For the first time in the history of marriage laws in India, women and children have been given definite rights in the residential property of men in the event of a divorce.
Taking up amendments to the Marriage Laws Amendment Bill, 2010, pending for discussion in the Rajya Sabha, where it was introduced last week, the Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today decided to make a clear provision in the law that an equal share (50 pc) in the residential property of a man will go to his wife and children in case of a divorce. The wife will have to move an application seeking the share.
Women and children will have an equal right in the residential property acquired by a man, whether acquired before or after the marriage, as the Cabinet today omitted from the Amendment Bill the expression “property acquired during the subsistence of marriage”.
The old Bill gave divorced women a right in man’s property, but did not state the quantum. Women activists felt stating the quantum would ensure justice to women who have to take care of their children and provide for them.
Not just that, the Cabinet further amended the Bill granting women and children rights in the movable assets of the man in case of a divorce. Instead of fixing the quantum of share of women and children in movable assets, the Cabinet decided to let the courts of law decide the share, depending on the “living standard of the wife”.
The relevant amendment in the Bill reads, “Pay such gross sum or share of movable property towards settlement of claim of wife as the courts deem fit considering the living standard of the wife”.
In another important development, the Cabinet today amended the Bill to ensure that the six-month cooling-off period (which couples need to spend together before moving the joint motion for a divorce) would be reduced only if both the man and the woman concerned move an application to lessen it.
The amendment has been made following demands from women rights activists who said a man could force a divorce on a wife if the application for reducing the cooling-off period is not mandated to be moved by both parties. In the earlier Bill, one of the two could move such an application.
The amendments follow an assurance from Law Minister Salman Khurshid, who deferred his reply to discussion on the Bill in the Rajya Sabha where several MPs had raised these concerns and sought that the Bill be made woman-friendly.
WHAT THEY GET
Woman and children will have 50% share in the residential property of a man in case of a divorce. The wife will have to move an application seeking the share in such cases. It will not matter whether the property was acquired before or after the marriage. Women and children will also have right in the movable assets of the man. The quantum of share in such cases will be determined by the court'