Friday, January 22, 2010

Mr Moily needs to do refresher course in Family law

Law minister Moily has been in news ever since he became, well, law minister. He has been making all the right noises like: make fast-track courts, finish pending cases within 3 years, decide divorce cases within 1 year, reduce pendency of cases, accountability of judges, and so on.

Only time will tell whether all or any of these can materialize. My best wishes to him if he is sincerely doing all these things, rather than just making tall promises to an Indian public which has grown highly suspicious and cautious of courts, lawyers, and police.

But in a recent interview, it was perplexing to read when he says Indian family laws (matrimony, divorce etc) are slightly biased towards men. Hellooooo? If you read Hindu Family Law, then it is clear that almost all of the sections are worded in gender-neutral way, e.g. HMA 24 on maintenance during court proceedings can provide maintenance to needy party, be it wife or husband. Of course given practical situations, it is used mostly by wives. Many other sections especially related to maintenance, e.g. HAMA 18 are specifically meant to provide maintenance to wife/children with man/husband having the sole responsibility.

This is the excerpt of interview with Mr Moily:

There is also some talk about your attempts at improving gender equality in Indian laws. Could you elaborate?
There are many laws in the country that are in favour of men and put women in a disadvantageous position. We are trying to set that right.

In adoption, women sometimes face a problem. In divorce petitions when one spouse holds up marriage, the other cannot marry again. I am trying to sanitise Acts which have a gender bias. Indian laws are skewed in favour of the man to a certain extent, which needs to be corrected.

Comments: Either Mr Moily should come in the open with the list of such biased laws, or stop giving utopia like statements to media who will lap it up and publish it for the 'benefit' of public. Such a statement could only mean that the law minister has forgotten much of the law which he once practised as a lawyer.

Even supreme court judges had asked a man to wait for few more months who has been fighting to get divorce from wife for 17 years. All this after he was acquitted of charges like "he bathes like a dog" from his lovely wife (on paper). Such is the so called 'bias' in law and judiciary towards men.

So it is clear that neither Indian laws, nor Indian judiciary has bias towards men. It is the judicial system where the needy will always get crushed under the weight of bureaucracy, inefficiency, corruption of legal and judicial fraternity, and so on.

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