Strong objections to the “THE MARRIAGE LAWS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2010” by NFHS
NHFS/120311/1 12th March 2011/Bangalore
Hon’able Mr. Veerappa Moily,
Hon’ble Minister of Law & Justice,
Ministry of Law and Justice, 4th Floor, A-Wing, Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi – 110 001
Subject: Strong objections to the Forty Fifth report of the Rajya Sabha committee on “THE MARRIAGE LAWS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2010”
About National Family Harmony Society®: “National Family Harmony Society®” NFHS is a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) promoting the cause of “family harmony” and “gender equality”. It is registered under “The Karnataka Societies Registration Act, 1960” and is based in Bangalore. We have branches in more than 16 states and in abroad too. We have approximately 14500 members all over India. To know more about us please visit http://www.family-harmony.org / http://www.498a.org.in.
This is with regard to the Forty Fifth report of the Rajya Sabha committee on “THE MARRIAGE LAWS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2010”. We are surprised and disappointed that that though in Chapter II of the said report many of the points raised by the various NGOs, Groups, concerned citizens and other organizations are listed but they have been completely discarded in Chapter – IV which is the committee’s observations/Recommendations without assigning any valid reason. If the recommendation, Suggestions, comments of the various NGOs are to be ignored entirely, without assigning any reasons then why this farce of calling recommendation, Suggestions, comments from General public.
We would like to lodge our strong objections to the observations/Recommendations of the committees report and would request Law Ministry to disregard the report entirety and would request Law Ministry to call for fresh recommendation, Suggestions, comments from the various NGOs, Groups, concerned citizens and other stake holders.
The recommendation, Suggestions, comments had been sent by various stake holders who are actually having practical experience at the ground level and if their suggestions are to be ignored then there must be logical reason to it. If these suggestions are ignored without assigning any reason then it is not a democracy. We would like to present our objections to the committee’s report point by point.
Committee’s Recommendation in Chapter – IV – Para 4: The Committee, accordingly, recommends that the Bill should provide for some safeguards so that the new ground for divorce is not misused. The Committee also recommends that the Government may consider defining the term “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” in the Bill so that some uniform standards are followed in dealing with divorce petitions by the Courts.
NFHS Objection to Chapter – IV – Para 4: The observation of the committee that the new ground will be used against women in rural areas is nothing but assumption and is not backed by any data or study. It is a known fact that many Gender Biased Laws like 498A are being rampantly misused by women in urban areas to harass their husbands and her in-laws. It is also a matter of common knowledge that nowadays women file multiple false criminal/civil cases against their husbands and in-laws and harass them by taking advantage of women-centric laws. If ‘irretrievable breakdown of marriage’ is added as a new ground for divorce then it will be heavily misused by women who will walk away with divorce, claiming the marriage is dead due to multiple criminal and civil cases and walk away with divorce and the husband will be left fighting the false cases. The bill is totally silent about the remaining criminal and civil cases.
Hon’ble Supreme Court in Swati Verma vs. Rajan Verma reported in (2004) 1 SCC 123, observed that “A large number of criminal cases had been filed by the petitioner against the respondent. This Court observed that the marriage between the parties had broken down irretrievably with a view to restore good relationship and to put a quietus to all litigations between the parties and not to leave any room for future litigation, so that they may live peacefully hereafter”.
The observation by the Hon’ble speaks the why ‘irretrievable breakdown of marriage’ should be added as a ground for divorce. If both the parties continuous with other litigation, even after obtaining divorce under ‘irretrievable breakdown of marriage’ then such divorce is meaningless. Hence we recommend that the BILL should incorporate mechanism so that all litigations between the parties are closed at the time of granting divorce under ‘irretrievable breakdown of marriage’.
Committee’s Recommendation in Chapter – IV – Para 5: The Committee notes that the term ‘grave financial hardship’ appearing here is capable of varied interpretation. Further, it may be difficult for the wife to satisfy the court that it would ‘in all circumstances be wrong to dissolve the marriage’. Not only this, the provisions of the Bill talk of ‘grave’ financial hardship, i.e., divorce may not be allowed on this ground if the wife is being subjected to a ‘grave’ financial hardship. Does it mean that court may proceed with the grant of a decree of divorce on this ground despite the fact that the wife may be put to ‘financial hardship’ and not “grave” financial hardship? The Committee, accordingly, recommends that the term “grave financial hardship” may be defined so that there is less of ambiguity. The Committee further recommends a review of these provisions of the Bill so that the interests of the women are better safeguarded in the divorce proceedings in the court.
NFHS Objection to Chapter – IV – Para 5: NFHS objects to the recommendations of committee for only considering financial hardships of wife and completely ignoring the financial hardships of husbands. Our NGO has been continuously receiving cases of many such husbands who have been ruined completely due to the multiple false criminal cases pending against them. Many such husbands have been removed from their jobs due to pending criminal cases like 498A IPC thus bringing them on streets for their survival. The very fact that committee has not considered the cases of such husbands is enough to conclude that committee is not aware about the ground realities and pain and harassment of such husbands at the hands of their cruel wives. Hence we recommend that the word wife and husband must be replaced with SPOUSE so that BILL will take care of such husbands also and will be Gender Neutral in true sense.
Committee’s Recommendation in Chapter – IV – Para 7: Accordingly, the Committee feels that there should be some effective legal mechanism so that the women atleast get their share in the matrimonial property which has been acquired during the subsistence of marriage. The Committee, accordingly, recommends the Government to make adequate provisions in the Matrimonial Law to ensure that the courts, while adjudicating on divorce petitions, also decide upon women’s share in the matrimonial property while granting divorce so that they are not deprived of the assets/properties in which they have contributed during the continuance of marriage. The Committee is strongly of the view that liberalization of the laws of divorce should essentially be accompanied with appropriate provisions recognizing the legitimate rights of the women on the matrimonial property/assets atleast, in which they have their share of contribution.
NFHS Objection to Chapter – IV – Para 7: NFHS marks our strong protests to the provision of duplication of laws regarding properties. Also this provision could be grossly misused. Going by the misuse of many legislation it could be possible that in order to get properties either spouse may file for divorce under this section with an eye on property within few year of marriage. Since always a new legislation is made with an intention for the benefit of the society but at the same time it is wise to have checks and balances so as to curb probable misuse. Hence NFHS recommends that if at all property clause is added then it should be available to only such couple who will file for divorce under this section after minimum ten years of marriage.
Another suggestion from NFHS is the definition of ‘irretrievable breakdown of marriage’ has to be defined very clearly. Though staying away from each other from many years could be one such criteria, at the same time large number of cases and counter cases between the parties also come within the definition of dead marriages. Hence finally we suggest to call for fresh suggestions, comments and recommendations from general public again and also comprehensive study on this subject so that BILL is not passed in haste.
Some of the press coverage wherein NFHS has strongly opposed the proposed BILL is below.
President, National Family Harmony Society