Judge-ing marriage and divorce: some questions

“Since you are not married, you won’t understand the nuances of a relationship…Please don’t use such cases for your personal gain”: Believe it or not, this was a ‘reprimand’ issued to a female advocate by a male Justice of the Bangalore High Court [See full report: Importance of married relationship – The New Indian Express].  

The Justice is reported to have added, for good measure, “Try to patch up the couple … By doing so you will get married to a good man soon.” He went on to say that marriage had a different meaning in India and that divorces do not happen in India as they do in the West. These observations raise many questions:

1)      If an unmarried advocate cannot argue a case on behalf of a married woman as the former is not adequately equipped to do so due to lack of the ‘experience’ of being married, can a male Judge – who may or may not understand what it means to be the female partner in a marriage – preside over a case that involves a woman seeking divorce?

2)      There is an allusion to marriage being representative of a civilisation’s ‘culture’. How far is it tenable to conflate a social practice with culture? Besides, Indian culture is a mosaic and not a monolith.

3)      Even if it were granted that marriage and divorce are more rites of religion in the Indian context, and hence of culture, monogamy and polygamy are both accepted by different sections of the dominant society, and tribal traditions have their own norms on entering and ending relationships. So, what did the learned judge have in mind when he said of divorce: “This can happen in the West, but don’t make India one among them?”

It would seem that the learned Justice is happily married, which is probably why he doesn’t understand that unhappy marriages are possible and can each be different in its own way!


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