Rohith, a Mangalore-based businessman's happy marriage crumbled like a castle of cards. There was no adultery, no incompatibility and no homosexuality angle to this divorce. The only factor that dragged Rohith to a family court was the rat-race between his mother and wife to serve him a cup of tea first. The competition between two ladies left Rohith in the lurch and since he could not take a stand, his wife decided to take to the stand!
''There was a time when couples would stick together no matter what. Whether they got married themselves or were married off by their parents, it meant a life time together if not of togetherness. But not any longer. More couples than ever are approaching the judiciary for divorces. Karnataka Today’s R. Eswarraj explores why.''
Thousands of such divorces over trivial and serious issues have catapulted Karnataka to fourth place in the country in number of divorce cases.Yes, believe it or not, Karnataka stands fourth in India in terms of number of divorce cases. Statistics indicate that family courts in Karnataka witnessed as many as 16,690 couples parting ways in 2014, making the state stand at fourth, after Kerala, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, indicating that couples are more willing than ever to separate. The cases pending in Karnataka at the beginning of 2015 were 23,285.
The legal fraternity which has been witnessing a slow but steady increase in divorce cases say that it is mainly a complete breakdown of compatibility that leads to divorces in most cases. Adultery, impotency, homosexuality are some of the other prominent reasons for divorces. However, in most cases even trivial reasons blow up and become a factor for divorce.
Whether mooted by a woman or slammed on her, today’s women are surely not scared of separation. Whatever, the reasons are, the point to be noted here is that women no longer put up with nonsense and are reluctant to make adjustments for the sake of society. They either take the lead in divorce or when handed with divorce papers, they do not fear the consequences.
The 15 to 25-year-old trend of resolving disputes at home and the age-old culture of 'sulking and putting up with all nonsense' in a marriage is slowly fading away. Nowadays even petty arguments find their way to court, ultimately leading to separation. With the divorce cases shooting north, the burden has shifted to the judges and on an average, each judge hears about 25 cases per day. In God's own land Kerala, which rules the roost in the number of divorce cases in the country, Family courts settled over five divorces every hour in 2014.
Renowned advocate and women's rights activist Pramila Nesargi, who practices in Bengaluru, says that her office alone represents about 25 to 35 divorce cases per day.She says that the court is never in a hurry to pass off the case. “The cases are always well-heard, barring instances when the advocates or the clients themselves do not co-operate with the court,” said Nesargi adding that misunderstanding knows no age, even elderly couples fall apart owing to compatibility issues.Talking about changing times, Nesargi says that the society has reached a point where most people feel that marriage is obsolete and claims that Bengaluru Urban and rural contribute to thirty percent to Karnataka’s fourth position in the divorce statistics in India.
Why the divorce cases are on the rise? Many feel that it is due to the level of legal awareness brought about education and economic independence among women has contributed to this phenomenon.
However, while the financial independence and education can be logically applied to states like Kerala, Maharashtra and Karnataka, where employment and education rates of women are very high, a sense of uncertainly prevails in cases of divorce reported from Madhya Pradesh (Third) and Haryana (fifth) where education and employment rate of women is on the lower side. Divorce rates in these states raise the question of whether divorce is being forced down the throat of women!
However, many legal experts feel that legal awareness has created a sense of haste among parties to reach out to the court for divorce. What is startling is the fact that it is not just young men and women who walk into courts for a divorce. In a place like Dakshina Kannada, where the literacy rate is extremely high, a woman counsel says that people who have reached the legal age for senior citizen benefits, viz. sixty, too file for divorce and the factors at play behind this may be very diverse. Many take a contrary view and attribute motives to the advocates. They say that financial gains for the advocates too may have fuelled the rise in number of divorce cases.
According to some women aspiring to divorce their spouses, advocates have blatantly asked for a percentage of the alimony, leaving one to wonder if the advocates too are in a hurry to churn out some extra 'moolah' from gullible clients. So far, the practice was to fight the case for a fee. But, now the advocates seem to have grown a notch greedier by claiming a stake in a distressed spouse’s alimony as well.
Counselling, a must!
Whether the upward divorce trend line is a positive trend or not is debatable, but the family courts have to focus on is improving the counselling support because that surely makes a difference in the lives of disturbed couples, feels Symbiosis Law School Dean Dr Shashikala Shetty Gurupur, who is also a women’s rights activist. .She feels that the Judiciary must ensure that comprehensive violence in human relationships, which emerge as normal most of the times, must be eliminated in all its forms.
While a section of advocates too show impatience in filing a case, there are good number of advocates who do what needs to be done. These are the advocates who sit and listen to their clients and then decide the next course of action. This is the section of advocates that knows the power of counselling. “I have counselled all my clients who have approached me for separation so far. This is a practice I follow, before accepting to file the cases. Lack of proper reasoning and ego worsens the matter as both fail to forgive each other. However, counselling plays a vital role, where you can actually convince the couple to give it some time. I have seen over 50 couples re-thinking on their separation decision and later living together harmoniously,” says Advocate Sumana from Mangaluru, who adds that advocates must never rush into filing cases.
Chitra, another Bengaluru-based advocate feels that when couples with differences come to an advocate, it is the advocate’s duty to counsel them. “I have laid a lot of emphasis on counselling during my legal career and I have seen the result of the same. Most couples who walk in as enemies, have miraculously agreed to bury the hatchet and continue to lead a normal life,” says Chitra adding that the legal fraternity handling divorce cases has to make counselling an important and mandatory part of handling the case. “Surprisingly, most of the couples who have agreed to part ways appear for counselling without fail. A few of them, who have a motive do not turn up,” she says.
In the Bengaluru Mediation Centre alone, between 2007 and 2015, 27,611 cases related to marital disputes were handled, out of which 20,307 have been settled. There were 114 reunions in 2015. This year, from January to June 18, 104 reunions were effected through mediation.
Marriages are made in heaven, but painful separations are made in court rooms. While youngsters consider high divorce rates a positive trend, it reflects the deteriorating human bonds, increasing distrust among individuals and crumbling social institutions.