Shilpa Sailesh v/s Varun Sreenivasan


Judgment That Padded SC’s Divorce Granting Power Under Article 142


The Shilpa Sailesh v. Varun Sreenivasan case marks a significant milestone in the jurisprudence of divorce by mutual consent under the Hindu Marriage Act. The Supreme Court, through this pronouncement, clarified and organized the parameters of its power under Article 142(1) of the Indian Constitution. Key highlights include the Court’s unlimited jurisdiction to ensure ‘complete justice,’ the authority to waive the 6-month statutory waiting period, the power to quash related proceedings for the interest of justice, and the discretion to grant divorce even in the face of opposition. This decision provides a cohesive framework for the adjudication of mutual consent divorce cases, emphasizing the Court’s commitment to efficient resolution and amicable settlements in matrimonial disputes.


Section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act provides a provision for divorce through mutual consent, stipulating a mandatory waiting period of 6 months before the second motion can be initiated in court. The question of whether the Supreme Court, under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution, holds the authority to waive this statutory waiting period has been a subject of debate since 2014.

The legal dispute arose when Shilpa Sailesh and Varun Sreenivasan approached the Hon’ble Supreme Court seeking a divorce by mutual consent, with a request for the waiver of the 6-month waiting period, citing an irrevocable breakdown of their marriage.

In their plea, the parties urged the court to exercise its powers under Article 142 to ensure ‘complete justice’ in their case. On May 1, 2023, the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justices S.K. Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, Abhay S. Oka, Vikram Nath, and J.K. Maheshwari, issued guidelines in response to the legal complexities presented in the Shilpa Sailesh v. Varun Sreenivasan case.

This landmark case addressed three pivotal issues that required the court’s decisive intervention, as elaborated in the following blog post. The pronouncement of the Supreme Court in this matter is expected to serve as a precedent, guiding future cases brought under Article 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, before the apex court.

Facts of the case:

 In the year 2014, Mrs. Shilpa and Mr. Varun sought divorce by mutual consent under Section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, asserting that their marriage had irretrievably broken down. Their plea reached the Hon’ble Supreme Court, which, in 2015, exercised its authority under Article 142 of the Constitution to grant the divorce, citing the marriage as a ‘dead marriage’ due to irretrievable breakdown.

During the course of adjudicating this case, the Supreme Court took note of the multitude of similar cases pending before various Family Courts and High Courts. Recognizing the need for comprehensive guidelines and a delineation of the scope of the Supreme Court’s powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, the court decided to address these issues. The case was initially referred to a two-judge bench, and amicus curiae were appointed to deliberate on the matter. Subsequently, the case was elevated to a larger bench of the Supreme Court for more thorough consideration.

On the 20th of September 2022, a bench presided over by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul heard the case, and on the 1st of May 2023, the bench issued a landmark judgment. This judgment not only defined the scope of the Supreme Court’s powers under Article 142 but also clarified various points of contention surrounding the issue, providing crucial guidance for future cases with similar concerns.

Legal Issues Presented:

The Hon’ble Supreme Court was confronted with three significant issues for deliberation and resolution in the case at hand:

  1. Scope of Power under Article 142(1): The primary query addressed the scope and extent of the power and jurisdiction vested in the Hon’ble Supreme Court under Article 142(1) of the Constitution of India. The court was tasked with defining the parameters and limitations of this constitutional provision.
  2. Waiver of 6-Month Statutory Period: A pivotal issue involved the exercise of the Supreme Court’s inherent power under Article 142(1) to potentially waive the mandatory 6-month statutory waiting period prescribed by Section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Additionally, the court needed to determine whether it could quash proceedings under various statutes such as CrPC, IPC, Domestic Violence Act, etc., and under what circumstances such authority could be exercised.
  3. Divorce Against Opposition: The third issue grappled with the scenario where one of the parties contested the divorce petition. Specifically, the court was called upon to assess whether, under the powers vested in it by Article 142(1), it could grant divorce based on the grounds of irrevocable breakdown of marriage when faced with opposition from one of the parties.

  The Scope and Ambit of Supreme Court’s Power Under Article 142:

The initial issue brought before the Hon’ble Supreme Court revolved around the interpretation of Article 142(1) and the jurisdiction it confers upon the Court. In examining this, the Court drew inspiration from the case of M Siddiqui v. Mahant Suresh Das, expanding the phrase ‘as is necessary for doing complete justice’ to encompass equitable powers. This inclusiveness allows the Court to address situations where strict adherence to procedural law might not yield a just outcome or when the positive law is silent or leaves voids.

Furthermore, the Court’s power under Article 142(1) extends to modifying or altering propositions where positive law is explicit, provided such alterations serve the interests of justice. Therefore, the guiding principle is to achieve ‘complete justice.’

Citing Union Carbide Corporation v. Union of India, the Court distinguished its powers under Article 142 from those of Civil Courts and High Courts, asserting that the Supreme Court’s authority surpasses that of Section 151 of CPC and Section 482 of CrPC. Unlike these provisions, the Court’s power is not bound by procedural rules and can intervene where established provisions exist, provided it is convinced that such deviation is necessary for ‘complete justice,’ albeit subject to considerations of ‘general and specific public policy.’

Referring to Supreme Court Bar Association v. Union of India, the Court emphasized that orders under Article 142(1) are meant to ‘balance the equities’ and smooth out irregularities in the cause of matters presented before it. This grants the Court unrestricted jurisdiction over a broad spectrum of proceedings, covering civil, criminal, and interlocutory matters, subject only to the constraint of not violating specific and general provisions of public policy.

In summary, the powers conferred by Article 142(1) are sufficiently broad, allowing the Supreme Court discretion to act in the interest of justice, surpassing the jurisdiction of Civil Courts and high courts under the pertinent provision of cpc and crpc.

Supreme Court’s Power Regarding Waiver of Statutory Provision and Quashing of Related Proceedings:

The subsequent issue addressed the Supreme Court’s authority, under Article 142(1), to set aside the mandatory 6-month waiting period stipulated in Section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and the power to quash related divorce proceedings and settlements. The Court was also tasked with determining the circumstances under which it could exercise these powers.

Regarding the 6-month cooling-off period, designed to prevent hasty and impulsive dissolutions of marriage, the Court reaffirmed the discretionary nature of this period. It endorsed the guidelines established in the Amardeep Singh v. Harveen Kaur case, affirming that the cooling-off period could be waived if reconciliation was improbable, the parties had lived separately for a considerable duration, and all attempts to salvage the marriage had failed.

The Court outlined specific conditions under which it might consider waiving the waiting period:

Completion of the required period before the first motion.

Futility of efforts in mediation or conciliation, and reconciliation prospects being bleak.

Settlement of issues like alimony and child custody.

Prolonged waiting periods causing unnecessary agony.

The discretion to waive the waiting period rested with the Court, based on a careful analysis of these conditions. If deemed appropriate, the waiver could be granted, allowing parties to submit an application one week after the initial motion. In cases where the marriage proved irretrievably broken, emotionally dead, and beyond repair, the Court asserted that prolonging the waiting period by an additional six months served no purpose.

In essence, the Court’s ruling clarified that under specific circumstances and its discretionary powers, it could expedite divorce proceedings in situations where further delay would be unjustifiable.

Supreme Court’s Authority to Quash Related Proceedings:

Addressing the question of whether the Supreme Court can quash proceedings related to the case at hand, the Court asserted that the powers vested under Article 136 and Article 142(1) empower it to issue decrees executable nationwide. Recognizing that litigants often initiate legal proceedings in various forums before reaching the Supreme Court, the Court acknowledged the closure and disposal of multiple cases, making the process cumbersome and adding to legal formalities.

In consideration of the cause of justice, the Court highlighted that the multiplicity of litigations obstructs the path to settlement, hindering parties from moving forward with their lives, either separately or together. To uphold the cause of justice, the Supreme Court, therefore, holds the responsibility to ensure timely and amicable resolution of matrimonial disputes, preventing undue delays that exacerbate the suffering of the parties. As a result, the Court is empowered to quash other proceedings related to divorce that are pending in various courts and judicial forums.

Supreme Court’s Power to Grant Divorce with Consent of One Spouse:

The third issue brought before the Hon’ble Supreme Court centered on whether, under the powers vested by Article 142(1), the Court could grant a divorce even when one spouse opposes the prayer, based on the complete breakdown of the marriage.

In this context, the Court clarified that it is not bound by the provisions of Section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA), which allows for a decree of divorce by mutual consent on a joint application. The Court emphasized its authority to grant a decree of divorce if the conditions specified in Section 13-B are fulfilled and it is convinced that such a decree is warranted.

The Court referenced the Ashok Hurra v. Rupa Bipin Zaveri case, which emphasized that if postponing the agony of the parties or their marriage serves no useful purpose—both emotionally and practically—the proceedings should be halted. In this vein, the Court, invoking its powers under Article 142(1), can grant a decree of divorce, recognizing the imperative to alleviate the suffering and promote a just resolution.

Analysis of the Judgment:

The Shilpa Sailesh v. Varun Sreenivasan judgment by the Hon’ble Supreme Court significantly clarifies the scope and application of Article 142(1) of the Constitution. While the judgment brings clarity, there are some aspects that warrant critical examination.

Positive Aspects:

  1. Clearing Ambiguity on Article 142(1): The judgment provides much-needed clarity on the scope and ambit of the Supreme Court’s power under Article 142(1). By referencing previous judgments and emphasizing the court’s authority to depart from procedural and substantive laws in the pursuit of complete justice, the ruling sets a foundation for future interpretations.
  2. Restricting Direct Approaches: The judgment reinforces the principle that parties should not directly approach the Supreme Court under Article 32 for dissolution of marriage, preventing circumvention of established legal procedures. This upholds the hierarchical structure of judicial forums and prevents the Supreme Court from being inundated with multifarious litigations.
  3. Discretionary Power for Irretrievable Breakdown: The Court’s acknowledgment of its discretionary power to dissolve marriages based on the irretrievable breakdown, even in the absence of mutual consent, offers a pragmatic approach to addressing complex and unworkable marital situations. This discretion aligns with the principle of doing ‘complete justice’ and recognizes the evolving dynamics of matrimonial disputes.
  4. Consideration of Multiplicity of Litigations: The judgment takes into account the practical implications of multiplicity of litigations and highlights the need for a holistic and comprehensive settlement. The recognition of the court’s authority to quash other proceedings serves the objective of preventing legal complexities and promoting effective resolution.

Potential Concerns:

  1. Expansive Interpretation of Cause of Matter: The judgment’s expansive interpretation of cause of matter’ might open the door to an increased number of cases being categorized under this umbrella. This could potentially burden the Supreme Court with more appeals, challenging its efficiency and capacity.
  2. Quashing Other Proceedings: While the power to quash other proceedings is highlighted as a positive aspect, there is a concern that the Supreme Court, in doing so, might lack the detailed insight provided by separate proceedings in lower courts. Quashing proceedings without a comprehensive examination might lead to oversights in critical aspects such as settlement, child custody, and alimony.
  3. Diminishing Importance of Fault Theory and Statutory Provisions: The judgment’s apparent disregard for the Fault Theory of Divorce and the statutory provisions of Section 13B of HMA, 1955 might be perceived as sidelining established legal frameworks. This raises questions about the respect for legislative intent and whether such provisions are being dismissed merely as formalities.


 the landmark pronouncement in Shilpa Sailesh v. Varun Sreenivasan by the Supreme Court has provided much-needed clarity and organization to cases involving divorce by mutual consent under the Hindu Marriage Act. The judgment specifically outlines the extent to which the Supreme Court can exercise its power under Article 142(1) of the Indian Constitution.

The pivotal insights gleaned from the judgement can be summarized as follows:

  • Scope of Supreme Court’s Power (Article 142(1)):

The Supreme Court affirmed its unlimited jurisdiction under Article 142(1), emphasizing its authority to ensure ‘complete justice’ in any cause or matter before it. This expansive power is subject only to the condition that its exercise should not contravene ‘general and specific public policy.’

  • Waiver of 6-Month Statutory Period (Section 13-B of HMA, 1955):

Regarding the mandatory 6-month waiting period prescribed by Section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act, the Court held that it has the authority to waive this period if the marriage is irretrievably broken and beyond repair. The waiver is contingent upon the court’s satisfaction that there is no scope for reconciliation.

  • Quashing Other Proceedings:

The Supreme Court asserted its power to quash other proceedings pending before various courts. This authority is exercised in the interest of justice and to alleviate the suffering of the parties involved. The court recognized the need to prevent legal complexities and promote a holistic settlement.

  • Granting Divorce Despite Opposition:

The judgment clarified that, even when faced with opposition from one party, the Supreme Court can grant divorce if it is convinced that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This discretionary power is exercised under Article 142(1) to achieve ‘complete justice’ and put an end to the suffering of the parties.

In essence, the Supreme Court, through this decision, has not only addressed specific issues related to divorce by mutual consent but has also established a comprehensive framework for exercising its discretionary powers under Article 142(1). The judgment emphasizes the Court’s commitment to ensuring justice, preventing undue delays, and facilitating amicable settlements in matrimonial disputes.


Join India’s Most Affordable Batch for Judicial Examination

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *