Debating India

INDE

India needs uniform justice: Jethmalani

Dhiman Chattopadhyay

Sunday 17 August 2003, by CHATTOPADHYAY*Dhiman

Article paru dans le Times of India, ?dition du 17 ao?t 2003.

KOLKATA: Former Union law minister Ram Jethmalani on Sunday termed as "unnecessary" the debate over introduction of a uniform civil code in the country and said what the country needed was "uniform justice" for all its citizens.

"Let us not waste our time and energy on uniform civil code. There are more important issues to be taken up. What the country needs is not a uniform civil code but uniform justice," Jethmalani said.

Noting that it would be difficult to formulate a uniform civil code in view of huge differences between personal laws of various communities, the veteran lawyer and MP said, "I don’t believe such a move will do any good to enhance the national integration and unity."

Referring to Article 44 of the Constitution, he said, "it only says that a state shall endeavour to secure for its citizens a uniform civil code, which does not mean such a code be enforced upon the people by the government."

He, however, criticised the Muslim Personal Law Board for their opposition to the proposal "on religious grounds".

"I defer with the Muslim Personal Law Board which says that the Shariat laws are part of their religion. Is it the God who rules people by formulating laws for all time to come? Those who think like that should think rationally," he said.

Jethmalani, who was addressing an interactive session on the Uniform Civil Code, organised by the Centre for Peace & Progress, also called for modifying the personal laws of different communities to suit the changing times.

Citing the instance of modifications effected in Hindu Succession Laws and other Hindu personal laws in 1955 by taking in inputs from Muslim and Christian personal laws, Jethmalani said that the Muslim personal laws could also be modified in similar ways "so that you finally have uniform just laws in every community".

He, however, pointed out that much of the community laws, except those relating to inheritance and marriages, had already been done away with after introduction of common penal code and criminal laws during the British regime in the pre-Independence era.

Speaking on the occasion, Justice K M Yusuf, chairman of the West Bengal Minority Forum, said it was almost impossible to draft such a code given huge differences existing in practices and personal laws of various communities.

Col Sabyasachi Bagchi, member of the intellectual cell of state BJP, on the other hand, stressed the need for introduction of a uniform civil code "to establish the Indianness in the society at large".

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