Uniform civil code neither necessary nor desirable: Law panel
The panel, whose three-year term ended today, said diversity of Indian culture should be celebrated, but specific groups, or weaker sections of the society must not be "disprivileged in the process".
Submitting a consultation paper on “reform in family laws”, the Commission has dealt with laws that are discriminatory “rather than providing a uniform civil code which is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage”.
The paper says “most countries are now moving towards recognition of difference, and the mere existence of difference does not imply discrimination, but is indicative of a robust democracy
Observing that there’s “absence of consensus on uniform civil code”, the Commission has underlined the need to eradicate discrimination.
“This way, some of the differences within personal laws which are meaningful can be preserved and inequality can be weeded out to the greatest extent possible without absolute uniformity,” it said.
Stressing on equal rights for women, the Commission has said women must be guaranteed their freedom of faith without any compromise on their right to equality.
The Commission has also recommended universal age of consent for marriage. The Commission, as reported by ET earlier this month, has not submitted a report on the contentious issue of uniform civil code.
It has received over 75,378 responses suggesting various ways in which reforms could be executed. “This indicated that the public now desires a reform of the law. Majority of these responses, however, dealt specifically with the issue of triple talaq, or talaq-ul-biddat, which is a one among the various other issues that need attention,” it said.
Dealing with a host of issues from marriage, divorce, succession, etc., the Commission has suggested that the coparcenary be abolished at the central level, and the right in a property by birth be extinguished by opting for tenancy-in-common instead of joint tenancy?.
The Commission has suggested a range of amendments to existing family laws and also suggested codification of certain aspects of personal laws so as to limit the ambiguity in interpretation and application of these personal laws.
In the absence of any consensus on a uniform civil code, the Commission says 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. In order to achieve this, it is desirable that all personal laws relating to matters of family must first be codified to the greatest extent possible, and the inequalities that have crept into codified law, these should be remedied by amendment, the paper says.
On the issue of adultery, the Commission has said it is important to ensure that the provision is accessible to both spouses.
Dwelling on the issue of abolition of Hindu Undivided family (HUF), the Commission has said it is high time that it is understood that justifying this institution on the ground of deep-rooted sentiments at the cost of the country’s revenues may not be judicious.
On the devolution of property in case a Hindu widow dies issueless, the Commission has said her self-acquired property should devolve upon heirs in category (b) limited to the mother-in-law and father-in-law of the deceased female, simultaneously with heirs in category (c).
Under the Muslim law, succession should be based on proximity to the deceased rather than preference to male agnate heirs.
The Commission has recommended that the Parliament should enact a law to address the issue of legitimisation of children born of live-in relationships that fail to reach the threshold of a deemed marriage. Further, such children should be entitled to inherit the self-acquired property of their parents.
It has said that the issue of “family law reform does not need to be approached as a policy that is against the religious sensibilities of individuals but simply as one promoting harmony between religion and constitutionalism, in a way that no citizen is left disadvantaged on account of their religion and at the same time every citizens right to freedom of religion is equally protected”.
The Commission has suggested Haryana government to suitably modify and simplify the Court Marriage Check List (for special marriages) to bring it in line with the Act by minimal executive interference.
The 30-days period under the special Marriage Act offers an opportunity to the kin of the couple to discourage an inter-caste or an inter-religion marriage. It is of paramount importance in the current scenario that couples opting into cross-community marriages are adequately protected.
Thus, the requirement of a 30-day notice period needs to be either deleted or adequate protection for the couples needs to be in place, the paper stated.
On the issue of guardianship, the Commission has said that a Muslim mother should also be treated as the natural guardian of the minor; both the parents should be at an equal footing. Further, in the matter of custody, a father should also get an equal opportunity to be considered as a custodian. Thus, in the absence of a clear codified law on custody of children, the principle of best interest of the child should continue to be of primary consideration.