Marriage Bill: GoM to decide on sufficient compensation for women

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ANTONYNew Delhi, June 16;Seeking to make marriage laws more women friendly, a Group of Ministers will soon decide on whether a court can work out “sufficient compensation” for a woman from her husband’s ancestral property in case of divorce on the ground of “irretrievable breakdown of marriage.”

The GoM, set up recently to decide on the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, will also decide on whether a judge can exercise discretion in granting divorce if one of the partners does not move a second ‘joint application’ for divorce with mutual consent.

But there is a view contrary to the proposal within the government. Sources said that a section believes that the very purpose of seeking divorce on mutual consent would be defeated if the courts are given the discretion to allow it.

The sources said if one of the parties refuses to move a joint application, then the other should be allowed to file for a divorce on other grounds than mutual consent.

While the Bill has a provision for share in a husband’s self-acquired property, a new clause – 13(f) is being discussed by the GoM headed by Defence Minister A.K. Antony.

It says if the ancestral property cannot be divided, then the woman should get sufficient compensation by calculating the husband’s share in it. The amount of the compensation can be worked out by the court hearing the divorce case.

During its first meeting held last week, the GoM also discussed the issue of allowing courts to decide on doing away with the mandatory six-month waiting period for couples seeking divorce to move a joint petition by mutual consent. The sources said there was a general agreement on the issue as it would help speed up divorce procedures.

A six-month to 18-month waiting period already exists and the GoM will now take a call on whether a judge can reduce the waiting period to even less than six months. A Supreme Court judgement in this regard is being cited to support the provision.

The Bill had divided the Union Cabinet last month over a clause dealing with woman’s right to husband’s property after divorce, forcing the matter to be referred to a Group of Ministers. After its introduction in Rajya Sabha, the Bill has come up before the Cabinet on three occasions with various changes. It is still pending in Rajya Sabha.

The amendment bill, 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.”

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