New Delhi: The Supreme Court has rejected an 89-year-old man’s plea for a divorce from his wife of six decades, highlighting the enduring taboo surrounding divorce in India. Only 1 in 100 marriages in the country result in divorce due to societal pressure to maintain unhappy unions.
In India, divorce requires court approval, typically granted only when evidence of cruelty, violence, or undue financial demands is presented. Nirmal Singh Panesar, who married in 1963, claimed their relationship broke down in 1984 when his wife, Paramjit Kaur Panesar, refused to move with him to Chennai, where he was posted by the Indian Air Force.
Nirmal initially filed for divorce in 1996 on grounds of cruelty and desertion, obtaining approval from a district court in 2000, which was later overturned after Paramjit’s appeal. It took two more decades for the case to reach the Supreme Court, which, despite acknowledging the marriage’s irreparable state, denied the divorce request.
The court emphasized the sacred nature of marriage in Indian society and stated that granting divorce would be an “injustice” to Paramjit, who expressed her desire not to carry the stigma of divorce and her willingness to care for her husband in his old age.
The couple, who have three children together, reflects the chronic backlog in India’s legal system, where millions of cases remain pending due to slow processes and limited resources. Last year, approximately 43.2 million cases were awaiting resolution in the country’s courts.