Jews have own laws, can’t decide on their divorce pleas, says court
‘No Provision For Mutual Consent Too’
Mumbai: A Jewish couple’s petition for divorce by mutual consent was dismissed by the family court, Bandra, as “there is no such provision in the uncodified Jewish law governing matrimonial affairs”.
The court heard a petition by the couple, both Indian citizens who got married in accordance with Jewish customs in December 2012. In September 2013, the wife, a chartered accountant, was allegedly driven out of the matrimonial home. She moved the family court in August 2014 to seek a divorce under the uncodified Jewish law, citing cruelty and domestic violence. In her petition, she also mentioned the Domestic Violence Act, 2005, and the Family Court Act, 1984, with regards to the court’s jurisdiction in suits or proceedings that concern validity of a marriage or matrimonial status of a person.
The husband, a marketing professional, countered the woman’s allegation and said that he underwent physical stress and mental agony at her hands. After counselling sessions, both agreed to amicably settle the dispute and executed consent terms. However, in March 2018, the court directed both the parties to argue how the petition is maintainable for granting divorce by mutual consent under the Jewish law.
The wife’s advocate, Neelofar Akhtar, and the man’s advocate, Rani Rajwade, conceded before Judge S N Ruk-
These are laws that are not passed by Parliament, but are customs that are followed by a particular religion
They have been retained keeping in mind various beliefs, sentiments me that there is no codified law to grant such relief to Jews. But Akhtar pointed out that the family court had earlier allowed divorce by mutual consent for Jewish couples.
The judge, in his September 24, 2018, order, said that the Bombay HC has laid down that Jews are regulated by their personal law and there is no statute governing their matrimonial affairs. “In such circumstances, the parties have to show as to how the marriage can be dissolved by this court on the grounds of mutu- al consent,’’ the judge said.
The judge noted that the parties had relied on a letter by a synagogue in Thane which was given to the wife when she applied for a ‘get’—a divorce document in Jewish law. The secretary and trustee of the Sharr Hasgamaim (Gate of Heaven) synagogue stated in the letter that laws of India would prevail in this case and after a family court grants divorce, a religious divorce would be given. “It can be inferred that the parties, instead of following the law of the land, are relying on the advice of the secretary or trustee of a religious temple. The secretary or trustee or any other person cannot guide the court as to how a marriage has to be dissolved. The court is only guided by personal laws or the codified law,’’ the judge added.
The judge said that considering the factual aspects of this case and the rational laid down by the Supreme Court and even the Bombay High Court, “it is clear that no such remedy is available to the parties”. “It can be said that the petition and procedure followed by the parties is misconceived. The parties have failed to prove their case,’’ he concluded.