Discussion on Uniform Civil Code
Uniform Civil Code
The Shah Bano case brought the issue of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) into the limelight and the recent judgement of the Apex Court, suggesting that the Government implement the UCC, has once again re-ignited a serious controversy. There cannot be two opinions that unscrupulous people who take refuge in religion for lust and to avoid family responsibility should be prosecuted under the law. In a way, even the Hindu Marriage Act needs to be amended to ensure that a husband who changes his religion cannot marry another woman unless he divorces the first wife and accepts the obligation to pay maintenance as decided by the court.
Similarly, though the Child Marriage Act was passed in 1929, it has been made relatively ineffective, stating that a marriage celebrated in violation of the stipulation regarding age, would nevertheless be valid; the position remains the same in the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955.
It is often mistakenly assumed that the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, entitled daughters to an equal share in all ancestral properties. This is, however, not the case in regard to joint family property governed by the Mitakshara System of Hindu Law. The daughter is entitled to only a share of her father's property, while the son inherits both as a co-partner as well as a son. It is to be noted that the Mitakshara School is followed by the vast majority in the country. The concept of matrimonial property also needs to be Incorporated in the law of inheritance and succession.
Under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, a married male needs his wife's consent for adoption only if she remains a Hindu; if she has changed her religion, the consent is not required. By analogy, the husband can perhaps also ignore his wife in the matter of adoption if she is a non-Hindu. In the matter of maintenance, a non-Hindu wife cannot claim it from her Hindu husband (either while living with him or living separately), but conversely a Hindu wife enjoys the right to live separate from her non-Hindu husband, on the ground of his conversion, without losing her right to be maintained by him.
In spite of these loopholes in secular legislation, there cannot be two opinions that the ground for gender equality is well prepared. What remains is the question of new adjustments. The solid resistance of the Muslim community in general against any attempt towards a Uniform Civil Code is basically a reflection of the community's urge for identify. In the Indian context, certain other factors contributed towards the deteriorating status of Muslim women in society. For example, during the long and close period of contact with various cultures, the socio-cultural life of Indian Muslim women was inevitably coloured by Hindu traditions and values. This process was unavoidable since large numbers of Indian Muslims were converted from Hinduism. One cannot claim honestly that the day-to-day life of an Indian Muslim woman is governed by the 'Shariat' or Islamic law. One has to admit that the Muslim Personal Law, as it operates in India, needs reforms, related particularly to the unbridled right of a husband pronouncing triple 'talaaq' and practising polygamy. It is often maintained that Muslims are resistant to social reforms due to the rigidity of religion and unable to admit any change in their belief system. But an honest assessment will clarify that any framework leaves enough social space to accommodate change and reform. Moreover, the Muslim Personal Law that is in vogue in India is not fair to women. In spite of the fact that family laws have been reformed in most Muslim countries, India has brought no significant changes in this respect, except the most unsatisfactory, ill-adopted Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Divorce) Act, 1986.
The ultimate objective of reform is to establish an egalitarian society. It has already been mentioned that any legislation earnestly directed towards social justice can be well adjusted within the framework of Shari at. But it would be much better if the initiative comes from within the community itself. But no doubt the Supreme Court Judgement has made the task very difficult for those people who are fighting to ameliorate the position of Muslim women.