Cabinet okays pro-women divorce Bill

New Delhi: Bowing to pressure from opposition parties and women’s rights organisations, the union cabinet cleared some more amendments to the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill to give women a clearly-defined share in their husband’s “immovable residential property” — including that acquired before marriage — in divorce cases.

If passed, the amended Bill would allow “equal share of residential property” to the wife and children. The wife’s share will be decided by the courts, “considering her living standards”.

The cabinet, however, decided to retain the mandatory six-month cooling-off period, which the Bill had proposed to do away with in case of divorce with mutual consent. But the cooling-off period can be waived if the divorce application is “made by both the parties instead of either of the parties”.

“On an application being made by both the parties, the court may reduce the period specified under sub-section 2 of Section 13B to a lesser period and may waive off the requirement for moving the motion by both the parties if it is satisfied that the parties to the marriage are not in a position to reconcile their differences,” says the proposed amendment.

As per the latest amendments, while a wife would now be eligible to oppose a husband’s plea for divorce under the new “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” clause, the husband shall not have such a right if the wife moves the court on the same grounds.

On April 30, when Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid introduced the Bill, which, among other things, proposed to include “irretrievable breakdown of marriage’’ as one of the grounds for grant of divorce, he faced stiff opposition from the BJP.
Speaking in the RS, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley had said that unless the matter of sharing assets was considered seriously, the proposed changes could be misused against the women. He had also pointed out that countries which allowed for irretrievable breakdown as a ground for divorce have a strong support system for the wife and children.

The Law Ministry Bill also seeks to amend the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and the Special Marriage Act, 1954.

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