The Rajya Sabha Monday passed a Bill to make divorce women-friendly,entailing the wife to a share in the husbands immovable property.
The Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill seeks to amend the Hindu Marriage Act and the Special Marriage Act and empower courts to decide compensation from husbands inherited and inheritable property for the wife and children once the marriage legally ends.
The Bill allows both 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 a petition. But a court can refuse divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown if satisfied that adequate maintenance for children has not been made consistently with financial capacity of the parties to the marriage. Also,the wife would have the right to oppose divorce on the ground that the dissolution could result in grave financial hardship.
The Bill also provides that a court can take an ex parte decision on granting divorce if one of the two parties refuses to move a joint application.
Replying to a debate on the Bill,Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal said it was a historic legislation in a patriarchal society like India where women,who constitute 50 per cent of the population,own only two per cent of the assets.
He said divorce is gender neutral as either the wife or the husband can seek divorce. However,the right over property will not be gender neutral as wife can claim husbands immovable property. During discussion,MPs across party lines suggested the Bill be made gender neutral and not be confined to Hindu marriages only.
BJP MP Najma Heptullah accused the government of not doing anything for the 10 crore women belonging to the Muslim community. She promised BJP support for any legislation for betterment of Muslim women. She said there should be only one law for all women in the country.