Parsi woman, Naomi Sam Irani moved the Supreme Court questioning the validity of many provisions of Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act (PMDA), stating that the procedure under the 1938 Personal Law was “exasperatingly cumbersome, involving a system akin to jury decision, and granted no access to mediation and settlement.” She has alleged that these long drawn and outdated procedures agonised estranged couples of the Parsi community who wish to get divorced. Last year, Naomi had moved the Parsi matrimonial suit before the Bombay High Court, seeking dissolution of an 11-year-old marriage, from which the couple has a 10-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter.
Keeping aside the reasons for filing the divorce suit, Irani, through counsel Neela Gokhale, highlighted that the Parsi Matrimonial court sits only twice a year. She said though it was close to one and a half years since she had moved the HC for divorce, till date there had been no appointment of delegates as contemplated under the PMDA to participate in the pending matrimonial proceedings, depriving the petitioner of speedy disposal of her case.
Section 18 of PMDA provides for constitution of special courts in Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai where the chief justice of the HC concerned would have jurisdiction to appoint a judge who would be aided by five delegates, which together would decide alimony, maintenance as well as custody and maintenance of children and their education. As per reports in the mainline media, Irani has said, “The jury delegates adjudicate a divorce petition based on their personal notion of societal norms, morality and ethics, which may not be in sync with the principles of natural justice and the ethos and dynamics of society,” seeking replacement of this system with the procedure provided under family courts, which attempts to provide speedy settlement through reconciliation.
She added that PMDA demands that the divorce suit be filed before Parsi matrimonial courts, which inconveniences estranged couples who work away from the metropolitan cities, and that is also against the SC’s stand of having matrimonial disputes filed at the Family Court nearest to the woman’s residence. She added, “The fundamental right to life and liberty, which includes the right to speedy justice, is being denied to a particular community..”