New Delhi, July 3 (EFE).- A parliamentary committee in India on Monday held a meeting to discuss the possibility of introducing a uniform civil code (UCC) for all the citizens, instead of the different sets of personal laws based on religion that currently govern aspects such as marriage and inheritance in the country.
The proposed legal reform has triggered a major controversy in the country.
The meeting of the committee, which would invite various interested parties to express their points of view, comes barely a week after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked a storm by advocating a uniform civil code during a campaign rally.
“Tell me, if in one house, there is one law for one family member and another for another family member, can that house function? (…) How can a country function with such a dual system? We must remember that the Indian Constitution also speaks of equal rights for citizens,” Modi said on Jun. 27.
India does not have a common civil law, but rather a complex group of personal laws, including those aimed at the Hindu majority and others for minorities such as Muslims, which govern areas such as marriage, inheritance and adoption.
The South Asian nation also has other laws – such as the Special Marriage Act 1954 – that regulate civil unions outside of religion.
The debate over a possible uniform civil code is not new in the multicultural and diverse country, dating back to the drafting of the Indian constitution after the end of the British empire in 1947, but the recent stand taken by the Modi-led Hindu nationalist government has triggered concerns among minorities.
“India’s prime minister is now talking about uniform civil code. Are you going to snatch away pluralism, diversity in the name of UCC?” the leader of the Muslim party All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM), Asadudding Owaisi, said last week.
He accused the government of wanting to implement a “Hindu” civil code.
“(They) will treat all Islamic references of practices as illegal and the prime minister will protect Hindu practices under the law,” Owaisi alleged.
The proposal was also panned by the chief minister of the northeastern state of Meghalaya, Conrad Sangma, even though he is an ally of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and leads an alliance government in the tribal and Christian dominated region.
“The UCC goes against the idea of India itself. (…) We (Meghalaya) are a matrilineal kind of society, for example, and that has been our strength and ) our culture. And that cannot change for us, the entire northeast has got a unique culture, (…) and we would like that to remain,” Sangma told reporters at an event on Saturday.
Meanwhile the largest opposition party Indian National Congress had stressed las month that a UCC is “neither necessary nor desirable” at this point, echoing conclusions reached by the 21st Law Commission of India, published in 2018