After preparing a draft working paper entitled Simultaneous Elections – Constitutional and Legal Perspective and considering that in its 14th meeting on Tuesday, the Law Commission of India is set to examine perhaps the most contentious social and political issue: Uniform Civil Code (UCC).
The fact that in past month, the commission and law ministry issued three public notices on the UCC indicates that it is under active consideration.
The latest public notice dated 10 April, issued by member secretary Dr Sanjay Singh says: “The Law Commission of India is examining the subject matter of Uniform Civil Code. The commission requested individuals, organisations (governmental and non-governmental) to send their submissions in form of consultation, discussion, working papers on any of the issues pertaining to uniform civil code, except issue relating to triple talaq, which is pending before Parliament, through its public appeal dated 19 March, 2018. Further, the Supreme Court in case of Sameena Begum vs Union of India & others has admitted a petition pertaining to the prevalent practice of polygamy, Nikah Halala, Nikah Mutah and Nikah Misyar”.
The commission said that since it is overwhelmed by the responses it received and continues to receive, it is extending dates for submission of suggestions for another 30 days: Until 6 May, 2018.
When Firstpost spoke to commission secretary Dr Sanjay Singh, asking how long it would take for the commission to scrutinise the responses, and subsequently hold a meeting to prepare and consider a draft working paper on UCC, he said he could not give any further response and was "was not authorised to speak".
Consider the following: The law commission is usually constituted for a three-year term. The first law commission began its work in 1955 and concluded in 1958. The current law commission, the 21st, headed by Justice Balbir Singh Chauhan, was constituted on 1 September, 2015, and its term ends on 31 August, 2018.
Clause 'D' of law commission's terms of reference talks about UCC code, albeit indirectly: “Examine the existing laws in the light of directive principles of State policy and to suggest ways of improvement and reform and also to suggest such legislations as might be necessary to implement the directive principles and to attain the objectives set out in the preamble to the Constitution”. Article 44 of Constitution says “the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”.
It can be assumed that the commission would surely like to submit its final report or at least draft working paper on UCC before its term expires on 31 August. Any note by the commission, in whatever form and content, is sure to raise the political temperature and generate heated public debate. The UCC has been an emotional issue, both socially and politically, which can potentially inflame passions of communities.
The timing of a possible note or report on the UCC coincides with the run-up to elections in three BJP ruled states: Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The issue, if commission comes out with its report, would generate so much heat that it could potentially polarise communities ahead of the 2019 parliamentary elections. Sections of Muslim community are aggressively opposing such a potential move and trying to raise an emotive pitch.
Various Muslim community leaders have been raising these issues openly on various forums, but a rally “Deen Bachao, Desh Bachao” (save religion, save nation) organised in Patna Gandhi Maidan on Sunday should be mentioned. Thousands of Muslims from Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand gathered to make their point of view heard.
All India Muslim Personal Law Board general secretary Maulana Wali Rahmani launched a blistering attack on the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, claiming that under present dispensation, both Islam and the country were in danger. Rahmani also heads Imarat-e-Sharia, an organisation whose influence extends to the four states from which the crowd was pulled.
“We waited for four years, expecting that BJP would learn to run the nation as per the Constitution. But we were wrong. Take, for instance, Muslim personal laws which are under attack… Islam and our country are in danger under the present government at the Centre”.
He contended that the community must wake up to counter onslaught in Shariat. “There are numerous issues on RSS’ agenda which this government will attempt to execute. Following triple talaq, it will be Uniform Civil Code and also ban azaan through loudspeakers”.
The law commission's public notices on UCC may have gone unnoticed for now, but if and when the report comes it is sure to raise a storm.
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Updated Date: Apr 18, 2018 20:48:50 IST