Time may have run out on the Law Commission of 2016 but that has not stopped it from expressing well thought out ideas on where we should be going with regard to a uniform civil code. The panel’s enunciation of issues concerning gender equality in marriage and divorce across communities and religions are well worth pursuing as an ideal. To divide equally all property acquired after marriage by both spouses in the event of an inevitable divorce is an excellent suggestion. The inherent recognition of the inestimable role of a woman in a family, whether she is a homemaker or is working, is behind the call for the removal of all discrimination in matters of property settlements not only in maintenance and alimony determination but also in inheritance. It is time modernity and gender equality are reflected in the laws.
The panel has also maintained the integrity of independent thought in stating that the UCC is not desirable at this stage. To ask that things be as they are to the ruling forces that may be keen on a UCC is a bold stand. An evolving Indian society may need even more time to allow absolute uniform laws. The tricky issue is not a fundamental problem now as criminal laws are the same for all communities and religions and only a few ancient practices as baggage from the past may need to be shed and which could happen over time. Any attempt to tweak the laws now in favour of a UCC — even if current parliamentary position in the Upper House allows it — will be viewed with suspicion as a form of social engineering and may invite a backlash. Pragmatism would suggest we tread with caution in these sensitive matters. So long as a civil law based on religion does not come into conflict with anyone else, there is little need to tamper with the status quo.