The Married Women’s Property Act, 1874

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The Married Women’s Property Act, 1874 (hereinafter referred to as “The Act”) is legislated by the British Rulers. The number of the Act is 3 of 1874. The Act focused on empowerment of married woman by providing them the right to own property after marriage. The objective of the legislature behind the enactment is to amend the law relating to married woman of certain communities.  The Act consists of six chapters and ten sections. The Act is in existence in post independence era by the amending act of 1959 which is named as the Married Women’s Property (Extension) Act, 1959 (hereinafter referred to as “The Amending Act”). The Amending Act was as an extension to the 1874 Act.

Section 2 of the Act specifies that the Act won’t apply to the woman who by birth or by marriage professes Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism.  Section 2 is further amended by the Amending Act in order to make the Act applicable to all parts of India except Jammu and Kashmir.  Section 4 of the Act paves way for emancipation of women. The earnings and wages earned through employment will be considered, after marriage, as their separate property and the husband cannot ask for the share in her property. Section 4 of the Act emphasizes the fact that the woman who earns the wages through employment or through any scientific and literary skill she possess or through investment will be considered as her separate property after marriage. Here, the means of earning wages itself signifies that the women were encouraged to contribute their work in these fields which would help in liberation of women. Section 4 of the Indian Succession Act, 1865 provides that the husband cannot acquire any interest in the property of his wife and vice versa. Therefore, the act brought a huge impact on the status of women. The women who were once themselves considered to be the property of her husband now led a dignified life full of self reliance.

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The women have the right to execute insurance policy independently and the effect of the policy will be the same as if executed for an unmarried woman. Section 6 has been divided into two parts. The first part provides that the insurance policy carried out by the husband for his wife will be a trust for the wife and that the husband cannot revoke the trust unless the wife is alive. The second part is amended by the amending act of 1959. Section 7 of the act provides that the women after marriage can file suits in her own name for the recovery of property and the remedies provided to her will be same as if she is unmarried.  The act everywhere emphasizes the fact that there wouldn’t lay any difference when the woman is married. The same rights and liabilities will continue to apply to her after marriage. That after marriage, the individuality of women is not lost and she could earn and can hold high positions in the society. Therefore, this Act was a revolutionary step towards realizing the rights of women.

The woman, if she carries any debt after marriage, and if the contract made between her and the other person is such that in case of failure of obligations by the woman, the property has to be attached, in that case the property attached will only be to the extent of separate property. Any property given to her for her benefit cannot be attached including her husbands’ one.  The husband will not liable for any pre marriage debts of his wife unless contracted before. Therefore, the husband cannot interfere with the individuality of his wife. The woman has her own independence and just because she is married doesn’t impose on her the right any restriction. Therefore, the Act brought a transformative change in the Indian society.

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by Neha Dayal