Arunachal Pradesh Marriage and Inheritance of Property Bill, 2021 :A bone of contention ?
One of the most debated and controversial bill today is the Arunachal Pradesh Marriage and Inheritance Bill 2021. The Press briefing led by Advocate Romjir Rakshap, the Vice President of Save Arunachal Save Indigenous (SASI), on the 14th of August left an imprint on the defender of customary laws and the Bill supporters. Softly speaking the Marriage and Inheritance Bill 2021 has not been passed yet and senior Women members of APWWS (Arunachal Pradesh Woman Welfare Society) welcomes opinions and ideas from the citizens of Arunachal Pradesh.
What does the Bill comprise of?
The bill comprises 11 chapters and 53 sections dealing with, like that of , solemnization of marriage, marriage ceremony, appointment of marriage officer, registration of marriage, marriage certificate, restitution of conjugal rights and judicial separation, nullity of marriage and dissolution of marriage, divorce by mutual consent, permanent alimony and maintenance, jurisdiction of the court, division of property on divorce, will, inheritance of father’s (head of the family) property, right of childless widow, distribution of property where there are lineal descendants, distribution of the village ancestral immovable property, inheritance of a woman’s personal property, right of child in womb, right of a predeceased wife to possess house property, right of an APST woman married to a non-APST on inherited immovable property, right of an APST woman married to a non-APST on immovable property owned and acquired by her, right of a non-APST woman married to an APST man, penalty on married person marrying again under this act, punishment of bigamy or polygamy or polygyny or polyandry, etc.
What does SASI have to say?
SASI Vice-Chairman Advocate Romjir Rakhsap entitled the recent Marriage and inheritance bill as a "Random act" by stating, "that customary law and certain social practices adopted by the tribal communities residing in the state already exist and the aforesaid bill would simply resort to restrictions on the age-old customary law practices in the state.
Moreover the rights given in the section 44 of the bill which gives Rights to the APST women marrying Non- APST men to own immovable ancestral property till her life is very objectionable as this is an indirect granting of PRC to the outsiders. Further section 45 talks of APST women married to Non-APST men on inheritance to immovable property owned and acquired by APST women, here in case of the death of the woman her husband and her heirs would have the full rights of it for disposal and alienation to any indigenous tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. Romjir stated the bill is found to be with plenty of lacuna and loopholes, he further went on to say "If this bill becomes an act it will directly give a pathway to outsiders to lure or marry APST women and enjoy indirect land rights"
Present Chief Advisor and former President of APWWS Smt.Jarjum Ete welcomes the people of Arunachal Pradesh with sensible opinions and ideas from the people of Arunachal Pradesh.
Dr.Topi Basar, RGU,Dept of law , a Former Associate Professor at National Law university and judicial Academy Assam and a Former Assistant Professor at faculty of Law Delhi University, further analyzed that:
"The bill also mentions about property right of a non-APST woman married to an APST man. As long as a non-APST woman remains a widow of her deceased APST husband, she shall enjoy all the rights and property of her deceased husband. However, if she remarries, then all the immovable property inherited and acquired from the deceased APST husband during the lifetime shall devolve to the lineal descendant of her deceased husband"
Two significant contributions of the bill is with respect to the criminalization of polygamy (prospectively means second marriage held before the law comes into force will not be affected) and property right of the legally wedded wife and widow. The bill is satisfactory in these aspects. However, inheritance rights of children, assuming the term ‘children’ includes both son and daughter, or by implication that children include both son and daughter, has not been elaborately dealt with.
On 18th of August Hon'ble Chief Minister Pema Khandu posted on his social page , "Daughter or son, they are our children with whom we equally share strong relationship and love. When it comes to property rights, we want to assure that they have equal rights irrespective of their gender"
Hon'ble Chief Minister's statement indicates that the Marriage and Inheritance Bill 2021 will witness its ray of hope in the Legislative Assembly, however, the section of society opposing the inheritance bill still prevails, hence both the party need to come closer and bring forth some remarkable work of acceptance, Moreover, the Bill is just a drafted proposal, the women commission envisage to table it in the Legislative Assembly in the days to come.
_by Jon Pebi Tato, Editor SPACE.
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