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Amid Opposition demands to make divorce more women-friendly, the government today approved fresh amendments in a Bill pending in the Rajya Sabha to give the wife a clearly defined share in the husband’s immovable residential property in case of a divorce.

A meeting of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, took up new amendments to the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill introduced in the Rajya Sabha earlier this month.

The government also decided to retain the mandatory six-month cooling-off period, which the Bill had proposed to do away with in case of divorce by mutual consent.

To waive the cooling-off period, both the parties will have to move the application together. “In other words, the application to reduce the period can’t be moved by one party,” sources said after the meeting.

Once the divorce is granted, the woman will have to move an application to get a share in her husband’s property as part of the settlement.

Keeping in mind the demands raised by the Opposition, it has now been decided to give the wife and children a clearly defined share in the husband’s “immovable residential property” in case of a split.

Sensing the mood of the House in this connection, law minister Salman Khurshid had deferred his reply to the Bill on 2 May in the Upper House. Cutting across party lines, various members felt the Bill was being brought in haste and its spirit went against the interests of women and feared they would lose their rights further if divorce was made easier. “The amendments clarify and amplify provisions to be made in case of divorce,” the sources said. The law ministry’s Bill seeks to further amend the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and the Special Marriage Act, 1954

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