On 7 October, 2016, the Law Commission released a questionnaire asking the public to fill it out and send it back within 45 days, inviting opinion and views on the Uniform Civil Code.
Following this, on Thursday, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) in a press conference slammed the Law Commission saying that it would boycott the questionnaire. "Uniform civil code is not acceptable for the people of this country," Hazrat Maulana Wali Rehman of the Muslim Law Board, said. "We are staying in this country according to the Constitution of the country. The Constitution has guaranteed the right to live in our country to us," he added.
The AIMPLB has constantly opposed the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code and the abolishing of the practice of triple talaq. Earlier this week, another AIMPLB member Zafaryab Jilani claimed that "Ninety percent Muslim women support the Sharia Law", and that banning triple talaq was a "conspiracy to impose a uniform civil code", he alleged. The Centre, meanwhile filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court on 7 October, taking a stand against triple talaq and polygamy in Islam, saying, "gender equality is non-negotiable".
Talking to Firstpost, Zakia Soman, one of the co-founders of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, rubbished the claims of the AIMPLB. "The important question should be about gender justice. We're talking about the rights given to Muslim women by the Quran and the Constitution that have been denied ever since Indian independence." She also said that the practice of triple talaq, "which is not Quranic", was causing suffering towards Muslim women.
Why does the AIMPLB stay adamant about the issue of triple talaq and by extension, the Uniform Civil Code? Do Indian Muslims cling on to it because they might in a way feel marginalised otherwise? "Ordinary Indian Muslim women demand justice — as women and as citizens of India. They [AIMPLB] are neither a Constitutional body nor a judicial body; they are a male-dominated regressive NGO that is not very good," Soman said.
The Law Commission's questionnaire, which begins with an appeal made by Justice BS Chauhan, who heads the panel, talks about a "comprehensive exercise of the revision and reform of family laws". In it, he also outlined the objective of the questionnaire, which is "address discrimination against various groups and harmonise various cultural practices". Chauhan ends by saying that the questionnaire was prepared to elicit views from the public so that family law reforms can be introduced in "the most integrative manner" so as it does not "compromise the diversity and the plurality that constitutes the core of India's social fabric".
Soman commended the Law Commission for this "correct step" saying that it didn't limit itself to Muslim personal laws. She said that laws pertaining to property rights for Hindu women and the Christian women's right to equality on the two-year waiting period for finalising divorces also found mention. "This is a welcome move," she said.
Perhaps, the members of the AIMPLB missed that message in the questionnaire, instead of calling for a conference to denounce it. It went a step further and cited the United States as an example for their argument. "All states in the US have separate personal laws. And there is hardly any conflict in the society there," Rehman said. He added that India should follow the US system when it came to personal laws and that it was surprising that "our nation doesn't want to follow their steps in this matter".
Soman, who sounds a little stumped at this comparison, says that America's secular law is far different from ours. "Why even look at America; look at other Muslim countries. This is an attempt at obfuscation; they are selectively referring. We are not asking for charity; we're just demanding our rights Quranically and Constitutionally."