The Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill 2010 has raised a storm in the legal circles and among bodies representing rights of men. The bodies advocating for men’s rights like Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF) have lambasted the latest amendment on ground that it promotes misandry in society. Even in legal circles, allowing wife right to oppose the grant of a decree, if she happens to be respondent, on the ground that the dissolution of the marriage will result in grave financial hardship to her but denying the same right to husband is being seen as violation of the principle inherent in Article 14 related with Right to Equality.
In my eyes, the response is just the reverse. I appreciate the amendment and I condemn the media and Men’s Rights Association that they have reacted in immature manner without bothering to having a close look at the Amendment. The Amendment nowhere talks about distribution of husband’s property -an impression generated by SIFF and Indian media. We should learn to appreciate good laws. However, I too have my fears and doubts but they differ hugely from the mainstream media or, for that matter, associations championing the cause of men.
This amendment had became a necessity after Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and the Special Marriage Act, 1954 were modified to meet the new changes in the society. It was presented in the Parliament last year, keeping in mind suggestions made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice. It would be quite interesting to know that demand to include “Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage as a Ground of Divorce” came into limelight some three decades ago. That prompted the Law Commission to take note of this issue. It dealt with this issue in its 71st Report titled “The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 — Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage as a Ground of Divorce” which was submitted in April, 1978, and made this recommendation that “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” should be made a new ground for granting a decree of divorce.
The Bill cites two judgement delivered by Supreme Court which acted as a catalyst: Ms. Jorden Diengdeh vs. S.S. Chopra(AIR 1985 SC 935) and Naveen Kohli vs. Neelu Kohli (AIR 2006 SC 1675). Both theses judgments laid emphasis on bringing suitable changes in Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 so that irretrievable breakdown of marriage could serve as an additional ground for divorce. The Law Commission once again came to the fore when it took suo moto cognizance of the issue, presenting its 217th Report titled ‘Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage —Another Ground for Divorce’ to the government in year 2009.
It can be noticed that Congress governments have been pretty much conscious to introduce laws, which give an upper hand to weaker sex so that it can be seen as champion of women’s rights. It’s very much similar to its approach in the case of minorities, which it tries to woo with anti constitutional measures. The same Congress government miserably failed to protect the sanctity of important Constitutional bodies like Governor of States and Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). After all, how dare CAG came to point out irregularities in the allocation of radio spectrum? No need to talk about role of governors who turned out to be puppets instead of acting as bridge between Centre and States. It also weakened Judiciary by making it in constant conflict with Parliament over its power to interpret the laws in independent manner. The Congress governments in subtle ways have always tried to weaken all the institutions that came to curb its lust for power. Of late, we find that it’s chiefly focused to appease minorities and women. One can easily sense why it’s so? It’s because these two constitute its vote bank. It’s neither bothered about quality of life nor its interested in making the nation on right track. How else can one justify the way it dragged important institutions into controversy- the latest being army row?
Let’s grasp this fact very well that all dubious laws have been framed by Congress government in the name of good intentions. The same laws created with good intentions become so terrible that Supreme Court Court is left with no other option other than to treat the Dowry Act as instrument of legal terrorism. The SC/ST Act is another draconian law that has left deep scars on the societal structure operating in India. The point is if laws are allowed to operate in the flawed system they do not serve the purpose for which they have been created. They become medium to harass and frustrate the right people. The better way to improve the society is not only have good laws but also have a system that makes implementation of the laws in proper way.
Coming to the latest amendment made in Marriage Act, it’s good that government is conscious that divorce petitions if get trapped in the battle of egos hurt the interest of both the parties interested in quick separation. What it fails to recognize that granting only one side to oppose the petition, the wife, would only make the life of husband miserable, who is already reeling under many other flawed laws. It’s highly shocking that despite noticing trend in previous laws – the gross misuse of provisions providing upper hand to women- the government grants women the power to oppose such petitions in the name that ” dissolution of the marriage will result in grave financial hardship”. However, it conveniently forgets that dissolution is equally painful and shocking, emotionally as well as financially, for men community? Why have been they denied the chance to oppose the petition on the same ground ?
It’s not hard to ascertain that government is not ready to accept the new changes that have hit the Indian society. For instance, it is not ready to believe that women are highly aggressive and violent in our times, and, therefore, make necessary changes in Domestic Violence Act. Psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty in one of the news items published recently says ” Domestic violence by women is grossly underreported as the law is heavily weighed against men.” It would be interesting to see when is Law Commission going to wake up and take suo moto cognizance of new behavioral patterns in women and make necessary changes in laws related with them? The problem with Law making bodies is that they deal with issues in narrow terms and hence the laws framed often miss the mark. The other point is bit complex in nature. The Women’s Commission in tandem with Women’s Rights activists and NGOs promotes emancipation of women, which has created more room for individualistic traits in women with heightened ego.
It’s really strange that we are creating more grounds of separation and, on the other hand, we are equally conscious that divorce becomes an easy task. Instead of making quality of life better, we are manufacturing new grounds of separation. On top of it, the flawed laws that ignore the abusive nature of women, the painful ignorance about the fact that men can be silent sufferers and the deep rooted prejudices which readily presume men guilty and women a holy cow have only led to collapse of family structure in India. It’s better that we device ways and means to ensure union and smooth relationship than ensuring easy divorce. Anyway, this amendment needs to be welcomed as it , at least, provides the trapped partners a chance to start new lives again than being engaged in endless battle. One hopes that it is not misused by the shrewd wives to manipulate and dictate terms.