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Indian Divorce Bill

Volume 414: debated on Friday 12 October 1945

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Order for Second Reading read.

12.45 p.m.

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

This little Bill is not controversial, and it is designed to validate certain divorce decrees made in good faith by the Bombay High Court since 1942 in the exercise of a jurisdiction formerly possessed by that court but of which, as was subsequently discovered, it had been divested before the cases in question came before it. Five cases are affected. In three of them decrees absolute have been made, and in the other two decrees nisi have been passed which it is desirable that the court should be empowered to make absolute. As in all these cases, the parties are Europeans domiciled in the United Kingdom, and therefore an error in the exercise of the jurisdiction of the court can only be cured and the state of the parties legally determined by legislation. I should explain that in divorce cases affecting Europeans domiciled in the United Kingdom jurisdiction has been conferred upon the courts of India by the Indian and Colonial Jurisdiction Act, 1926. That Act, however, did not provide for the distribution of the jurisdiction so conferred upon the various High Courts of India, and by an amending Act of 1940 an appropriate area was introduced for each High Court, which was given responsibility for the cases arising in its appropriate area.

The cases covered by this Bill arise in the Indian State of Hyderabad, which up to 1936 came within the jurisdiction of the Bombay High Court. In 1936, however, a notification was issued by the Government of India under the Indian Foreign Jurisdiction Order in Council which had the effect of substituting the Nagpur High Court of the Central Provinces for the Bombay High Court for the purposes of all divorce cases arising under the Act of 1926 in relation to persons residing in the State of Hyderabad. In the results the Nagpur High Court became and thereafter remained the only appropriate court for hearing divorce cases affecting European British subjects domiciled in the United Kingdom but resident in the State of Hyderabad. Unfortunately this notification under the Order in Council escaped the notice not only of the officers of the Bombay High Court but also of the solicitors and barristers practising in that court on the divorce side, and also of the court itself, and the consequence is that these invalid decrees were passed which it is the purpose of this Bill to validate.

12.50 p.m.

It seems to me to be even more regrettable than in the last instance in which the hon. Gentleman moved a Bill in this House to have to trouble the Imperial Parliament with this matter. It strikes us as very peculiar that this notification should not have been observed by anybody practising in the Bombay High Court or by the court itself. I understand that was due to the fact that notification was not made directly under the Indian Divorce Act. That is the excuse given. If that is the case to pass this Bill appears to be the only course for the House to take, but I trust that in future when notifications are made by Order in Council steps will be taken to bring them to the attention of the court in question. There must have been some laxity in this case. The fact of having to trouble us here indicates that the matter was not properly handled. Subject to these observations it appears to be to the interest of the parties concerned that we should dispatch this Bill as quickly as possible.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for Monday next [ Mr. Simmons.]