Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage

Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage: A Critical Analysis

This article titled “Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage: A Critical Analysis ” was written by Anuj Bijarniya a student of Lovely Professional University.


An “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” refers to a state in which a marital relationship has deteriorated to such an extent that it is no longer tenable for the spouses to continue living together as a married couple. This abstract explores the concept, legal implications, and societal relevance of the irretrievable breakdown of marriage.


Irretrievable breakdown of marriage is a legal and emotional concept that signifies the irreparable fracture of the bond between spouses. It is characterized by the absence of any reasonable prospect of reconciliation or restoration of a functional marital relationship. This breakdown may manifest through persistent conflicts, emotional estrangement, long-term separation, or other factors that render the marriage unsustainable.

Legal Implications:

  1. Ground for Divorce: In some jurisdictions, including India, irretrievable breakdown of marriage has been recognized as a valid ground for divorce, even if it is not explicitly mentioned in marriage laws. Courts may grant a divorce when they believe that the marriage has reached a point of no return.
  2. Discretionary Decision: The application of irretrievable breakdown as a ground for divorce is often left to the discretion of the courts. Judges consider the specific circumstances of each case to determine whether the marriage has genuinely broken down beyond repair.

Societal Relevance

  1. Changing Social Norms: As societies evolve, traditional notions of marriage and family have undergone transformation. The recognition of irretrievable breakdown acknowledges the fluidity of human relationships and the need for legal remedies that align with contemporary realities.
  2. Emphasis on Individual Well-being: Advocates argue that allowing divorce on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown prioritizes the emotional and psychological well-being of individuals. Continuing in a loveless or contentious marriage can lead to emotional distress and mental health issues.
  3. Reducing Stigma: Acknowledging irretrievable breakdown as a legitimate reason for divorce can help reduce the stigma associated with divorce. It promotes the idea that ending a marriage under such circumstances is not a failure but a pragmatic decision in the best interests of the individuals involved.

In conclusion, irretrievable breakdown of marriage represents the recognition of changing societal dynamics and the need for legal mechanisms to address marriages that have deteriorated beyond repair. It grants individuals the option to seek divorce when their marital relationships have become untenable, allowing them to pursue healthier and happier lives. The application of this concept varies by jurisdiction, with courts playing a critical role in assessing the merit of each case.


Irretrievable breakdown, divorce, marriage, separation, ground, fault, no fault, Hindu, etc.

Research objective

To learn about both positive and negative aspects of irretrievable breakdown of marriage.

Research Methodology:

Through a comparative analysis of legal frameworks and case studies, this study examines how different jurisdictions have incorporated fault, no-fault and consent theories into their divorce laws. It evaluates the impact of these theories on divorce proceedings, child custody, property distribution, and the emotional well-being of the parties involved


Marriages are made in heaven as is often said and are solemnized on Earth. The very basis of a societal structure is marriage. It is the base of a family and a society in effect without which there can be no civilization.

Under Hindu law, marriage is considered a sacrament which is eternal and indissoluble. Parliament codified the legislation relating to marriages as the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. In Hindu Law Monogamy is strictly imposed. Before the Hindu Marriage Act was passed, divorce was not a recognised means of putting an end to a marriage, the only exception being where it was accepted by law, which meant that the laws of dissolution of marriage and monogamy were, to the contrary, subject to a legitimate custom.

Theories of Divorce

  1. Fault Theory– Under the Fault theory or the offences theory or the guilt theory, marriage can be dissolved only when either party to the marriage has committed a matrimonial offence. It is necessary to have a guilty and an innocent party, and only innocent party can seek the remedy of divorce. However, the most striking feature and drawback is that if both parties have been at fault, there is no remedy available.
  2. Consent Theory – The consent theory accepts that parties to a marriage could together decide to end the relationship. This is the concept of “divorce by mutual consent.” The procedure for divorce under this theory is that the parties live apart for a specified period of time, and also require that such application be made in two stages, before the divorce is confirmed. Importantly, related but critical issues such as maintenance, distribution of common properties and custody of children are expected to be decided by the parties.
  3. No Fault Theory – According to the Doctrine of Recrimination, no remedy can be granted to the party who is at fault. It is imperative in law to have one party as innocent and another at fault to provide a matrimonial relief. In case of no-fault theory of divorce, it is not necessary to prove which party is at fault. There may be many reasons based on which sweetness of matrimonial relationship is at risk. If the parties prove with reliable evidence on record that their marriage is beyond all possible repairs then law should understand the reality of the facts and should help the parties to the marriage which has broken down irretrievably.

Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage

“The situation that exists when either or both spouses are no longer able or willing to live with each other, thereby destroying their husband-wife relationship with no hope of resumption of spousal duties.”

In other words, the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage can be described as such a failure in the marriage relationship or such adverse circumstances to that relationship that there is no reasonable probability of the spouses staying together for mutual comfort and support as husband and wife. Try Lawaddiction

Positive aspects of the theory

The only merit of the theory as has been propounded by the jurists is that a marriage, which in practice is considered to be a sacramental institution, should be based on the ground on which a sound marriage is found is tolerance, adjustment and respect for each other. If any of the parties to marriage is not ready to live with the other party the relationship will not be a happy relationship. Stretching such a relationship will do no good, instead will develop hatred and frustration among the parties for each other. Therefore, to protect the sanctity of marriage, to reduce the number of unhappy marriages and to prevent from getting wasted the precious years of life of the spouses, it is necessary to dissolve such a marriage.

However here the point to be noted is that the parties to marriage do not get separated out of their own free volition but on the basis of the court coming to the conclusion that marriage is beyond repair or cannot be saved by any means.

Negative aspects of the theory

The Law Commission of India in chapter 4 of the 71st report has dealt in detail with the demerits of the irretrievable breakdown theory. The two main oppositions discussed in the report are as follows:
(i) It will make divorce easy. It will allow the spouses or even any one of the spouses to dissolve the marriage out of their own pleasure.
(ii) It will allow the guilty spouse to take advantage of his own fault by getting separated and dissolving the marriage.

Case Law

In 2016, the Supreme Court of India made a significant ruling regarding the concept of “irretrievable breakdown of marriage.” This ruling came in the case of Amit Sibal v. Mridul Sibal (2016). In this case, the Supreme Court held that an irretrievable breakdown of marriage could be a valid ground for granting a divorce, even though it is not explicitly mentioned as a ground for divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

The Court noted that the marriage laws in India, particularly the Hindu Marriage Act, had not kept pace with societal changes, and there were situations where couples were living separately for many years, and there was no possibility of reconciliation. In such cases, the Court recognized that forcing individuals to remain in a dead marriage could lead to mental cruelty and emotional distress.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Amit Sibal v. Mridul Sibal did not create an absolute and automatic right to divorce based on irretrievable breakdown alone. Instead, it left the decision to grant a divorce on this ground to the discretion of the courts, which would consider the specific facts and circumstances of each case. The Court also emphasized the need for a genuine effort at reconciliation before allowing divorce on this ground.

This landmark ruling recognized the evolving nature of family relationships and marriage in India and provided some flexibility to the courts in granting divorces in cases where the wedding was irretrievably broken down, even if specific grounds for divorce as mentioned in the statute were not met.

Void and Voidable Marriage in India


To conclude, it can be said that marriage is an institution which is deeply interested in the preservation of the public at large. It is the family foundation and, in effect, the culture for which there can be no civilization. This foundation presupposes the existence of a platform built on the basis of sound spousal understanding.

If this understanding between the partners is lacking, and the marriage is a persistent disease, then it is best that the marriage should be dissolved with court intervention. The continuation of such a marriage does not serve any useful purpose. Therefore, such marriage should be dissolved on the basis of the “irretrievable breakdown theory for the mutual benefit of both spouses.

In that eventuality the continuation of such a relationship is meaningless, and such marriage should be broken as per the Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage theory. It’s high time we understood the need for Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage Theory so that couples can have a new and better life, rather than spending their young days in court.

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