The Commission suggested that nikahnamas should make it clear that polygamy is a criminal offence.
New Delhi: A uniform civil code “is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage” in the country, the Law Commission of India said on August 31. The commission released its consultation paper on enacting common civil law for all religious communities in India just hours before its three-year term ended. The federal government had asked the commission more than two years ago to examine if it was time to bring in a uniform code on personal laws of various communities. The commission emphatically responded in the negative, underlining that “it is more important to deal with laws that discriminate between men and women.”
“The issue of uniform civil code is vast, and its potential repercussions, untested in India,” the panel headed by retired Supreme Court judge B S Chauhan said. Justice Chauhan’s panel said mere existence of difference in a country does not imply discrimination, but is indicative of a robust democracy. Most countries, the panel said, are moving towards recognition of differences. The uniform civil code has been a long-standing poll promise and ideological position of the ruling BJP, but many minority groups have opposed it because they see it as an effort to erase their cultural and religious identities.
The commission’s 185-page consultation paper asserts that secularism cannot contradict the plurality prevalent in the country. “Cultural diversity cannot be compromised to the extent that our urge for uniformity itself becomes a reason for threat to the territorial integrity of the nation,” the panel said.
A unified nation did not necessarily need to have “uniformity.” “Efforts have to be made to reconcile our diversity with universal and indisputable arguments on human rights,” the commission said. It said the way forward may not be a uniform civil code, but the codification of all personal laws so that prejudices and stereotypes in every one of them would come to light and could be tested on the anvil of fundamental rights of the Constitution.
Significantly, the Commission suggested that nikah namas should make it clear that polygamy is a criminal offence and this should apply to “all communities”. “This is not recommended owing to merely a moral position on bigamy, or to glorify monogamy, but emanates from the fact that only a man is permitted multiple wives, which is unfair,” the Commission explained.