Law Commission inactive, UCC fate in limbo

With only four months left for its tenure to end, commission is yet to get chairman and its members. For the first time since 1955, the law commission is functioning without a chairperson.
The fate of important legislations such as the Uniform Civil Code. (File Photo)
The fate of important legislations such as the Uniform Civil Code. (File Photo)

NEW DELHI: As the three-year term of the 22nd Law Commission is set to expire in four months, the fate of important legislations such as the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is hanging in limbo. Significantly, the 22nd Law commission, which was notified by the Ministry of Law and Justice on February 21, 2020, is virtually defunct as it’s yet to get a chairperson and members. However, the Union government has maintained that the 22nd Law Commission will look into the framing of UCC.

For the first time since its inception in 1955, the law commission is functioning without a chairperson and members. The tenure of a Law Commission, an advisory body on legal reforms, is for three years. The term of the 21st Law Commission, headed by retired judge B S Chauhan, ended on August 31, 2018. Speaking to this daily, senior SC lawyer and former Law Commission member Kirti Singh said that the Law Commission plays an important role in the justice delivery system by making suggestions to the government about new reforms in law by constitutional promises.

Notably, the Commission has a rich history with nearly 50% of the recommendations made by the executive body having been made into laws or acted upon by the government. “It’s shameful that we do not have a Law Commission for the first time in its history. It shows the government’s low priority in judicial reforms. Law Commissions across the world are very important organisations and they are supposed to tell the authorities how a law is interpreted and what should be reformed,” said Singh, who was a member of the 18th Law Commission.

She also points out some of the landmark reports by the previous commissions which have been made into laws. “As a member, my report on Acid attacks was made into a law. There were other significant recommendations such as rape laws, which the government acted upon,” she said. Last week, during a Court hearing, the Union government told the Supreme Court that it had requested the 22nd Law Commission to examine various issues relating to the UCC and make recommendations on the same.

The Centre also told the SC that 21st Law Commission had uploaded a report titled Reform of Family Law after consultation with various stakeholders. “The subject matter will be placed before the 22nd Law Commission for its consideration when the chairman and members of the Commission are appointed,” the Centre said. However, experts wonder how the government will go about it as the new Commission hasn’t been constituted yet. The UCC calls for one codified law for all religious communities on matters such as marriage, adoption, inheritance, and divorce.

Speaking to this newspaper, B S Chauhan, who headed the 21st Commission, said that the commission has prepared merely a consultative paper based on consultations with stakeholders and felt that the government shouldn’t rush into implementing the UCC as it involves complex legal issues. “Currently, some seven or eight cases on personal laws are pending before the SC. We couldn’t give any recommendation on UCC because of that,” he said, adding that the commission had invited suggestions from the public through a questionnaire.

Key recommendations of panel

Proposal to Amend the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 and other allied Laws, Proposal to amend Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 in case a female dies intestate leaving herself acquired property with no heirs

Proposal for the amendment of explanation to Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 to include oral partition and family arrangement on the definition of 'partition'

Proposal for the omission of Section 213 from the Indian Succession Act, 1925, Humanization and Decriminalisation of Attempt to Suicide, Laws on Registration of Marriages and Divorce — A proposal for Consolidation and Reform

Laws of Civil Marriage in India — A proposal to Resolve Certain Conflicts, Non-Feasibility of introduction of Hindi as compulsory language in the Supreme Court of India

Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage — Another Ground for Divorce, Need to accede to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (1980), Need for Family Law Legislations for Non-resident Indians

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