The Case Analysis: Dr. Nirmal Singh Panesar v. Mrs. Paramjit Kaur Panesar@ Ajinder Kaur Panesar (2023), focuses on a ruling by the highest court which refused to grant the appellant a divorce

The Case Analysis: Dr. Nirmal Singh Panesar v. Mrs. Paramjit Kaur Panesar@ Ajinder Kaur Panesar (2023) focuses on a ruling by the highest court which refused to grant the appellant a divorce using Article 142, citing the reason of an irretrievably broken marriage. The court held that such a divorce would not be in the best interest of justice and would instead unfairly affect the respondent.

Case Title: Dr. Nirmal Singh Panesar v. Mrs. Paramjit Kaur Panesar@ Ajinder Kaur Panesar

Court: Supreme Court

Citation: Civil Appeal No. 2045 of 2011

Judges: A bench of Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Bela M Trivedi

Date of Judgment: October 10th, 2023

Factual Background of the Case

The root cause of this divorce petition is that Paramjit Kaur Panesar the wife, who is now-82-year-old, declined to accompany him to Chennai and shift there permanently when he was deployed there by the Indian Air Force in 1984 after which in 1996 the husband Nirmal first sought for divorce on the grounds of cruelty and desertion; the divorce was granted by a district court in 2000; however, Paramjit appealed the ruling and it was subsequently reversed.

In the present case, the individual being referred to as the respondent, namely Mrs. Paramjit Kaur Panesar, expressed her wish to provide care for her 89-year-old spouse, Dr. Panesar. Furthermore, she expressed her strong aversion to the word “divorcee". The couple have 3 children together. Considering the emotional state of the respondent, The High Court overturned the divorce decree issued by the District Court and rendered a verdict against the issuance of a divorce based on the premise of irreparable breakdown, asserting that such an action would not include a comprehensive dispensation of justice for the involved parties.

India’s top court turned down an 80-year-old man's 27th-year request for a divorce from his 60-year-old wife. In India, only one in one hundred marriages ends in divorce. This is mostly because families and society put pressure on unhappy couples to stay together. The court has to agree to the divorce, which doesn't happen very often unless there is proof of extreme abuse, violence, or financial demands.

Issue of the Case

"Is it mandatory to use the powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India to dissolve a marriage when it has irretrievably broken down, even if such a breakdown is not recognized as a ground for divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955?"

Law Involved in the Case

The Court explicitly elucidated that it had the authority, as per Article 142 of the Indian Constitution, to terminate a marriage unilaterally, irrespective of the dissenting stance of one of the spouses. The court unequivocally said that in accordance with Article 142 of the constitution, it had discretionary authority to judiciously and meticulously determine such issues.

However, it cautioned that care must be taken in doing so. The husband now is in his late 80s and the wife is in her early 80s. Respecting the wife's wishes, the divorce case was denied and rejected by the Supreme Court after considering the respondent’s contentions that she did not want a divorce because she wished to remain married and was very elderly.

Judgement of the Case

Consequently, the parties reached the Hon’ble Supreme Court which opined not to grant the divorce request, affirming the validity of the marriage between Dr. Nirmal Singh Panesar and Mrs. Paramjit Kaur Panesar. The court acknowledged the concept of a marriage experiencing irreparable deterioration while emphasising the need for careful evaluation and emphasizing that divorce on the grounds of “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” should be approached with great care and caution. The Court underscored the significance of marriage and its essential sacred role in Indian society. The court said that there had to be complete belief and happiness about how the marriage couldn't work, how it was emotionally stuck, and how it couldn't be fixed. It is important to be very sure that the marriage is over and can't be fixed.

The Court underscored the notion that divorce, as per Article 142 of the Indian Constitution, should only be granted in exceptional circumstances. The grounds of irretrievable breakdown of marriage” were also criticised for being too strict a formula. A debate on the dissolution of marriages, when they reach such a stage, has been triggered by the fact that the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 does not provide for divorce on the basis of "irretrievable breakdown of marriage" in India.

The case of Shilpa Shailesh v. Varun Sreenivasan serves as an illustrative instance of a recent ruling by a Constitution Bench which was referred to in the present case by the apex court that underscores the significance of using discretion under Article 142 with meticulousness and prudence in order to ensure the delivery of comprehensive and equitable justice. The Court asserted its jurisdiction to depart from conventional divorce protocols and statutes with the aim of attaining equitable outcomes for all parties involved. In the present scenario, the divorce ruling was overturned because of the wife's desire to sustain financial support for her husband and her refusal to adopt the label of a "divorced woman.”

This was clear in the Court's ruling, as marriage is seen as a holy and spiritual/ sacred bond in Indian society. The judgement said that marriage is more important than ever in the lives of Indian society, even though the number of divorces is going up. The Court said that marriage is subject to both law and social standards because so many other types of relationships are based on and rely on marriage and hence the sanctity of marriage and its importance should be held up instead of just breaking it up as a mere contract, it is a sacred union and hence should be protected up until where both the parties or either of the party is harmful to one another.

“The respondent (wife) is still ready and willing to take care of her husband and does not wish to leave him alone at this stage of life. She has also expressed her sentiments that she does not want to die with the stigma of being a 'divorcee' woman. In contemporary society, it may not constitute a stigma but here we are concerned with the respondent's own sentiment," the bench said in its order”

The judges acknowledged the wife's dedication to her marriage and her desire to care for her children despite her husband's anger. A divorce for the woman in this instance was deemed inappropriate by the court. The Court ruled that it would be unfair to the wife to break the marriage under Article 142 on the grounds that it had irretrievably broken down. When considering divorce, it's vital to keep in mind that every couple's circumstances and emotions are unique.

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