Chennai: The Madras high court has said, “Customary divorce can never be approved nor recognized by law. The Hindu Marriage Act, which was enacted in the year 1955, recognized such customary divorce and now, after a lapse of 64 years, the practice of granting customary divorce can never be adopted nor be followed and the courts should not approve any such customary divorce granted by few men from the community or the relatives of the husband or wife”.
Justice S.M.Subramaniam gave the ruling while disposing of a petition from Bama (name changed), which sought a direction to the New India Assurance Company Limited to initiate departmental proceedings against her husband for violating the conduct rules.
According to petitioner, the marriage between her and her husband Pandian (name changed) was solemnized on June 9, 1976 at Madurai. Out of the wedlock, she had a girl. While so, her husband had developed an illegal intimacy with one Janaki (name changed), who was a married woman with a living spouse and three children.
Subsequently, he deserted her and her child. She came to understand that the name of Janaki was entered as the wife of her husband. Her litigations for various reliefs went in vain. Finally, she filed the present petition.
The officials of New India Assurance Company submitted that no enquiry was conducted with reference to the complaint given by Bama. However, they had accepted the judgment of the Family Court (Dismissing her petition against entering the name of Janaki as the wife in all his service records based on the customary divorce obtained by her husband) and permitted him to retire from service during the year 2015 and all his terminal and pensionary benefits were also settled. Now, he was receiving pension also, they added.
Holding that the customary divorce obtained by Pandian was null and void, the judge said the judgment of the family court cannot be accepted as a valid dissolution of marriage between the petitioner and her husband. The petitioner was at liberty to approach the competent court for the purpose of claiming maintenance from her husband, the judge added.
Deprecating the act of the officials of the New India Assurance Company in not taking any action on the complaint given by Bama for over 7 years, the judge directed the Regional and Branch (Madurai) Manager of New India Assurance Company to initiate all suitable actions against the officials/employees, who all were accountable and responsible for their negligence, lapse and dereliction of duty in the matter of dealing with the complaint and allowing Pandian to retire from service with all terminal and pensionary benefits.
The judge also directed the two officials to issue circular to all the branches to initiate action against all such complaints or information regarding bigamous marriage etc., and conduct enquiry and institute appropriate actions under the Discipline and Appeal Rules as well as to file criminal case before the competent authority. They were also directed to verify the genuinity or otherwise of the nominations given by the respective employees of the corporation before entering the same in their service records and pension records, the judge added.