Almost a week after the Law Commission, by means of a questionnaire, asked the public for a response on the sensitive issues of Uniform Civil Code and triple talaq, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) in a press conference on Thursday said they would boycott the questionnaire.
The AIMPLB also lashed out at the Law Commission and said that it was functioning like the "government's agent".
"This is an attempt to betray the people," said Hazrat Maulana Wali Rehman of the Muslim Law Board. "The Law Commission is not functioning like an independent body, it is engaging in illegal activities and acting like the government's agent."
"Therefore, we have decided to boycott the questionnare sent by the Law Commission," he said.
Rehman also said this was a move by the government to impose the uniform civil code on the people.
"Uniform civil code is not acceptable for the people of this country," he said. "We are staying in this country according to the Consitution of the country. The Constitution has guaranteed the right to live in our country to us," he added.
"Uniform civil code paints everyone into a gadha (donkey)," Rehman said later.
"If these provisions are harmed, the government and Law Commission are messing around with the rights of the people," he further said.
Rehman also used the US as an example for making his argument. "All states in the US have separate personal laws. And there is hardly any conflict in the society there," he said, adding that India shoul follow the system adopted by the US when it came to personal laws because it followed other US-based systems and had close ties with it.
The AIMPLB also severely criticised the government for the discussion on the uniform civil code.
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"We will oppose the uniform civil code. We feel that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to distract people from the failures of his own government by focusing on this," Rehman said.
"This is not an issue limited to Muslims," he said. "Our objective is for a united India," he added.
"Modiji is not able to protect our borders and is instead out to create internal conflict," Rehman said. Another AIMPLB member later said that "Modiji is discriminating in his own home."
On the issue of triple talaq, the AIMPLB refused to comment. However, Rehman said that "the ratio of divorce among the Muslims is the lowest and the ratio among the Hindus is the highest."
On 7 October, the Law Commission had sought public views on the subject to revise and reform family laws, saying the aim is to address social injustice rather than plurality of laws.
The Commission had said the objective behind the endeavour is to address discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise the various cultural practices even as it assured the people that the "norms of no one class, group or community will dominate the tone and tenor of family law reforms".
In an accompanying questionnaire, the Commission had asked whether the existing personal laws and customary practices need codification and whether it would benefit people.
Should the practice of triple talaq be abolished, retained or retained with suitable amendments and whether a uniform civil code should be optional are among 16 queries by the commission.
It had also sought to know whether the uniform code should include subjects like divorce, marriage, adoption, child custody, succession and inheritance.
It had asked people and stake holders as to whether a common code would infringe an individual's right to freedom of religion.
"The Commission hopes to begin a healthy conversation about the viability of a uniform civil code and will focus on family laws of all religions and the diversity of customary practices, to address social injustice rather than plurality of laws," law panel chairman Justice BS Chauhan (retd) had said.
He had said that responding to the demands of social change, the panel will consider the opinions of all stake-holders and the general public to ensure that the "norms of no one class, group or community dominate the tone and tenor of family law reforms".
Justice Chauhan had said in the appeal that the family law reform has to view women's rights as an end in itself rather than a matter of constitutional provision, religious right and political debate.
Indicating need for wider consultation before taking a call on a uniform civil code, the government had in June asked the Law Commission to examine the issue.
Implementation of a common code is part of the BJP's election manifesto.
The move asking the law panel to examine the issue assumes significance as the Supreme Court had recently said it would prefer a wider debate, in public as well as in court, before taking a decision on the constitutional validity of 'triple talaq', which many complain is abused by Muslim men to arbitrarily divorce their wives.
With inputs from PTI