Law Ministry says minority rights in way of common civil code

A note prepared by the Law Ministry shows that the government considers it “a challenge to reconcile legal uniformity with protection of minority rights”.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: September 6, 2016 2:28 pm
law, minority law, minority rights, law ministry, religious law, uniform civil code, minority rights, religious rights, personal laws, india news The Legislative Department favours a common code for all religions, saying “it may generate social coherence and reduce social evils in the society by establishing equality before law”.

The Union Law Ministry sees three chief impediments in adoption of the Uniform Civil Code — separatism, conservatism and misconceived notions about personal laws. A note prepared by the Law Ministry, before it asked the Law Commission to examine drafting and implementation of the common code, underlines these issues. The note has been accessed by The Indian Express.

The note also shows that the government considers it “a challenge to reconcile legal uniformity with protection of minority rights” when it comes to having a common set of laws to regulate personal matters such as marriage, divorce, adoption, inheritance, etc.

The note, prepared by the Law Ministry’s Legislative Department, recommends that the issue of Uniform Civil Code be referred to the Law Commission to examine pertinent issues and make recommendations.

Specifically, it underlines three major problems in its implementation: “Conservatism which always resists any attempt to progress; misconceived notions about personal laws; and clinging to the ideas of separatism generated and fostered for a long time under foreign rule.”

At the same time, the Legislative Department favours a common code for all religions, saying “it may generate social coherence and reduce social evils in the society by establishing equality before law”.

The purpose of the Uniform Civil Code is to divest religion from social relations and personal laws, ensuring equality, unity and integrity of the nation and justice to both men and women, the department says.

“In other countries such as Germany, Italy, Egypt, Turkey, etc, having heterogeneous society, civil code governs uniformly such matters,” the department says in the note.

The note also cites Article 44 of the Indian Constitution, one of the Directive Principles of State Policy, which states: “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”

“However, the directive of Article 44 has not been realised due to the challenge of reconciling legal uniformity with the protection of minority rights, which are also constitutionally protected,” the note says, adding that a wide consultation would be required with stakeholders, in addition to an in-depth study of the provisions of personal laws governing different communities.

The note suggests bringing awareness among citizens through discussion, deliberations, and academic seminars among members of various communities.

The note was placed before the then Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda who, after putting his seal of approval, had referred the issue to the Law Commission in July.