This article on ‘Inability to Bear Child Not a Ground for Divorce: Patna HC’ was written by Priyanka Jaipuria, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
Women are still considered largely as reproducers, despite being independent and often earning more than their husbands. Their role as homemakers is acknowledged, but it is often seen as their moral obligation.
Marriage strengthens some legal obligations and privileges for both parties. A frequent misconception is that divorce is the outcome of a failed marriage. The foundation of a marriage crumbles for unknown reasons, resulting in divorce. To be successful in your divorce case, you must request legal separation for legitimate reasons and under compelling conditions.
While stressing the key provisions of Section-13 of the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA), the High Court of Patna declared in a recent case (Sonu Kumar v. Rina Devi) in July 2023 that a wife’s inability to bear children is neither impotence nor a reason for divorce under the HMA. By rejecting divorce on these grounds, the court went on to emphasize that couples can seek adoption or other child-bearing options and that infertility is a normal part of marital life.
FACTS OF THE CASE
- Observation made to the Court: The respondent-wife is neither ready to cohabit nor is there any chance of her becoming a mother. The petitioner-husband is a youthful guy, 24 years old and in a healthy state, who requires cohabitation and has the yearning to grow into a father.
- It was asserted that the plaintiff and the respondent’s marriage took place in 2015.
- The husband made a number of accusations against the wife, including:
- The petitioner claimed that during her quick visit to their marital residence, his wife behaved improperly with his parents and other close relatives.
- In addition, the petitioner stated that his wife declined to cohabit and complete the marriage, claiming that she just wanted to “break her virginity” rather than have a family.
- In addition, the petitioner alleged that, in spite of protests from family members, his wife held secret meetings with residents of her community.
- The husband said that despite his repeated efforts to get his wife to return to their marital residence, she constantly resisted.
- Despite all else, he brought his wife to a doctor in Muzaffarpur when she told him of her illness and requested monetary support for medication. He learned that she had a cyst in her uterus and that her body’s normal egg-formation cycle was also compromised. She was less inclined to become a mother in the years to come because of her current health condition.
- The husband had petitioned the family court for the breakdown of the marriage on charges of cruelty. The respondent never showed up in court in spite of receiving notice, thus she was adjudicated ex-parte (which indicates that the judge can hear the matter without the involvement of the other side and render a judgment in court).
- However, the court struck out the husband’s claim since he was unable to support his claims of his wife’s cruelty.
- Later, feeling aggrieved by the decision of the Family Court, the husband filed a petition in the High Court of Patna.
- Whether divorce can be taken on the ground of infertility; or
- Whether a court can grant a divorce on the ground of desertion within two years of marriage?
Section-13 of the HMA deals with grounds for divorce.
Section-9 of the HMA deals with the provision for restitution of conjugal rights.
Section-13(1)(b) of the HMA deals with the provision for desertion.
Infertility is not a valid reason for divorce pursuant to the Hindu Marriage Act, according to a bench of Justices Jitendra Kumar and P. B. Bajanthri.
Refutation of Desertion: The Court took note of the contentions and observed that the application for divorce was submitted within two years of the marriage. Out of which, the couple had only been cohabitating for two months. In accordance with Section-13(1)(b) of the law, which mandates persistent desertion for a minimum of two years, the Court found that the foundation for desertion was not proven.
Contracting any Disease after Marriage: The husband was keen on divorcing her and getting remarried to another woman so he could have children. It was also mentioned that the wife had a cyst in her uterus and couldn’t have a kid. The court ruled that neither spouse has any control over contracting a sickness while the marriage is still active.
The Petitioner made no attempts to get RCR: The Court further observed that the husband’s allegation of refusing to cohabit was unsupported by the fact that he had not filed any legal motion for the restoration of conjugal rights according to Section-9 of the HMA.
Absence of Hard Evidence: Last but not least, the Court discovered no specific instances of behaviour that constituted cruelty, with the exception of the wife’s alleged reluctance to cohabitate with the husband.
The Court stated, “Inability to bear child is neither impotence nor any ground for dissolving the marriage. Such a possibility of inability to bear child may be part of the marital life of anyone, and parties to a marriage may resort to other means of having a child, such as adoption. Divorce is not provided as per the Hindu Marriage Act in such circumstances”.
As a result, the Court denied the man’s request for review of the family court’s judgement to deny his divorce petition submitted in accordance with Section-13 of the statute.
Divorce is the most challenging experience a person can go through and has a big negative impact on family life. Marriage isn’t about bearing kids, as the judge in the current instance correctly noted. Only a couple may decide to get pregnant. Marriage is about a lot more than just producing kids. Again, as the court noted, the woman’s physical state is not in her control, so she is not at all to blame for being incapable of conceiving. Being a husband, he has a duty to support and encourage his wife through any difficult times.
Other alternatives for having children include adoption, surrogacy, and others. Only the wife’s inability to bear children can be used to justify divorce. It’s reassuring to see the court make such a thoughtful and impartial decision that affirms the public’s faith in the legal system. Marriage is based on shared responsibility between men and women, and if they do not understand these obligations, then small problems like these will cause divorce in our culture.
- Hitesh Sharma and Dr. Tara Singhal, “Legal Rights of Girls in Wedding”, 9(1), Cosmos- An International Journal of Art & Higher Education (2020).
- Bhavya Singh, “Inability to Bear a Child is Part of Marital Life, not a Ground for Dissolving Marriage: Patna High Court”, Live Law, 25 July 2023, available at: https://www.livelaw.in/high-court/patna-high-court/patna-high-court-infertility-divorce-ground-section-13-hindu-marriage-act-233621?infinitescroll=1 (Last visited on August 3, 2023).
- Kalyani Ganesan,“Inability to Bear Child not Grounds for Divorce: Patna HC”, She The People, 27 July 2023, available at: https://www.shethepeople.tv/news/patna-hc-on-divorce-over-infertility (Last visited on August 3, 2023).
- Simranjeet, “Inability to Bear a Child is neither Impotence nor a Ground for Dissolving Marriage: Patna High Court”, SCC Online Blog, 27 July 2023, available at: https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2023/07/27/inability-to-bear-child-is-neither-impotence-nor-a-ground-for-dissolving-marriage-patna-hc/#:~:text=The%20Court%20observed%20that%20the,a%20child%2C%20such%20as%20adoption (Last visited on August 3, 2023).