The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the six-month waiting period for a divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act can be waived depending on the case, Bar and Bench reported.

A bench of Justices Adarsh K Goel and Uday U Lalit ruled that a couple can be granted a divorce without the mandatory 18-month separation period in cases of mutual consent. Section 13B of the Hindu Marriage Act provides for a minimum 18-month period of separation for a divorce to be passed, in cases of mutual consent as well.

Under Section 13B(1), the couple must have been separated for one year before they can file for divorce. Section 13B(2) calls for a further six-month “cooling off” period.

The court was hearing a case by a couple who wanted it to waive the six-month period because they had already been separated for more than eight years before filing for a divorce, and felt there was no possibility of a reunion.

The Supreme Court said that Section 13B(2) was not mandatory but only directory in nature. “The object of the cooling off the period was to safeguard against a hurried decision if there was otherwise possibility of differences being reconciled,” the apex court said.

The object of the cooling period was not to “perpetuate a purposeless marriage or to prolong the agony of the parties” when there was no chance of reconciliation, it added. “If there are no chances of reunion and there are chances of fresh rehabilitation, the court should not be powerless in enabling the parties to have a better option.”