The Married Women’s Property (extension) act, 1959

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The Married Women’s Property (extension) act, 1959 (hereinafter referred to as “the act”) is an extension act of the Married Women’s Property Act, 1874 (hereinafter referred to as “the principal act”). To make the principal act work according to the society laws of post independence era and to extend the principal act to all parts of India except Jammu and Kashmir, an extension act came into force on 24th December, 1959 which facilitated two amendments in the principal act. Moreover, the primary aim of the Act was to extend the principal act to those parts of India where it was not in force.

The first amendment took place in section 2 of the Principal Act. Section 2 deals with the extent and application of the Principal Act. The amendment provides that the principal act extends to the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir. Section 2 further provides that the principal act did not apply to woman who by birth or by marriage professes Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. However, an exception has been carved out in section 6(2) of the principal act. It specifies that policy of the insurance can be effected on any Hindu, Muhammadan, Jains or Sikh before 31st December, 1913 if living in Madras or when the principal act extended to the territories before the enforcement of the Act or after the enforcement of the Act, the territories to which it has been extended. In case of Buddhist, the policy of insurance can be effected after the enforcement of the Act. This provision is laden with an exception clause. It provides that if any right or liability has been accrued or incurred by the decree of a competent court before 1st April, 1923 or after commencement of the Act, then the provision of clause 2 of section 6 mentioned above would not be applicable.

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The act also amends Union Territories (Laws) Act, 1950 by omitting the entry relating to the principal act in Part A of the 1950 Act. The law also takes care of the principal act in cases of conflicting acts. It means that if in a situation the principal act along with other legislation is applicable, in that case, the principal act will be applicable and the other legislation will be repealed provided that the other legislation must have come into force before the 1959 Act. The law is clearly stated in section 5 of the Act that in those parts of India wherein the act has extended the principal act, if there is any other legislation before the commencement of this act, in that case the other legislation will be repealed. Provided that the rights, obligations, privilege, liability or any punishment or forfeiture will not have any effect of the repealed act and it will continue as if nothing ever happened.

The primary purpose of the Act is to encourage the position and status of women. It is not a time when women should be restricted to household duties. It is time when the women like in early Vedic age held honorable position in the society and earned their own living. In a globalized era, women should be supported to break the shackles of the customs prevailing in the society and not of their fundamental right of Right to Life. The principal act was a revolutionary act in those times which laid the foundation for changing the status of women.

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by Neha Dayal