The Supreme Court has been wrangling with a lot of personal laws lately. Recently, there was this whole argument regarding triple talaq in front of the SC. It was certainly a controversial move wherein the Supreme Court had decided to move in and end the gender inequality raised by the petition to end triple talaqs in the Muslim community. To which the  All India Muslim Personal Law Board replied saying that Personal Laws can't be challenged as that would be a violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

 

Clarence Pais, an advocate and a former president of the Catholic Association of Dakshina Kannada in Karnataka had previously cited the the SC intervention in the Muslim Personal Law. He said that if oral Triple Talaq can be considered legal and under the ambit of the Islamic Personal Law, then the divorces granted by the Catholic church or ecclesiastical courts should be considered as a valid and legal annulment.

 

 

However, the SC ruled that divorce decrees passed by ecclesiastical tribunals under the canon law will have no validity and that Christian couples must abide by the statutory law to have their marriages legally annulled. Anyone who gets remarried on the basis of a divorce granted by the church will be considered a bigamist and it is a punishable offence. Even the Centre, had opposed the plea saying Canon law could not be allowed to override Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and Divorce Act, 1869.  "Since the power for dissolution of marriage has been vested in the court, there is no scope for any other authority including ecclesiastical tribunal to exercise power," it had said.

 

Also read: SC to expedite hearing on plea to examine Christian Canon law

 

A little 101 on Canon law and marriages: Canon law defines marriage as a “covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring”. Whereas, marriage in the civil sense is a “contract”. Entering a contract is technically an administrative act.

 

 

The order shouldn’t be new to the Christian community as currently the Church courts also ask for a civil divorce first in the divorce proceedings of the couple. Only after this will the case be taken up by the church courts and in fact, in annulments granted by the church, it is categorically stated that it is not a valid civil document of divorce.

 

In the case of Catholics, the divorce granted by church courts becomes mandatory when either of the couple wants a remarriage according to the laws of canon. However, despite getting a civil divorce, the couple would still be considered married until an annulment was granted officially by the church. In fact, the civil marriage has to be ended with divorce by the civil authorities before the Church will even begin considering if the sacramental nature of the marriage is null.

 

The move is being welcomed by the Christian community because then it grants them a closure on such procedures. Surprisingly, this law regarding overriding Christian personal canon did not face much opposition.