NEW DELHI: Stressing that secularism cannot contradict plurality prevalent in the country, the Law Commission of India on Friday said that a uniform civil code is “neither necessary nor desirable at this stage” and instead submitted a consultation paper on family laws. Two years ago, the 21st Law Commission of India was asked to examine the feasibility of a uniform civil code as enshrined in the Constitution. The law panel in its 185-page report noted that the mere existence of religious differences does not imply discrimination, and is instead indicative of a robust democracy.
“The best way forward may be to preserve the diversity of personal laws but at the same time ensure that personal laws do not contradict fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India,” the paper read. It suggested that the legislature first consider guaranteeing equality within communities between men and women, rather than equality between communities.
Calling for reforms across religions, the commission stated that codification of different personal laws can help achieve certain universal principles that prioritise equity rather than the imposition of a uniform code.
Acknowledging the role of a woman in a household, the panel said regardless of her financial contribution, she should get an equal part of the property gained after marriage if the relationship ends in divorce. The report suggested that all property acquired after the marriage of either spouse be treated as a unit between the couple.
The outgoing panel was led by former Supreme Court judge Justice B S Chauhan. “Cultural diversity cannot be compromised to the extent that our urge for uniformity itself becomes a reason for threat to the territorial integrity of the nation,” he said. The proposed amendments in personal laws include fixing the marriageable age for boys and girls at 18 years so that they marry as equals, making adultery a ground for divorce for men and women and to simplify the divorce procedure. The commission said cases under Section 498A IPC (dowry harassment) are filed just to quickly get out of a difficult marriage. Inordinate delays in divorce proceedings can be avoided if a provision of ‘no fault’ divorce is incorporated in several personal law legislations, it proposed.
What’s in it
On Hindu law
Discusses problems on restitution of conjugal rights; suggests inclusion of ‘community of property’ of a married couple; abolition of coparcenary (joint heirship); rights of illegitimate children
For Muslim law
Gender-just codification of Muslim law on inheritance; rights of widow; ‘community of property’ after marriage; inclusion of irretrievable breakdown of marriage as ground for divorce
On Parsi law
Protecting married women’s right to inherit property even if they marry outside community
Expand ambit to make it robust for all communities for adoption; include all gender identities
Give women equal share in property acquired after marriage during divorce. Amend all personal and secular laws accordingly. Scrap six- month waiting period for divorce
Church confession ban demand is a knee-jerk reaction
Make 18 years the minimum legal age for men too