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Centre stands firm as row rages over uniform civil code

india Updated: Oct 14, 2016 00:55 IST
Zia Haq and Kumar Uttam
Triple Talaq

Muslim women during All India Muslim Personal Law Board's press conference in New Delhi.(PTI Photo)

An influential Muslim body said on Thursday the BJP-led government was creating an “internal war” by trying to review the community’s personal laws on divorce and polygamy, setting the stage for a political showdown ahead of assembly elections in five states early next year.

The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) said it will resist the Centre’s attempt to replace diverse customary laws governing marriage, divorce and inheritance with a set of identical civil laws, the so-called uniform civil code.

Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told HT that the government was steadfast on its stand that ‘triple talaq’ -- – under which a man divorces his wife by saying the Urdu word for divorce three times – must go.

“All communities have different customs and traditions. Our Constitution accepts that. It’s a dangerous idea to treat them with a single yardstick. We oppose this,” Maulana Wali Rehmani, a Muslim leader said.

The organisation would “legally” and “democratically” fight any attempt to have a uniform civil code, he said.

The AIMPLB, an advocacy organisation, seeks to protect legal sanctions to a bunch of shariah-compliant customs governing marriage, property and divorce. The same laws also allow polygamy among Muslims.

Read| Triple talaq: The ‘inhuman practice that violates rights and dignity of women’

India has separate sets of personal laws for each religion and demand for overhauling these codes date back decades.

Critics say triple talaq, by allowing summary divorce, discriminates against women. But successive governments have backed away from any sweeping change for fear of upsetting crucial vote banks.

In recent years, many Muslim women have approached the judiciary and the Supreme Court is hearing three petitions against triple talaq.

The government has told the top court that the Muslim practice of triple talaq was “undesirable” .

The government also asked its legal think-tank, the Law Commission of India, to examine the issue of uniform civil code, which has sought public views on the matter.

Muslims organisations see this as an attempt to tamper with their religious practices and have decided to boycott the consultation process.

The law minister appealed to the AIMPLB to rethink its stand. “This is a well thought out and considered view of the government in pursuit of gender equality and dignity of women,” he said.

“Many Islamic countries have made provisions for arbitration and conciliation. At some places, only court decides such matters. You simply cannot say talaq-talaq-talaq.”

If regulating matrimonial laws in Islamic countries was not violative of the sharia, how can the “same argument be raised in a secular country like India?” the minister asked.

Given the sectarian divide over personal laws, the fractious debate over triple talaq and a uniform civil code could polarise votes in the string of state polls due early next year.

Parties like Congress and JD(U) said the idea of UCC was “unimplementable” and accused the BJP-led government of trying to polarise people ahead of the assembly polls.

Read| Triple talaq: Keep gender justice as the main focus