Shantaram Naik, Rajya Sabha member from Goa and chairman of the Standing Committee on Personnel Public Grievances, Law, and Justice, has said it would be advisable to make applicable the provisions of the law prevailing in the State in the matter of property distribution while disposing of divorce matters under the Hindu Marriage Act and Special Marriage Act.
Mr. Naik told The Hindu from New Delhi on Sunday that while initiating the debate on behalf of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha last week on the Hindu Marriage (Amendment) and Special Marriage (Amendment) Bill, he made this suggestion.
Mr Naik said the government's proposal to amendment the two Acts to include the additional ground of divorce, namely of irretrievable breakdown of marriage was the need of the hour. It was true the government, as per the recommendation of the Standing Committee report, proposed to give discretion to the court to order financial assistance or share in the property to be given to the wife as may be deemed fit.
But he felt that instead of giving discretion to the courts, it was advisable to import Goa law into the Bill (provisions of Portuguese Civil Code), under which a definite share goes to the wife upon marriage. He recalled that Najma Heptullah of the BJP intervened to support his views.
Mr. Naik said he tried his best to allay the fears of the MPs that the Bill was anti-woman. The new ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage avoided long trials where character assassination of the woman was done in courts.
Under the proposed law, any of the spouses could file for divorce after he or she satisfied the court that they had lived separately for three years and that there was irretrievable breakdown of marriage. In such cases, there was no scope for allegations, Mr. Naik pointed out.
Mr. Naik said the government had not brought in the Bill simply because the Supreme Court had recommended the same or because a similar law existed abroad. Advocating his plea for including Goa provisions, Mr. Niak said that during the debate, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley had the basic objection to the new ground basically because the Bill did not make substantial provision for the wife.
Mr. Naik said that what Ms. Heptulla said needed to be carefully examined. She said the Bill required that husband and wife should live separately for three years before applying for divorce under the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage but in India men lost their jobs and sometimes returned to their wife after three years and such cases needed careful scrutiny.
He was happy that the Union Law Minister had sought time of the House to reply to the debate and come out with some amendments.