Earlier this month, the Supreme Court denied the divorce petition of an Indian man who had been separated from his wife for almost 40 years and had been attempting to get a divorce for 27 of those years.


It’s no secret that divorce is frowned upon in India, a nation where a marriage can only be legally dissolved in situations where one of the spouses is shown to have been violent or unkind. People are frequently pressured by family and society to stay in unsatisfactory marriages, yet even in cases where one of them files for divorce, the courts hardly ever grant it.


These indisputable truths were recently reaffirmed in a court case that garnered headlines across the globe.


Even though he acknowledged that their marriage was “beyond salvation,” India’s Supreme Court has once again dismissed the 89-year-old retired Air Force Officer and certified doctor, who had been attempting to file for divorce from his 82-year-old wife, a retired teacher, for almost three decades.


Nirmal Singh Panesar, who is 89 years old, wed Paramjit Kaur Panesar, who is currently 82 years old, in 1963. After their union was complete, they were granted custody of two girls and one boy. Despite leading hectic lives, Nirmal and his spouse—who was serving in the Indian army and his wife taught at the Central School in Amritsar—regarded their marriage as “normal” up until January 1984.


The husband alleges that his wife declined to go to Madras with him, choosing instead to reside with her parents and then the couple’s son. The marriage failed to work out despite multiple attempts at reconciliation, and Nirmal Singh Panesar filed for divorce in the District Court in 1996. After an appeal by Paramjit, who claimed that she had done everything in her power to preserve their “sacred relationship,” the favourable ruling he had won four years earlier was quickly reversed.

The wife’s status was also taken into account in the Supreme Court’s decision. It seems that even after spending decades apart, the 82-year-old widow was still prepared to care for her husband in his last years.


Only one marriage out of every 100 ends in divorce in many parts of India, where it is still socially undesirable.