The country moved a step closer to making divorce less cumbersome for women as the Rajya Sabha passed a bill on Monday making it mandatory for the wife to get a share of her husband’s immovable property.
The Marriage Laws (Amend-ment) Bill now needs to be passed by the Lok Sabha to become law.
The bill provides for a three year deadline within which marriages can be dissolved on the new ground of “irretrievable breakdown” which will allow the party to file for divorce either jointly or separately in cases where the marriage has broken down for all practical purposes.
Speaking on the bill, law minister Kapil Sibal said divorce is “gender neutral” as either the wife or the husband can seek it. “However, the right over property will not be gender neutral as wife can lay claim over the husband’s immovable property,” he said.
The bill also empowers the court to decide on the compensation amount to be given to the wife from the husband's immovable property once the marriage is legally over.
In “irretrievable breakdown” cases, the married couple will be given a 18-month cooling-off period to reconsider their decision, but if any of the parties evades the court for more than three years, then the latest amendment in the law will allow the court to continue with divorce proceedings assuming that the application has been jointly moved.
The passage of the bill in the Rajya Sabha comes three years after it was first introduced in Parliament in 2010 and lack of consensus led it to be referred to a number of parliamentary panels.