Universal justice, not uniform civil code, needed: Jethmalani

CHENNAI SEPT. 6. The former Union Law Minister and Rajya Sabha member, Ram Jethmalani, said today that what the country needed was uniform justice and not a uniform civil code. There was no urgency in the present domestic and international situation warranting the promulgation of a uniform civil code, he said delivering a lecture on `The Judicial system — need for urgent reforms and uniform civil code (UCC)', organised by the Palkhivala Foundation here.

Mr. Jethmalani did not think that a uniform code was going to produce national integration. It would only produce communal discord. He felt that the words of Article 44 (a uniform civil code for citizens) were significant — the State shall "secure for its citizens"; in other words, it would provide something which the citizens wanted. This certainly was an assurance that normally no coercion would be employed unless it became a matter of national survival. "I do not think the nation is facing any such emergency."

The Supreme Court, in January 1996, had cautioned that hasty enactment of the code would be counter-productive. He added that it would be disastrous. The Government wisely gave an undertaking to the court that it would not act without the consent of the communities involved. Mr. Jethmalani said the Muslim opposition to the UCC was not rational because it was based on a "total misunderstanding" of the great Prophet of Islam.

He said he fully agreed with what the former Supreme Court Judge, V.R. Krishna Iyer, wrote in an article `Unifying Personal Laws', published in The Hindu on Saturday. Mr. Jethmalani said the need for a National Judicial Commission had arisen because the two methods of appointments of judges tried so far had failed. The first method provided for consultation between the judiciary and the executive, but the overriding paramountcy lay with the executive. This was supplanted by the 1993 Supreme Court decision which transferred the paramountcy to itself. "Paramountcy has to be relocated in a new body which inspires confidence in its competence and integrity".

He felt that the Bar and the academic fraternity should also be represented on the commission as they knew better the character and competence of a colleague aspiring for judicial office. The Commission had not been set up till date because judges did not want it and also the ruling parties had had no interest in disgorging their share of patronage, big or small.

"It is today acknowledged that legal scholarship is no longer to be found on the Bench. It is rare to find a judge who can unhesitatingly claim to be a jurist. Judgments which are being produced by both at the High Court and the Supreme Court level are mostly unreadable because of their bad prose, lack of style and literary embellishment and absence of depth of learning and subtlety of thought," Mr. Jethmalani said.

Introducing Mr. Jethmalani, the former Attorney-General, K. Parasaran, said his courage was commendable. He was noted for his skill of articulation and the knowledge of law. S. Mahalingam, foundation managing trustee and Aravind Datar, trustee, were among those who spoke.

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