Today 89-year-old Nirmal Singh Panesar married his wife Paramjit Kaur Panesar in 1963 and they have two daughters and a son together. Nirmal worked in the army all his life and now 82-year-old Paramjit was a teacher.
But in 1984, Nirmal was transferred to then Madras, now Chennai, which his wife did not like at all, so instead of leaving with him, she stayed with her parents and later lived with her son. The couple have been living separately for almost forty years.
In 1996, Nirmal came to believe that the marriage was completely dysfunctional and filed for divorce in the district court. A positive statement came to him after four years, but the divorce was overturned by an appeal from Paramjit, who claimed that she was trying her best to save their marriage.
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Since then, Nirmal tried his best to get the marriage annulled, and his case finally reached the Supreme Court after many years. He argued, among other things, that his marriage “cannot be saved”.
Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi agreed with him on this point, but still dismissed the divorce in mid-October. According to them, the fact that the marriage is “unsalvageable” is not sufficient for divorce.
The stigma of the divorced woman
“In our opinion, it should not be forgotten that the institution of marriage occupies an important place in society and plays a significant role,” Indian website Wion quoted the court’s decision as saying. “Therefore, it would not be desirable to accept an irretrievable breakdown in marriage as an unqualified ground for divorce,” the judges explained their decision.
The fact that the wife claimed in court that she was able to take care of her husband even in his old age also contributed to it. In addition, the judge also pleaded that the request for divorce should not be granted because she did not want to die with the “stigma” of a divorced woman.
In India, the institution of marriage is almost literally sacred, and divorce is almost an absolute taboo. So often, under the pressure of society and their own families, people live in marriages that are not happy, and this dogmatic approach is recognized almost without exception by the courts there.
Divorce is theoretically possible in this country, but there are very few cases where the courts actually dissolve a marriage. According to some sources in India, only about one percent of applications are successful.
In order for Indian courts to actually annul a marriage, it usually has to be proven beyond reasonable doubt that there was violent or very cruel behavior between the spouses. The fact that a man and a woman have not lived together for almost forty years is apparently not enough even for the Supreme Court of India.