Govt puts bill to amend marriage laws on backburner

Citing several representations against the measure from individuals and organisations, government has put on backburner a bill to make marriage laws more women-friendly and allow both parties to file for divorce on the ground of "irretrievable breakdown" of marriage.

New Delhi: Citing several representations against the measure from individuals and organisations, government has put on backburner a bill to make marriage laws more women-friendly and allow both parties to file for divorce on the ground of "irretrievable breakdown" of marriage.

Law Ministry officials said they have received numerous representations from people and organisations opposing the provisions of the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill.

The Ministry had circulated a draft cabinet note on the Bill for inter-ministerial consultations in September, 2014.

But based on the representations, the ministry has decided to examine the matter further before taking a final call.

Confirming the development, Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda told PTI that "for the time being we have put it on hold. It is not outright rejected."

Referring to the representations, he said, "All those matters have to be verified. There is one section of the people which says that it will be detrimental to the present system of family."

According to the draft, marriage laws will become more women-friendly with a slew of measures being proposed including providing for sufficient compensation for the wife and children from the husband's immovable property in case of a divorce.

Seeking to put an end to prolonged legal battles in divorce cases, the Law Ministry had proposed that courts will be free to exercise discretion in granting divorce after three years if one of the partners does not move a second 'joint application' for divorce with mutual consent.

There is a provision for ensuring compensation for the wife and children from the husband's immovable property in case of a divorce and the amount will be decided by the court. It has also been proposed to empower courts to decide the compensation amount for a wife and children from the husband's inherited and inheritable property once a marriage legally ends. A new section 13 (f) has been added to this effect.

A six to 18 month waiting or cooling off period already exists in the present law when the two parties move joint application for divorce with mutual consent.

The previous UPA government had struggled for a consensus on the bill after it was first introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2010. It had gone back to the then Cabinet on four occasions for changes. It was finally passed in August, 2013 in the Upper House but could not be cleared by the Lower House. The legislation lapsed following dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha.

The present draft is on the lines of the previous bill.

The proposal, which seeks to alter the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and the Special Marriage Act, 1954, introduces the option of divorce on grounds of "irretrievable breakdown of marriage".

Legislative Department in the Law Ministry is the nodal unit dealing with marriage laws in India.

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