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KHADC refers Khasi Inheritance Bill to Select Committee

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Shillong, Nov 11: The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) on Wednesday decided to refer the KHAD (Khasi Inheritance of Property) Bill, 2021 to a select committee following the demand by the opposition bench as they argued that enough time was not given to the MDCs to study and give their respective suggestions.

The Bill, which seeks to ensure equitable distribution of property among the children of a tribal Khasi family, was tabled by the KHADC chief executive member, Titosstar Well Chyne on November 8, the first day of the winter session.

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Before the House could pass the Bill, an amendment motion was moved by opposition Congress demanding the need to refer the Bill to the select committee even as they contested that if the Bill, if passed in its present form, may disturb the age-old customary practices of the Khasi indigenous people.

In his reply, KHADC chief Titosstar Well Chyne said that the executive committee welcomes the suggestion of the members by referring the Bill to the select committee. But he cautioned that the select committee should not take too much time so that it can be passed within the next session.

“The question of again referring the Bill to other committees should not arise thereafter,” he added.

Meanwhile, KHADC Chairman Pyniaid Sing Syiem announced that the select committee will be headed by the CEM as chairman and secretary to the EC as its secretary.

Its members will include Leader of Opposition Pynshngainlang N Syiem and other MDCs – Carnes Sohshang, Charles Marngar, Lamphrang Blah and Paul Lyngdoh.

Speaking to reporters, Chyne said he is in no rush to pass the Bill at this juncture since it is related to the customary practices of the indigenous Khasis.

“(The decision taken) will give the select committee a chance to seek the views and opinions of all the stakeholders including elders, legal advisers and even social organizations, who are concerned with our customary laws.

Hence, the Bill has been referred to the select committee,” he said.

The CEM also informed that he would call the first sitting of the select committee by next week.

He also reminded that the intention of introducing the Bill was to streamline the customary practices to ensure equal distribution of self-acquired property and ancestral property among the children in a Khasi family.

“However, this will not be mandatory as everything will totally depend on the ‘Will’ of the parents,” Chyne said while further claiming that the spirit of the Bill will not disturb but will rather strengthen the Khasi customary practices.

“It will encourage the Khasi males to have a sense of security and belongingness, making them to become more responsible and have more confidence as a member of the family,” he added.

Issues with the Bill

Highlighting some of the issues with the current Bill, Leader of Opposition Pynshngainlang N Syiem said there are some new modified clauses which do not suit the Khasi customary practices.

Syiem questioned how a district council court can be involved in the issuing of certificates as per the proposed Bill.

“(As per) practices, judges cannot issue documents on behalf of the executive. You cannot mix the executive and the judiciary,” he said.

The Leader of Opposition also stated that the Bill may interfere into the love life of the children.

“The Bill had said if children go against the wish of the parents during marriage then they will lose their inheritance rights, I think that is not so importance to put in the Bill because we need some kind of language to use so that it will not directly interfere with the love affair of our children,” he said.

The Congress leader further expressed reservation against the objective of ensuring equal distribution of wealth among the siblings.
“I think equal shares will not work. Out of total assets of the family, we may put at least 20-30 percent for male members as we cannot do away with our custom and tradition. To say equal share that will be totally against the customary practices,” he added.

He also stressed that the objective of sending the Bill to the select committee is to ensure codification of the customary practices but not doing away with the backbone of the custom and traditions.

The Bill also states that a person will lose the right of inheritance if she/he has loss and deprivation of Khasi status as defined under the provision of the KHAD (Khasi Social Custom of Lineage) Act, 1997 and its rules framed thereunder.

In case a Khasi woman, who has married to the non-Khasi and has adopted the custom of her non-Khasi husband, she will lose the right of heritance, it states.

It also states that the offspring of a Khasi woman who follows the custom of their non-Khasi father will also lose their right of inheritance.

The other offences include marriage against parental consent, disobedience of parental commands, marriage and commission of incest with a kur or within the prohibited degree of kindred.

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