Experts warn against rush for ‘complex’ Uniform Civil Code

Codification of certain laws like Muslim personal laws and others need thorough deliberation, say jurists

Published: 30th October 2022 08:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th October 2022 08:10 AM   |  A+A-

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NEW DELHI: As the Gujarat government announced its plans to set up a committee to implement the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the state, Constitutional experts say that states should not rush as it’s a complex issue to deal with under the law. The UCC, which comes under Article 44 of the Constitution of India, calls for a common set of laws for all religious communities on matters such as marriage, divorce, adoption, inheritance, and succession.

On Saturday, Gujarat home minister Harsh Sanghvi said that it will constitute a panel headed by a retired HC judge along with three or four members. Earlier, Uttarakhand also formed a six-member panel led by retired justice Ranjana Prakash Desai to study ways for the implementation of UCC.  Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh had also expressed their willingness to follow suit.

Constitution expert and former Lok Sabha secretary general P D T Achary told this newspaper that though both the Centre and the states are empowered to bring such a law as personal laws come under the Concurrent List of the Constitution, it shouldn’t be passed in a hurry.  

“There are several diverse customs among various religious communities in India. It’s not easy to bring them all together and make common law.  It’s far too complex an issue to be dealt with under law in a haste. There should be a deeper study on this,” he said, adding that wider public consultation is required in this matter.

Though Uttarakhand already has a model, former Law Commission Chairman B S Chauhan is skeptical about states going about the implementation.  “Which law will be applicable if a UP Muslim gets married to a Hindu from Gujarat? Interstate marriages are very common now and Gujarat UCC won’t be applicable outside the state. It’s a matter of study whether states can do it.  To implement uniform law, we have to codify Muslim laws and others. The issue is far too complicated,” says Chauhan, who headed the 21st Law Commission, which prepared a working paper on UCC. The Commission said that UCC is not tenable as many cases relating to personal laws are pending before the Supreme Court.  

Legal expert and former VC NALSAR University of Law Faizan Mustafa told this newspaper that though the Uttarakhand government formed a panel to study the aspects of UCC, it doesn’t have experts in the subject matter.

“Though I welcomed the Uttarakhand government move, I am disappointed that the expert committee has largely bureaucrats. A High court judge cannot be an expert in Muslim law. Committees must consist of eminent experts of personal laws,” said Mustafa adding that when the Hindu Law committee was constituted in 1941, it consisted of experts in Hindu laws. “We need such experts,” he said.

Experts also point out that as Gujarat has approximately 9,727 Parsi community members and thus applying a uniform law will lead to friction among communities. “Some of the Parsi personal laws regarding adoption and divorce are already contested. There should be wide consultation with the community members, “said a community member.

Reacting sharply to the BJP government’s move on forming a panel to study the possibility of implementing Uniform Civil Code, the Gujarat Congress on Saturday said that people would not be misled by the BJP government’s decision. Calling it a “gimmick” ahead of Assembly elections, senior Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia said the state legislature has no power to make such laws. The Bhupendra Patel government earlier in the day announced that a committee headed by a retired HC judge would be formed to study the modalities of implementing the UCC. “This gimmick is aimed at misleading the public who are suffering due to inflation and joblessness and a host of other problems because of the failure of the government.  The power to implement the Uniform Civil Code lies with the Centre.  Personal laws were passed by Parliament, and the Gujarat Assembly does not have the power to make this law,” Modhwadia said at a press conference. 

India Matters


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