on Christian Marriage and Matrimonial Causes Bill, 1961.



Indian Divorce Act, 1869 Back




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