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Rajya Sabha passes bill to amend divorce laws

New Delhi, August 26, 2013, DHNS: 1:40 IST
File image: For representational purpose
The Rajya Sabha on Monday passed amendments to liberalise laws governing grant of divorce.

The amendments allow any of the partners to file a petition asking for divorce and make the wife eligible to have share in the immovable property of the husband in case of “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage”.

Through these amendments, the court has been empowered to decide the share in the property, both inherited and inheritable.

However, the wife has been given the right to oppose a divorce petition on the grounds that the dissolution of the marriage shall result in grave financial hardship.

The bill amends the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, which codifies the law relating to marriage among Hindus and the Special Marriage Act, 1954, which provides for special forms of marriage in certain cases.

Both acts allow a petition for granting of divorce on the ground of mutual consent. This petition has to be presented by both parties together before the court. The bill deletes this requirement, allowing any one party to present the petition.

The bill adds a provision to both acts that allows the two parties to file for divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage. Both parties have to live apart for at least three years before filing for such a petition.

In the case of a wife opposing divorce on the ground of consequent “grave financial hardship”, the bill provides for the court to consider all circumstances, including the conduct of the parties and the children before deciding whether a divorce would result in hardship. Also, court has to be satisfied that adequate financial provision has been made for any children (including unmarried or widowed daughters).

The House of Elders debated amendments with vigour and pointed out various loopholes in the proposed law governing marriage and divorce.

BJP leader Najma Heptulla wanted a religion-neural law and demanded “one law for all women”. She demanded that justice to Muslim women should also be done.

Cutting across party lines, members pointed out that amendments do not ensure rights of the husband and the bill is not gender-neutral. They asked for making provisions to divide the property of the wife if she has enough.

DMK leader Kanimozhi regretted that whenever it “comes to ensure rights of women, people talk of misuse of the law.”

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