Supreme Court Allows Dissolution of Marriage on Irretrievable Grounds, Waives Waiting Period


Supreme Court Allows Dissolution of Marriage on Irretrievable Grounds

In a significant ruling, the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court held that a marriage can be dissolved on the ground of irretrievable breakdown, thereby dispensing with the waiting period as mandated by the marital laws. The decision was made on Monday by a five-judge bench of the court.

Article 143 of the Constitution gives the Supreme Court special powers to decide on any constitutional question of public importance. The bench invoked this provision to rule that the waiting period of six months, which is mandatory for divorce through mutual consent, can be waived under certain conditions.

Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage

The concept of irretrievable breakdown of marriage has been recognized in several countries as a ground for granting a divorce. It means that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and cannot be restored, and therefore, it is better to end it rather than continue with it. In India, this ground was not recognized until now.

The bench held that irretrievable breakdown of marriage can be a valid ground for dissolution of marriage. The court further stated that it is not necessary to establish the cause of the breakdown of marriage or to prove that it is not possible to reconcile the differences between the parties.

Conditions for Dispensing with Waiting Period

The court, however, made it clear that the waiting period can be waived only if both parties have been living separately for a period of at least 18 months prior to filing the petition for divorce. The court also stated that the waiver of the waiting period will be subject to the parties agreeing to a settlement of all issues, including maintenance, custody of children, and property rights.

Significance of the Ruling

The ruling is significant as it recognizes the reality of the breakdown of marriages and gives the parties an opportunity to end their marriage without having to go through a lengthy and painful legal process. It is also a step towards gender justice, as it will empower women who are trapped in abusive or unhappy marriages to seek a divorce without having to wait for a long time.


The Supreme Court’s decision to allow dissolution of marriage on the ground of irretrievable breakdown is a progressive step towards recognizing the changing social realities and the need to provide a legal framework to address them. It is a step towards ensuring gender justice and empowering women who are trapped in unhappy marriages.


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