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Married Women's Property Act,1874

Act No : 3


3 of 1874

"The Indian Succession Act (X of 1865) section four, declares that no person shall by marriage acquire any interest in the property of the person whom he or she marries. This section, however, does not apply to marriages contracted before the 1st January, 1866, and, in the case of persons married after that day, the Act does not protect the husband from liability from the debts of his wife contracted before marriage, nor does it expressly provide for the enforcement of claims by or against such wives.

The objects of the present Bill are, first, to extend the protection afforded to wives by section four of the Succession Act (so far as regards future wages and earnings and policies of insurance) to women married before 1st January 1866;

secondly to declare that a married woman may sue in her own name for any property which by force of the Succession Act, or the proposed Act, is her separate property;

thirdly, to relieve the husband of a wife married after the 31st December 1865, from her ante-nuptial debts; and, lastly, to declare that any person entering into a contract with a wife (otherwise than as her husband's agent), shall be entitled to sue her, and, to the extent of her separate property, to recover against her whatever he might have recovered had she been unmarried. Clause 4 (as to a wife's wages and earnings) is equivalent to the Married Women's Property Act (33 and 34 Vic., Chap. 93) section one. Clause 6 is copied from the first paragraph of section ten of that Act.

It declares that any married woman may effect a policy of insurance on her own life or on her husband's life, on her own behalf, and that the amount assured shall be her separate property. As the law stands, if a wife effects such a policy (otherwise than out of her separate estate), and dies in her husband's lifetime, the husband, in the capacity of her administrator, becomes the absolute owner of the policy. Clause 6 is equivalent to the second paragraph of the same section, the Official Trustee under Act 17 of 1864 replacing the trustee appointed in England by the Court of Chancery or the County Court. It provides that an insurance effected by a husband on his own life and expressed to be for his wife's benefit shall be deemed to be a trust for her benefit, and shall not be subject to the claims of his creditors, except, of course, when the transaction was intended to defraud them. This provision is necessitated by the doctrine that a husband as such has no insurable interest in his wife's life.

It is true that, as the law stands, such a policy might be effected; but it would only be in the nature of a voluntary settlement, and it would be liable to the dangers to which such settlements are exposed. Clauses 7 (as to legal proceedings by married women) and 8 (as to the non-liability of a husband for his wife's ante-nuptial debts) are respectively equivalent to sections eleven and twelve of the Married Women's Property Act. Clause 9 declares that the law as to a wife's liability for her post-nuptial debts is in conformity with a recent decision of Mr. Justice Phear (Archer v. Watkins, 8 Begn, L.R. 372).

This decision is binding only in Bengal: the Bill will extend its authority throughout British India. The Bill does not apply to married women who are Hindus, Muhammadans, Buddhists, Sikhs or Jains, and power is taken to exempt from its operation, either retrospectively or prospectively, the members of any race, sect or tribe to whom it is inexpedient to apply its provisions," -Gazette of India, 1873, Part V, p. 457.

An Act to explain and amend the law relating to certain married women, and for other purposes. Preamble.-

WHEREAS it is expedient to make such provision as hereinafter appears for the enjoyment of wages and earnings by women married before the first day of January, 1866, and for insurances on lives by persons married before or after that day :

AND WHEREAS by the Indian Succession Act, 1865, section 4, it is enacted that no person shall by marriage acquire any interest in the property of the person whom he or she marries, nor become incapable of doing any act in respect of his or her own property, which he or she could have done, if unmarried :

AND WHEREAS by force of the said Act all women to whose marriages it applies are absolute owners of all property vested in, or acquired by, them, and their husbands do not by their marriage acquire any interest in such property, but the said Act does not protect such husbands from liabilities on account of the debts of their wives contracted before marriage, and does not expressly provide for the enforcement of claims by or against such wives: It is hereby enacted as follows :-


This Act may be called the Married Women's Property Act, 1874-

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