Muslim bodies say the Law Commission’s move inviting suggestions for Uniform Civil Code is ‘against the spirit of the Constitution’

Calling for a rethink, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board said, ‘It is an attempt at polarisation and a diversionary tactic by the government’

June 19, 2023 11:02 pm | Updated 11:02 pm IST - New Delhi

Here is a file photo of a large number of men and women associated with various Muslim organisations protesting the Uniform Civil Code organised by Madurai Muslim Aikya Jamaat in Madurai back in 2016. File. (For Representational purpose only.)

Here is a file photo of a large number of men and women associated with various Muslim organisations protesting the Uniform Civil Code organised by Madurai Muslim Aikya Jamaat in Madurai back in 2016. File. (For Representational purpose only.) | Photo Credit: R. ASHOK

Leading Muslim bodies have come out in opposition to the proposed Uniform Civil Code. Calling the Law Commission’s move to seek suggestions from all stakeholders for a common code “against the spirit of the Constitution” and “contrary to religious freedom enjoyed by all citizens”, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) urged the government to think over the proposal again. “It is an attempt at polarisation and a diversionary tactic by the government,” the Board said.

In separate developments, the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind and Jamaat-e-Islami Hind also came out strongly against the proposal to examine afresh the desirability of a common civil law. The general body meeting of the Jamiat called the Uniform Civil Code questionnaire an exercise “against the Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution”.

“It is unacceptable and detrimental to the integrity of the country,” Arshad Madani, president of the Jamiat, said. “The proposal is totally against the religious freedom and Fundamental Rights given to the citizens under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution. Ours is a secular Constitution. There is no official religion of the state. In a pluralist society like India, where citizens of all faiths enjoy the right to follow the teachings of their faith, the idea of a Uniform Civil Code is not only surprising but is also used as a guise keeping a particular community in mind,” Mr. Madani said.

“It is not just Muslims but all communities have their own personal laws, be they Sikhs, Hindus or tribals. It should not be seen through the lens of the Muslim community but as an attempt which goes against the religious freedom given to everybody by our Constitution. The proposal reeks of a political motive. It is unfortunate that the Law Commission has lent itself to such a move by the government,” the Jamaat’s vice president Salim Engineer told The Hindu.

“Around a year-and-a-half ago, a delegation of Muslim intellectuals under the late president of Jamaat-e-Islami, Jalaluddin Umri, had met the Law Commission on the subject. The Commission had clearly told the delegates that there was no desirability of a Uniform Civil Code for the next 10 years. Today, I feel, the Uniform Civil Code is neither feasible nor practical for a pluralist country,” Mr. Engineer added.

“It is unnecessary, impractical and extremely harmful for the country,” AIMPLB spokesperson S.Q.R. Ilyas said. Taking the debate beyond the purview of minorities, Mr. Ilyas drew attention to the laws and customs of the tribal communities that would be endangered by the proposed law. “Articles 371 (A) and 371 (G) of the Constitution provide the tribal communities of the northeast special provisions that restrict the Parliament from enacting laws which supersede their family laws. As far as Muslim law is concerned, the Board reiterates its stand that Muslim personal law is derived from the Quran and Sunnah. Even Muslims are not authorised to make any changes therein. Also, it must be kept in mind that Article 44 of the Constitution is neither mandatory nor justiciable whereas Articles 25 and 26 are justiciable and mandatory,” Mr. Ilyas said.

The Board, he said, would like to appeal to the government “to respect religious freedom and not try to abridge it through legislation”.

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