No divorce for you | Marcel Strigberger

By Marcel Strigberger

Law360 Canada (November 10, 2023, 3:06 PM EST) --
Marcel Strigberger
Marcel Strigberger
Nirmal Singh Panesar, age 89, has a big legal problem. He has been separated from his 82-year-old wife for 40 years and the courts have denied his application for divorce. He resides in India.

Nirmal, a retired air force officer and qualified doctor, got married in 1963, separated in 1984 and filed for divorce in 1996. 

Unfortunately, the laws regulating divorce in India are rather strict; India having one of if not the  lowest divorce rates on the planet. The District Court actually granted Nirmal’s application. However, his wife appealed, noting she does not want to “die with the stigma of being a divorcee. The appellate court allowed her appeal. Nirmal then took his quest to the Supreme Court, which rejected his appeal. 

The court noted, “The institution of marriage is still considered to be a pious, spiritual, and invaluable emotional life-net between the husband and the wife in the Indian society. ... Therefore, it would not be desirable to accept the formula of ‘irretrievable breakdown of marriage’ as a straitjacket formula for the grant of relief of divorce”.

I have not read the Supreme Court’s decision nor the reasons of the appellate court that allowed the wife’s appeal, but I wonder and can only imagine how in their reasons they dumped on the District Court’s decision allowing the wife’s appeal:

“The learned trial justice certainly erred in granting the husband’s divorce application. After all the parties were only separated 11 years. We have no clue why he thought there was an irretrievable breakdown of marriage. Has the learned justice never heard of marriage counseling? We say let the parties, on a without-prejudice basis, give it a reasonable go. And if it doesn’t work, the husband can come back to the court in about 20 years.”

In any event, the wife does not want to die with the stigma of being a divorcee. The husband should respect her wish. Who does he think he is; Henry VIII?”

I also wonder why it took so long for the matter to reach the Supreme Court. That’s almost as long as until recently it took to get a Canadian passport.

I don’t know what the divorce applications look like in India. But if they at all resemble the Canadian form, I wonder what that part about “ever been divorced before” looks like. Given the scarcity of successful applications there, I can see an asterisk and at the bottom of the page a note reads, “Ha ha- are you kidding”?

I must say I do admire his persistence. He is more tenacious than Wile E. Coyote. Wile E. over the decades has never given up trying to beat the Roadrunner. Meep meep.

I thought initially that the gentleman was experiencing a streak of bad luck. Maybe he has a deplorable habit of walking under ladders. Or perhaps he owns a black cat. That can do it. Or just maybe he broke a mirror. But then again, that only gives you seven years of bad luck.

Actually, I don’t think luck played a role here. Bottom line is in India what happened to Nirmal is the old normal.

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. His book Boomers, Zoomers, and Other Oomers: A Boomer-biased Irreverent Perspective on Aging is available on Amazon, (e-book) and paper version. Visit Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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