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Personal laws cannot be in conflict with Constitution: Law Commission

ANI | Updated: Aug 31, 2018 17:48 IST

New Delhi (India), Aug 31 (ANI): The Law Commission in its consultation paper released on Friday said that personal laws, by virtue of being enacted as laws, cannot be codified in a way that contradicts the Constitution.
The Commission, however, clarified, that certain issues such as polygamy, nikah halala, settlement of a Parsi wife's property for benefit of children, and the law on adultery are presently sub judiced before the Supreme Court, hence, comprehensive changes on some of these have not been suggested at this stage.
The Commission said that in the absence of any consensus on a uniform civil code the best way forward may be to preserve the diversity of personal laws but at the same time ensure that personal laws do not contradict fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India.
"In order to achieve this, it is desirable that all personal laws relating to matters of family must first be codified to the greatest extent possible, and the inequalities that have crept into codified law, these should be remedied by amendment," the Commission added.
The Commission asserted that codification of discriminatory custom regardless of how commonly acceptable they may be, can lead to crystallisation of prejudices or stereotypes.
The consultation paper discussed the introduction of new grounds for 'no fault' divorce accompanied by corresponding changes to provisions on alimony and maintenance, rights of differently-abled individuals within marriage, the thirty-day period for registration of marriages under Special Marriage Act; uncertainty and inequality in age of consent for marriage, compulsory registration of marriage, bigamy upon conversion etc.
Under the Hindu Law, the paper among other issues, discussed problems with provisions like restitution of conjugal rights, and suggested the inclusion of concepts such as 'community of property' of a married couple, abolition of coparcenary, rights of illegitimate children etc. There are further suggestions for addressing self-acquired property of a Hindu female.
Under Muslim Law, the paper discussed the reform in inheritance law through codification of Muslim Law on inheritance, while ensuring that the codified law is gender just. The paper also discussed the rights of a widow, and the changes application to general laws such as introduction of community of (self acquired) property after marriage, inclusion of irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground for divorce.
Under Parsi Law, there are suggestions related to protecting married women's right to inherit property even if they marry outside their community.
The paper also suggested expansion of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015, to make it into a robust secular law that can be accessed by individuals of all communities for adoption. There are suggestions for amending the guidelines for adoption and also to alter the language of the Act to accommodate all gender identities.
On the issue of custody and guardianship laws, statutory or customary, the Commission suggested that the 'best interest of the child' has to remain the paramount consideration in deciding matters of custody regardless of any prevailing personal law in place.
"Although the sixth schedule provides exemptions and exemptions to states in the North East and tribal areas, we suggest that efforts of women's organisations in these areas be acknowledged and relied upon in this regard to suggest ways in which family law reform could be aided by the state even when direct intervention may not be possible," the Commission added. (ANI)

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