The Case of Shilpa Sailesh v Varun Sreenivasan (2023)

July 10, 2024

An important turning point in the history of Indian family law was the case of shilpa sailesh v varun sreenivasan, which signaled a change in the court’s perspective on marital problems and divorce.

The case began with a highly contentious marriage issue between Shilpa Sailesh and Varun Sreenivasan, who were both involved in a drawn-out court struggle to dissolve their union. Examining the breadth and limits of its authority under article 142(1) of the indian constitution, particularly with regard to divorce procedures under the hindu marriage act, was the assignment assigned to the Supreme Court.

shilpa sailesh v varun Sreenivasan Case Facts

  • The parties, Mrs. Shilpa and Mr. Varun, claimed that their marriage had irretrievably broken down when they filed to the Hon’ble Supreme Court in 2014 to seek a divorce by mutual consent under Section 13B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
  • The Supreme Court used its authority under Article 142 of the Constitution to give the divorce in 2015, citing the union’s irretrievable disintegration as the reason it was a dead marriage.
  • Thousands of these cases have been pending in various Family Courts and High Courts, the Supreme Court said while ruling on this matter. As a result, it was thought necessary to establish some rules as well as the extent of the Supreme Court’s authority under Article 142 of the Constitution.
  • The matter was referred to a two-judge Supreme Court bench, and amicus curae was constituted to provide a decision. For further review, the case was once more sent to the Supreme Court’s broader bench.
  • A bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul heard the case on September 20, 2022, and on May 1, 2023, the bench issued a historic ruling that defined the Supreme Court’s authority under Article 142 and addressed other pertinent issues raised by the parties.

shilpa sailesh v varun Sreenivasan Issues

  • What is the breadth and depth of the Supreme Court’s authority to rule on a case under Article 142 of the Constitution, and may the court waive or shorten the six-month cooling-off period that is outlined in section 13b (2) of the hindu marriage act?
  • Does the Supreme Court have the authority to handle this under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution, even though the hindu marriage act does not expressly accept “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” as a basis for divorce?
  • Is it possible for the Supreme Court to grant a divorce in accordance with article 142(1) of the indian constitution in cases where the marriage has completely and irrevocably broken down, even if the other spouse is against the prayer?

shilpa sailesh v varun Sreenivasan Judgment

It was decided that the court could decide cases under Article 142 of the Constitution in order to provide complete justice. In addition, the court can waive or shorten the six-month cooling-off period outlined in section 13(b) of the hindu marriage act if it determines that the marriage is beyond saving, emotionally dead, and unworkable. As for the remaining matters, the court decided that, under article 142(1) of the indian constitution, a marriage may be dissolved on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown in cases when there is no chance of reconciliation or cohabitation. As a result, this authority must be used extremely carefully and cautiously. It was decided that in order to waive the cooling-off period, the court would take the following into account:

  • For what duration have the parties been married?
  • How long has the lawsuit been pending?
  • For what duration have they been living apart?
  • Do the parties currently have any open legal proceedings?
  • Have the parties taken part in mediation or conciliation?
  • Have the parties really reached an agreement that addresses child custody, alimony, and any other outstanding matters between them?

Therefore, the waiver must be granted only once the court is certain beyond a reasonable doubt that the marriage is irreparably broken. The bench further decided that the six-month waiting time required for divorce by mutual consent may be waived in certain circumstances, depending on the particulars of each case. This implies that, as long as the aforementioned requirements are met, couples who want to file for divorce amicably can do so without having to wait the required waiting period.

The ruling, which takes a progressive approach to marital problems, is a turning point in Indian family law. The court highlights striking a balance between just outcomes and familial difficulties by utilizing Article 142(1) and relevant legislative laws. In family law, the emphasis on safeguarding the most vulnerable people emphasizes justice, equality, and human dignity.

The court’s consideration for the psychological effects of a failed marriage shows that it values the parties’ autonomy and well-being. The main points of contention are the possible abuse of discretionary powers and the recognition of irretrievable breakdown as grounds for divorce, which raises questions about making snap choices without giving reconciliation more thought.

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