The Maharashtra government has proposed a change in the legal definition of a ‘wife’ to ensure justice for women who are denied the legitimate rights of a spouse despite living with their partners for a reasonable period.
On Wednesday, the state Cabinet proposed an amendment to the criminal procedure act (CrPC) that does not recognise live-in relationships or second marriages, thus denying women maintenance from their partners. The new law will give women a stronger foothold to fight alimony cases.
The Cabinet’s decision is based on recommendations made three years ago by the Justice Mallimath Criminal Procedure Reforms Commission. The Centre-appointed panel asked for changes in the definition of the word ‘wife’ so that courts could treat any woman who lives with a man for a reasonable period as his legitimate wife. The Centre is yet to act on the recommendations.
Principal Secretary (Law and Judiciary) MN Gilani said the state felt the need to amend the Section 125 of the CrPC because several women were denied their rights. “I came across several such cases when I worked as a judicial officer,”he said.
The state legislature, however, will not be able to clear the bill without the Centre’s approval, since the law falls under
the Centre’s jurisdiction. A source in the Law and Judiciary Department said that the Centre might delay its approval because there are “several other amendment proposals pending with the Union government”.
Pushpa Wagh, an activist for women’s rights, welcomed the Cabinet decision: “Any man who marries twice must be legally bound to pay alimony to his second wife.”