Bill to make divorce easier may be dropped

Groups opposing the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill contend that it will cause an increase in "illegitimate and live-in relations and thereby a fall of the institution of marriage and family values."

Updated - February 19, 2015 10:43 am IST

Published - February 19, 2015 01:25 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Concerned about “illegitimate and live-in relationships,” the NDA government may reverse a process set in motion by the UPA government to make getting a divorce easier for Hindu couples.

Following several years of discussion, the UPA government introduced the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, proposing amendments to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and the Special Marriage Act, 1954, to make “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” a ground for divorce. The Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2013, but could not be taken up for discussion in the Lok Sabha.

Though the present government had initially considered tabling the Bill again, Law Minister Sadananda Gowda, in response to a question in the Lok Sabha on December 18, 2014, admitted that the government was having second thoughts about it. He said the government was examining the implications of bringing the Bill as more than 70 representations had been received against it from senior citizen groups and non-governmental organisations such as Save Indian Family and Centre for Reforms. Save Indian Family is an umbrella organisation of various groups which fight for men’s rights.

“In these representations, grave and far-reaching legal, social and economic implications of the proposed amendments to marriage laws have been raised,” Mr. Gowda said.

These groups contend that such an amendment will bring down the marriage rate in the country.

Bill sought to remove lacuna

Groups opposing the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill contend that it will cause an increase in “illegitimate and live-in relations and thereby a fall of the institution of marriage and family values.”

They fear crime rate and undue litigation will increase.

“In this background, the government is examining the aforesaid implications alleged to be involved in the proposal to amend the marriage laws,” Law Minister Sadananda Gowda said.

Under the current law, divorce is granted if a couple jointly files an application by mutual consent. In case the divorce is contested, then the husband or the wife has to prove certain grounds under which a marriage can be dissolved.

These include adultery, cruelty, insanity, desertion or medical reasons such as communicable disease. The Amendment Bill essentially sought to remove this lacuna by allowing either the husband or the wife to contend that there has been an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage.

Under the law, any one party can file for divorce on this ground after a three year period of separation.

The wife also has the right to contest a divorce if she can prove she will be in grave financial hardship. The first proposals for amendments to the Hindu Marriage Act came from the Law Commission in 1978. Since then the Supreme Court has on a number of occasions recommended the inclusion of irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground for divorce.

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