In right direction

In right direction

The changes in law are progressive and welcome.

Some ambiguities in the marriage law amendment bill, which was pending in the Rajya Sabha, have been cleared with the approval for a provision that clearly defines the share of the wife in the husband’s property after divorce. It was decided that the wife and children would be given an equal share (50 per cent) of the residential property of the man, provided the wife moves an application seeking the share. This is the first time in the history of marriage laws in the country that women and children are being given defined rights in the event of divorce and the Union cabinet has endorsed this. It is after persistent demand from women’s organisations that the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 and the Social Marriage Act of 1954 are being amended for the purpose. It is certainly a measure that empowers women who usually suffer economically after divorce.

The earlier provision had allowed women a right in the husband’s property but had not mentioned the quantum of the share. This had been left to the courts to decide but had given rise to apprehensions that it  may go against the interests of women. Women and children will have a right in the moveable assets also of the man but the sharing of these will be decided by the courts, depending on the living standards of the wife. Till now the courts had  decided only on the alimony and compensation to be paid to the wife after divorce. It has also been decided that the six-month cooling-off period, would be reduced only if the man and the woman sought a reduction. In the earlier version one of the two parties could move a motion. It was felt that this could lead to forcing of a divorce on a woman by the husband.

The changes are in accordance with the feeling in the Rajya Sabha that the provisions could be made more friendly to women and should not lead to denial of their rights after divorce. There is a demand from the Muslim community also that women should be given property inheritance rights. The Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind has observed that the denial of  the right to inheritance in agricultural property for women is against Islamic laws. The demand needs to be acted upon in law.

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