At a time when Rajya Sabha is still to decide the fate of the instant triple talaq legislation, the Law Commission is getting ready to hold consultations with religious scholars, political groups and others to gauge whether the time is right for the Uniform Civil Code (UCC).
Law Commission chairperson Justice (retd) B S Chauhan told The Indian Express: “We are looking at the issue of Uniform Civil Code. If, after detailed consultations, the Commission comes to the conclusion that the time is not right or that it is not in the interest of national integration, then we will recommend only a review of personal laws of all religions.”
Following a directive from the Law Ministry, the Law Commission had issued a ‘Questionnaire on Uniform Civil Code’ to elicit opinion on various aspects of family laws on October 7, 2016, the same day when the government filed its affidavit in the Supreme Court in support of Shayara Bano’s plea for a ban on talaq-e-biddat or instant triple talaq. The move had led to strong protests from the All India Muslim Personal Law Board which carried out a signature campaign against any interference with the Shariat and sent it to the Law Commission.
The Law Commission’s UCC questionnaire has received over 60,000 responses till date, many of which, it says, pertain to only triple talaq. The Commission, however, had kept the issue on hold until now in the hope that the five-judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court, examining the instant triple talaq case, would also give some directives on UCC.
“We were expecting that the Supreme Court would discuss Uniform Civil Code, as in many cases in the past where it made some observation on the issue. But it never came up. We spent many months after the judgment segregating several responses on triple talaq from those on UCC. We will now start our work,” Justice Chauhan said.
He said that the Commission will soon commence oral consolations with religious scholars, political parties and other sections concerned on all aspects of personals laws including marriage, divorce, custody, succession and inheritance. This would include a re-look at family laws, both codified or otherwise, of all religions as also tribal or customary laws.
Sources in Law Commission said: “In the North-East, under Article 371 and Schedule VI of the Constitution, many laws of India do not apply, leading to several gender unjust customary practices. This is the reason why till date Nagaland has had no female elected representative. Changing these would require a Constitutional amendment.”
The Law Commission will also look at gender-discriminatory practices such as polyandry in certain regions of Himachal Pradesh, Naata Pratha in Rajasthan (where a man can pay money to live with a woman he is not married to) or Maitri Karar in Gujarat (a deed that allows a married man to live with someone other than his spouse).
Many of these practices that the Commission finds to be “against the dignity of women” would either be codified or be made an offence under law.
Bringing in UCC was part of the BJP’s election manifesto promise in keeping with which, on June 17, 2016, the Law Ministry asked the Law Commission to examine the matter of UCC and submit a report. The Commission is expected to turn in its report before August 30, 2018 after which its term runs out.