BJP, Left unite over divorce law
NEW DELHI: The passage of Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill 2010 to include 'irretrievable breakdown of marriage' as a ground for divorce could be the next battle in Parliament with both Left and BJP opposing the proposed legislation in its present form.
Opposition leaders feel the clause could be misused to deny women rights on property and children and the bill must be accompanied by changes in institutional mechanisms. Arun Jaitely said the bill to allow divorce by mutual consent must be linked to a social security mechanism. "If the bill must be brought, you have to simultaneously bring in an institutional mechanism. This amendment works in countries that have a well established social security mechanism," he said.
Left leader Brinda Karat said the amendment would be misused against women as most relationships in India continue to be unequal. "Amendments to this law are a misconceived priority and it will be misused against women if brought in this form. I will move amendments when it is brought for discussion in RS," she said.
A parliamentary panel headed by Congress MP Jayanthi Natarajan has supported amending laws to include irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground for divorce but has asked for safeguards to ensure that women get a share in matrimonial property and a clear stand on children adopted by a couple. The parliamentary panel opposed doing away with the prevailing waiting period of six months before moving a joint motion for annulling marriage.
The parliamentary standing committee on law and justice, which presented its report in Parliament on the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2010, said it favoured the broad objective of the bill to introduce 'irretrievable breakdown of marriage' as a new ground for grant of divorce.
The report, tabled in Parliament last week, said, "The committee is of the view that the existing provisions of law for divorce by mutual consent are fair and reasonable and the prevailing cooling off period be retained so as to protect and preserve the institution of marriage."
The Rajya Sabha committee has also recommended that the government should define the term 'irretrievable breakdown of marriage' in the bill so that uniform standards are followed in dealing with divorce petitions by courts. It has also asked for defining the term 'grave financial hardship' to avoid ambiguity. It has recommended that the government clear its stand with regard to adopted children and establish a legal mechanism to ensure that women get their share in matrimonial property acquired during subsistence of the marriage.
The Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, moved by law minister aims at mitigating hardships by allowing divorce in cases of complete failure of marriages. At present, the petition for a divorce on the ground of mutual consent can be presented by the spouses together.