NEW DELHI: There will not be a comprehensive, monolithic recommendation from the Law Commission on Uniform Civil Code (UCC). Instead, given the gigantic nature of the task and complications stemming from numerous components of different personal laws, the panel has decided to compartmentalize scrutiny of the viability of UCC.
Speaking to TOI, commission chairman Justice B S Chauhan said there were many subjects in personal laws — marriage and divorce; adoption and maintenance; succession and inheritance and guardianship. “It will be impossible to take all of them together, study provisions in the personal laws of different religious groups on these separate components and attempt to find a common thread,” he said.
“I am of the considered view that it will yield better result if we study provisions of different personal laws relating to each component, like marriage and divorce or adoption, and try to harmonise them to suggest to the government a possible uniformity. It is important to study why different religions prescribe different norms and attempt the difficult task of recommending a uniform civil code on separate compartments within the larger issue,” Justice Chauhan said.
The commission, on October 7 last year, had sought views of the public “on the comprehensive exercise of the revision and reform of family laws, as Article 44 of the Constitution provides that ‘the state shall endeavour to provide for its citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India’.” It wished to “begin a healthy debate about the viability of a uniform civil code and hoped to focus on family laws of all religious denominations and the diversity of customary practices, to address social injustice rather than plurality of laws”.
It had received around 45,000 responses from the general public, experts and opinion makers of different religious groups but the commission decided to put the exercise on the back burner as the Supreme Court in May decided to take up scrutiny of triple talaq, the instant divorce available to Muslim men. The commission had hoped to get some guidance from the SC judgment.
“However, the SC judgment on triple talaq did not touch upon the contentious issue of uniform civil code while declaring the customary practice illegal and unconstitutional,” Justice Chauhan said.
Asked whether the commission would fast track work on studying the viability of UCC, Justice Chauhan said the panel was studying two important issues mandated by the SC — one, relating to bringing uniformity in appointments to various tribunals and the structure and process of appeals against tribunals’ orders; and two, studying the ratification of the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
“We have to expeditiously deal with these two issues, since the SC has requested the commission for a detailed study and recommendation. The first issue has a huge bearing on the dispensation of justice while the second is related to human rights of persons in lawful custody,” Justice Chauhan said.
He said work on studying various aspects of personal laws and viability of UCC will be taken up soon after “we finish the task assigned to us by the Supreme Court”. This means, the commission may not be able to resume work on UCC till the end of the year and a final recommendation on viability of UCC can be expected only next year.