A uniform civil code “is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage” in the country, the Law Commission of India said on August 31.
In a 185-page consultation paper , the Commission said secularism cannot contradict the plurality prevalent in the country.
The Commission, led by former Supreme Court judge Justice B.S. Chauhan, said “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”.
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. Difference did not always imply discrimination in a robust democracy, the government’s topmost law advisory body said.
Meaning of term “secularism”
In fact, term “secularism” has meaning only if it assured the expression of any form of difference. This diversity, both religious and regional, should not get subsumed under the louder voice of the majority, the Commission said.
At the same time, the Commission said, discriminatory practices within a religion should not hide behind the cloak of that faith to gain legitimacy.
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.
“By codification of different personal laws, one can arrive at certain universal principles that prioritise equity rather than imposition of a uniform code, which would discourage many from using the law altogether, given that matters of marriage and divorce can also be settled extra-judicially,” the Commission reasoned.
The Commission suggested certain measures in marriage and divorce that should be uniformly accepted in the personal laws of all religions.
These amendments in personal laws include fixing the marriageable age for boys and girls at 18 years so that they marry as equals, making adultery a ground for divorce for men and women and to simplify divorce procedure. The Commission said the filing of Section 498A IPC (dowry harassment) cases was actually done by women wanting a quick exit from a difficult marriage.
'Nikahnama s should make it clear that polygamy is a criminal offence'
Significantly, the Commission suggested that nikahnama s 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.