Parliament Wednesday inched towards the passage of the Intestate Succession Bill when the bill passed through its second reading stage.
The Bill, which was laid before the House on November 3, 2009 and referred to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for consideration and report, seeks a more responsive approach to the needs of nuclear families whose parents and spouses die intestate.
According to members of the committee, they had spent more than two years to deliberate on the bill because of its sensitive nature.
When passed, the bill will replace the Intestate Succession Act, 1985 (PNDC Law 111).
According to the memorandum accompanying the bill, its objective is to remove the anomalies in the present law relating to intestate succession and to provide a uniform intestate succession law that would be applied throughout the country irrespective of inheritance system of the intestate and the type of marriage.
According to the memorandum, the present law on intestate succession appears to be overtaken by changes in the Ghanaian family system.
The importance of the extended family system was gradually shifting to the nuclear family as pertained in other parts of the world.
However, the well-entrenched family law system had provided very little protection for surviving spouses and children.
In its deliberation, the committee observed that intestate succession and its attendant socio-legal issues continued to pose challenges largely due to the pluralistic nature of the family law system of the country.
It said after over 25 years of the coming into force of PNDCL 111, there were still difficulties in its implementation due to the increasing importance of the nuclear family.
The committee’s report said some key issues that emerged during deliberations, particularly during the public hearings, had been addressed in the bill.
They included the need for enhancement of provisions for children of school age, the need to put a cap on the amount to be treated as household property, the need for enhancement of entitlements for the longest serving spouse within the context of a polygamous marriage, status of additional spouse married under customary law in relation to the spouse under the ordinance.
The Deputy Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Ebo Barton-Odro, moved the motion for the bill to go through the second reading and he was seconded by the Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Emmanuel Kwasi Bandua.
The second reading stage of a bill is a stage when the principles underlying the introduction of the bill are discussed.
But before he could move the motion for the House to debate on principles of the bill, some members from the Minority side raised concerns about the whereabouts of the substantive Attorney-General and Minister of Justice.
The Minority argued that a deputy minister was put in place to assist the substantive minister and in a case where there was no substantive minister, “who is the deputy minister there to assist?”
After a lengthy debate, however, he was allowed to move the motion.
The Member of Parliament for Sekondi, Papa Owusu-Ankomah, observed that the time was ripe for Ghana to take the bull by the horn and enact an interstate succession law that would stand the test of time and enhance the wellbeing of children whose parents died before they become independent in life.