Thomas v. Union of India

Ms. Saumya Ann and Mr. Thomas, who were Christians by faith, had applied for a decree of divorce by mutual consent under Section 10A of the Divorce Act. The lower court rejected the application because the Divorce Act requires that the filing couple shall have lived in separate residences for a minimum period of two years, but Ms. And Mr. Thomas had been living apart for only one year. On appeal, the couple argued that the law was a violation of their right to life and liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. They also argued that such law was discriminatory and in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution because Hindus and Parsis were entitled to divorce by mutual consent after living apart for only a year. The Government argued that the law in question pertained to Christians and was their personal religious law, granting it complete insulation from any form of interference by courts. The Kerala High Court rejected the government’s contention. The Court held that the couple was entitled to seek a decree of divorce by mutual consent, that the requirement of two years violated the right to seek a divorce as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, and that the constitutional right to equality includes the right to divorce as persons from other religions are. Instead of declaring the law unconstitutional, the Kerala High Court read down the two-year requirement to one year, like the laws applicable to Hindu and Parsi divorces. This case is significant because it demonstrates that customs and laws, even if religious in nature, can be invalidated if they violate the fundamentals rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.



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