Sikh community demands a legal right to divorce
The absence of a provision for divorce in the Anand Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 has sparked a debate among Sikh intellectuals and in the community. The bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha recently.
Several scholars and leaders argue that Rehat Maryada, a code of conduct for Sikhs, does not have any reference or place for separating from the spouse and the bill does not provide a provision for divorce. However, the reality is contrary to this stream of thought as Sikh couples have been actually separating from each other legally on different grounds.
Giani Gurbachan Singh, high priest of the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikh religion, said that a Sikh marries in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib. "The tradition and norm makes it imperative that the couple uphold marital union through the life. Still we will discuss the issue in the next meeting of the intellectuals and clergy," he opined.
Even Avtar Singh, president of Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), the highest body managing the community's religious shrines, said that the Sikhs never found it appropriate to separate once they get married.
Several other persons, including some Sikhs moving the court for divorce, stated that the act should have the provision for legal separation. In the absence of any such provision, they would have to rely on the Hindu Marriage Act for annulling their weddings.
Prof Gursharanjeet Singh, former head, Department of Guru Nanak Studies, Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU), Amritsar, said that the law would be incomplete if the clause was not added to it. "Divorce is a social reality. The act should permit it under special circumstances," he said.
A Sikh woman in Chandigarh who proposes to file a divorce and maintainance petition against her lawyer husband in New Delhi said that she faced brutality at the hands of her husband and his close family members. "I have also complained to the police about the mental and physical torture faced by me. How can I cling to a person who thrashes me? The tenets of Sikhism have good intentions, but then the Sikhs are never supposed harass the weak and women too. The clause for divorce is a must," she said seeking anonymity.
A man, who too is planning a divorce, said the relationship with his wife had reached a flashpoint since she wanted him to dump his parents and ask them to transfer the property to her. "We tried to convince her that I would inherit the property since I am the only son, but she is adamant. She has left me and is staying with her parents in Karnal," the man said. "I do not have an option except to move the court for divorce."