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Church courts cannot veto divorce law: Supreme Court (Relevant for GS Prelims and Mains Paper II)

Canon law and decrees of divorce given ‘Church Courts’ cannot veto the statutory law of divorce, the Supreme Court said.
The petition
Bench disposed of a writ petition filed in 2013 seeking a judicial declaration that divorce decrees passed by ecclesiastical tribunals ( Christian courts) are valid and binding.
The petition had challenged why courts prosecute Roman Catholics under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code for the alleged offence of bigamy without considering the Canon law. 

1996 verdict
The Supreme Court referred to its 1996 judgment in the case of Molly Joseph versus George Sebastian upholding the binding nature of the Indian Divorce Act of 1869, which governs divorce among Christians.
In Molly’s case, the court said the implication of the Canon law is confined to either theological or ecclesiastical, but has no legal impact on the divorce or annulment of marriage between two persons professing the Christian religion.

Triple talaq argument
In his petition, Pais, a former president of the Catholic Association of Dakshina Kannada in Karnataka, had argued that when courts can recognise dissolution by triple talaq under the Mohammedan personal law, they should also recognise the Canon law as the personal law of Indian Catholics.
The court is presently hearing a row of petitions, including a suo motu one, on the question whether practices of Islamic personal law like triple talaq and polygamy discriminate against Muslim women.

Canon law
Canon law is the body of laws and regulations made by ecclesiastical authority (Church leadership), for the government of a Christian organization or church and its members.

Marriage, dissolution according to Canon law
The Canon law enjoins that Catholics are required to marry in a Catholic church and equally enjoins that they seek nullity in the canonical court (ecclesiastical court/ tribunal) also under the Code of Canon Law. Otherwise, the marriage and the dissolution will not be recognised by the Catholic Church.
 



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