The Rajya Sabha on 26 August 2013 passed The Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2010 by voice vote. It seeks to amend the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 and the Special Marriages Act, 1954 which provides for irretrievable breakdown on marriage as a ground for divorce as well as grants women the right to a share in the property of their husbands.
Under the new bill, a provision has been made to restrict the grant of decree of divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage if the court is satisfied that adequate provision for the maintenance of children born out of the marriage has not been made consistently with the financial capacities of the parents.
The bill allows wife to oppose grant of divorce on the basis that a dissolution of marriage will lead to grave financial hardships. The court can also restrict grant of divorce if it is not satisfied about adequate provision for maintenance of children born of marriage.
The bill also has provisions that the court shall not hold marriage to have broken down irretrievably unless it is satisfied that the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of not less than three years before filing petition for divorce.
The Bill would provide safeguards to parties to marriage who file petition for grant of divorce by consent from the harassment in court if any of the party does not come to the court or willfully avoids the court to keep the divorce proceedings inconclusive.
At present, various grounds for dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce are laid down in section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The grounds inter alia include adultery, cruelty, desertion, conversion to another religion, unsoundness of mind, virulent and incurable form of leprosy, venereal disease in a communicable form, renouncement of the world and not heard as being alive for a period of seven years or more. Section 27 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 also lays down similar grounds.
However, section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act and Section 28 of the Special Marriage Act provide for divorce by mutual consent as a ground for presenting a petition for dissolution of marriage. The said sections inter alia provide that a petition for dissolution of marriage by mutual consent, if not withdrawn before six months after its presentation or not later than 18 months, then, the court may, on being satisfied after making inquiry, grant decree of divorce by mutual consent. However, it has been observed that the parties who have filed petition for mutual consent suffer in case one of the parties abstains himself or herself from court proceedings and keeps the divorce proceedings inconclusive. This has been causing considerable hardship to the party in dire need of divorce.
The Law Commission in its 71st report submitted in 1978 had recommended amendments to Hindu Marriage Act to make of irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a new ground for divorce. A report of Law Commission in 2009 had also made similar recommendation. On 23 March 2012, the Union Cabinet of India approved the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2010, by which irretrievable breakdown of marriage was included as a ground for dissolving a marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and the Special Marriage Act, 1954.
Who: Rajya Sabha
When: 26 August 2013