Stress on Indian ethos of family building
The government introduced a Bill in Rajya Sabha on 30th April, 2012, to amend the existing marriage laws to make divorce easier in case of irretrievable breakdown of marriage between two consenting adults. BJP opposed the legislation on the ground that certain provisions could be dangerous for women. Not only that, other opposition parties including the SP, BSP, BJD, CPI and CPM, besides a Congress member opposed the Bill and sought, not to reduce cooling off period for couples, to end their marriage through divorce. In fact all the major opposition parties accused the government that the Bill was brought in a hurry.
The institution of marriage is considered sacred in Hindu society. Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act and Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act came into existence after Independence to bring equality between men and women with the aim that women should be empowered by giving rights. Many people spoke expressing a deep concern.
What will happen to physically or mentally challenged
Smt. Jaya Bachchan spoke about the serious consequences of divorce. “Even today divorce is considered a stigma on our society. She has been divorced, she is wrong, she has done something bad. Our society in India is basically a middle-class society. The cooling period should not be reduced. I cannot imagine a man and a woman, who have mentally or physically challenged child, can ask for divorce. We as a State are not yet developed enough to look after such children.”
Smt. Maya Singh pleaded for more cooling period. She said, “Provisions of 6 to 18 months time regarding pronouncement of decision in case of divorce has been taken away with this amendment while the Parliamentary Committee had opposed to abolish the provision of compulsory waiting period. Issue related to the share of wife in property earned after the marriage has been left to the courts. I have doubt that women will get justice there. I request that there should be an explicit policy in this regard. Government should find out domestic, social and financial reasons behind the divorce and should try to eradicate those reasons instead of making the process of divorce simple. This will instigate divorce and it will be misused against the women. It will encourage contract marriage.”
Bill encourages western life style
Shri Brajesh Pathak spoke about the sublime attitude of family life. He spoke that the rate of successful marriage in India is highest in comparison to the developed nations like America and Britain or other countries of the world. According to the Indian ethos a girl considers his husband as God. Some amendments were carried out in the Hindu Marriage Act from time to time. But I want to know what necessitated to bring the present Bill in the House? Whether the civil societies or some women organisations etc. had put in their demand regarding it? You are making it easier to seek divorce through this amendment. You have also left decision regarding cooling off period of six months on the discretion of the Judge. I also believe that this amendment will encourage western culture in our country. It will also increase sense of insecurity among the women. A man or woman can seek divorce from his affluent partner by engaging an eminent lawyer in order to get fifty per cent share in the property acquired after marriage. The present Bill is contrary to the Indian system. I therefore, submit that the Bill should be referred to the Select Committee for having detailed discussion on it.
Bill is against vulnerable section of the society
Shri Tapan Kumar Sen expressed a deep concern about the weaker section. “This Bill is a reflection of biased mindset against the weaker and the vulnerable section of the society. I stress on the proportional sharing of marital property because when women mostly get separated, they are separated with children. So, the children’s account will also have to be taken into account while sharing of the marital property. In many a cases, while making assessment of the marital property, it has to be ensured that the real income of the household is property disclosed. It should not be just left to the discretion and understanding of the court as such. It must be ensured that a provision is made for women and children to have a house and a place of residence. The laws relating to the maintenance for women and children must be strengthened to ensure that women and children receive an adequate amount of maintenance which will be sufficient for them to live a lifestyle. There should be some special arrangement so that the women facing a divorce should not face the legal hazards they normally face.”
Dowry is major reason for divorce
Shri Ram Kripal Yadav opined that marriage is considered a sacred in our society. “Practice of dowry is major reason behind the divorce. Despite our efforts, practice of dowry still exists in our society. Our society doesn’t consider divorce a good thing. Divorce is accepted always as last option when it becomes inevitable. Life of women become miserable after divorce as we are male dominated country and in most of the cases male is source of income. Safety of future of children borne out of marriage should be ensured. We don’t want the cases of divorce increase. We are going to simplify the process of divorce in haste. It should be reconsidered. It needs to be checked. No one prefers divorce but after this amendment trend of divorce will increase and will make an ill effect on society. I request that it should be reconsidered. We should not enact any such law which will promote divorce. This Bill should be brought only after intense considerations. As it is a sensitive Bill so don’t bring this in any such haste.”
Family system will be destroyed
Shri M. Rama Jois stated that this amendment together with the 1976 amendment, providing for divorce by consent, encourages divorces, which is injurious to the children and family. “The relationship brought about between a man and woman as husband and wife through marriage is irreversible. Just because husband and wife have divorced each other, what would happen to the children? Who is going to bring them up? Therefore, such legislations are injurious to the national interest and should be given up. A matter of this magnitude, which affects the entire society, must be considered coolly. If the husband and wife do not talk to each other, does that mean it is irretrievably broken down? Therefore, the present legislation, which increases the desire to get divorce, is ultimately ruinous to our society. In the entire world, this family system of India, is appreciated. We are, completely, destroying this spirit, and we are being influenced by sex and lust. We must reverse this stand.”
Women are always the sufferer
Dr. Najma A. Heptulla said that “The Indian ethos is on family building, not family breaking. That is why the thought of divorce was unthinkable in Indian society. Today time has changed. Women are asserting her selves. In Islam not only men but women can also go for divorce. Unfortunately, the women never do it and they are always the sufferer. The Bill has a provision which allows both the parties to file for a divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage. Both the parties have to live apart for, at least, three years before filling such a petition. This can be misused. The wife has a right to oppose the grant of a divorce on the ground that dissolution of the marriage will result in grave financial hardship to her. The court shall consider all circumstances including the conduct of the party, children, before deciding whether a divorce would result in hardship. We cannot make laws in India according to the western society where social set up is different from ours. The Standing Committee has recommended that the six months’ cooling period should remain. I also feel so. I don’t think there is anything which is really irretrievable. I am happy that you are bringing an amendment regarding adopted children. When two people get married they become the owners of the property. But there is no system in our country that the wife becomes co-owner of her husband’s property. You have to take care of that. This law is not going to be only for educated urban women but for uneducated rural women also. We should relook into the irretrievable breakdown of marriage and take the recommendation of the Standing Committee more seriously.”
Don’t do injustice to women
The Leader of the Opposition Shri Arun Jaitley asserted that “Conventionally, divorce in India is granted either with consent or granted to a party which is suffering from a matrimonial default caused by the other party. The simple principle being that no person can take a benefit of his own default. So person commits a default, can’t seek a divorce. Now, irretrievable breakdown is a ground, which is different from our convention. In this system women would be the sufferer. On an irretrievable breakdown where on account of husband’s own conduct the marriage is broken down, he uses his own default to get a divorce. I think, if we start with such a legislative policy we will be doing a great injustice to the women.
Finally, speedy divorce got delayed with a proposed amendment to the Hindu marriage Act, 1955. It was stalled in Rajya Sabha. Law Minister Salman Khurshid, referred the bill to a Select Committee of Parliament, sought time to respond to the Bill, leaving the Bill’s fate hanging.