Family laws in India are different when Warren Hastings in 1772 created provisions prescribing Hindu law for Hindus and Islamic law for Muslims, for litigation relating to personal matters. However, after independence, efforts have been made to modernize various aspects of personal law and bring about uniformity among various religions. Recent reform has affected custody and guardianship laws, adoption laws, succession law, and laws concerning domestic violence and child marriage.
As far as Hindus are concerned Hindu Law is a specific branch of law. Though the attempt made by the first parliament after independence did not succeed in bringing forth a Hindu Code comprising the entire field of Hindu family law, laws could be enacted touching upon all major areas that affect family life among Hindus in India.Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists are also covered by Hindu law.
Indian Muslims' personal laws are based on the Sharia, which is partially applied in India. The portion of the fiqh applicable to Indian Muslims as personal law is termed Mohammedan law. Despite being largely uncodified, Mohammedan law has the same legal status as other codified statutes. The development of the law is largely on the basis of judicial precedent, which in recent times has been subject to review by the courts. The very Source of the Muslim law are divided into two categories :
Primary Source" As per Sunni Law:
Sunna or Ahdis (Tradition of the Prophet)
Ijma (Unanimous Decision of the Jurists)
Qiyas ( Analogical deduction)
As per Shia Law:
Tradition (only those that have come from the family of the Prophet)
Ijma (only those confirmed by Imams)
For Christians, a distinct branch of law known as Christian Law, mostly based on specific statutes, applies.
Christian law of Succession and Divorce in India have undergone changes in recent years. The Indian Divorce (Amendment) Act of 2001 has brought in considerable changes in the grounds available for divorce. By now Christian law in India has emerged as a separate branch of law. It covers the entire spectrum of family law so far as it concerns Christians in India. Christian law, to a great extent is based on English law but there are laws that originated on the strength of customary practices and precedents.
Christian family law has now distinct sub branches like laws on marriage, divorce,restitution, judicial separation, succession, adoption,guardianship, maintenance, custody of minor children and relevance of canon law and all that regulates familial relationship.
Domestic Violence Act
The above being criminal remedies, a civil remedy was brought into the picture in 2005 (amended in 2006).
This was called the "Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act".
For the purpose of this act, Domestic Violence includes the demand for dowry: For the purposes of this Act, any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent shall constitute domestic violence in case it -
(a) harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well-being, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person or tends to do so and includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse; or
(b) harasses, harms, injures or endangers the aggrieved person with a view to coerce her or any other person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any dowry or other property or valuable security.
Criticism by men's rights movements
According to the men's rights movements in India, the laws suffer from the following shortcomings:
Gender Bias: The laws do not recognize cruelty and domestic violence against men. The police in India almost never register complaints of extortion or violence against men in a domestic relationship, but registering a complaint under 498A (where a woman is the aggrieved party) is widespread.
Vague definitions of dowry and stridhan.
Presumption of guilt. IPC 304B assumes that if an accidental death of a wife happens within seven years of marriage, it is to be assumed to be murder unless the husband can prove his innocence. Corruption in the police force, which often does no investigation before arresting innocent people.
Human rights violations: in most cases involving non-resident Indians, their passports are impounded and they are restricted from traveling outside the country.
No penalties for false complaints or perjury.
Often gifts offered by the bride's parents to win over the bridegroom are channelized into a dowry tunnel.