§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE EARL OF LYTTON)
My Lords, this Bill is introduced to deal with a situation which has been created by the judgment of the President of the Divorce Court last March in tire case of Keyes v. Keyes—a judgment which held that the Indian Courts have no jurisdiction to dissolve marriages between persons not domiciled in India, and that the Indian Legislature has no power to confer jurisdiction on the Courts to dissolve marriages in such cases. Ever since the Divorce Act of 1869 the Indian Courts have, in reliance on that Act, made decrees from time to time, where the parties resident in India at the time of the institution of the proceedings were not actually domiciled there. The validity of these decrees has never been questioned during the last fifty-one years, 457 and they have been held to be valid in many eases in the English Courts. The result is that many decrees of divorce have been granted in perfect good faith, the divorced parties have sometimes re-married, and children have been born of those marriages.
Your Lordships, I am sure, will easily recognise what an extraordinary confusion has been created by this decision; which is, in effect, a declaration that a number of decrees for dissolution of marriage had been made without jurisdiction. I ant not, of course, in any way calling in question the propriety of the judgment, but the effect of it is to declare that the law is different from what, many people have believed it to be for the last fifty years. Marriages contracted upon the faith of the validity of those decrees are now pronounced illegal; the children of such marriages are declared to be illegitimate, and in many cases the title to property is affected. That is a situation which calls for immediate remedy. This Bill deals only with what has happened in the past, and seeks to validate decrees granted before this legislation, or at any rate in cases where proceedings were started before the passing of this measure. It provides, in fact, that the law so far as it relates to the past shall be what it was always deemed to be. It does not seek to alter the law as it has now been defined, and does not empower the Indian Courts to grant such divorces in the future. I hope, therefore, that it will be regarded as entirely uncontroversial, and that it may pass through your Lordships' House Without delay.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(The Earl of Lytton.)
§ On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.