The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a plea asking that divorces granted by church courts be recognised, and stated that Christian personal law cannot override the Divorce Act. The court was hearing a plea filed by Clarence Pais, the former president of a Karnataka Catholic association, seeking validity of divorce granted by a church, reported PTI.

The bench of Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud said the matter was resolved in 1996 during the Molly Joseph versus George Sebastian case. “Canon Law can have theological or ecclesiastical implications to the parties. But after the Divorce Act came into force, a dissolution or annulment granted under such personal law cannot have any legal impact,” the top had said.

Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, who represented Pais, had alleged that many Catholic Christians faced criminal charges of bigamy as divorces granted by church courts are not recognised. The petition sought enforcement of Canon Law by a criminal court.

However, the Centre had rejected the plea. “Since the power for dissolution of marriage has been vested in the court, there is no scope for any other authority including ecclesiastical tribunal to exercise power,” the government had said.

The case of triple talaq, divorce among Muslims that is done verbally, is also currently a sub-judice matter. The government had on October 7 last year told the Supreme Court that the “validity of triple talaq and polygamy should be seen in light of gender justice”. The government had said that there was no reason for women in India to be denied their constitutional rights, and that triple talaq, polygamy and nikaah halala “were not integral to the practices of Islam or essential religious practices.”