KOCHI: THE Supreme Court order that divorce granted by ecclesiastical tribunals has no legal sanctity is unlikely to make any significant impact on the Catholic community since the Church has been considering civil court order also to initiate divorce procedures at the Church tribunals. “There is nothing new in the order. It may not have a considerable impact on those awaiting the divorce order. It is mandatory to submit a copy of the civil court order to initiate nullifying (the existing marriage) procedures at the Church court. There was a similar Supreme Court order in Molly Joseph vs George Sebastian case in 1996,” said Syro Malabar Church spokesperson Fr Jimmy Poochakkatt.
“The decree of the Church court becomes essential if any of the parties in the case want to get their remarriage solemnised at the Church as per the Canon Law,” said Fr Poochakkattu. “Even if the civil court grants divorce, the status of husband and wife in Church records remains ‘married’ unless the Church court nullifies their marriage,” he said. “Earlier, any one of the parties - either husband or wife - could object to a remarriage in civil court saying that the Church has not nullified their marriage. It will not be possible now,” he said.
Fr James Pereppadan, a Canon Law expert and judge at the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Ernakulam-Angamali Archdiocese also shared the opinion. "There is already a similar decision by the Supreme Court and the new order will not make any impact on those awaiting divorce. Since most of the petitioners like to get their remarriage solemnised, they will have to wait for the Church court's decision. At present, the average time taken to complete Church court's proceedings is six months to one year. There are cases which lasted for three-four years," he said.
"Nearly 100 divorce petitions were filed in 2015 before the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Ernakulam-Angamali Archdiocese. As of June 2016, more than 60 petitions have been filed. Of this 15 have been settled," he said.
This SC order by a Bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice D Y Chandrachud came on a petition filed by a Bengaluru-based octogenarian Clarence Pais, who sought legal sanctity for divorce decrees granted by Church courts.