Law panel says civil code ‘neither necessary nor desirable’, suggests changes in marriage, divorce laws

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The Law Commission said in a consultation paper on Friday that a uniform civil code is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage and suggested changes in laws relating to marriage, divorce, alimony, and marriageable age for men and women. The paper was issued on the last day of commissions term ahead of a full-fledged report on the contentious topic. The panel held freedom of religion as also to propagate it must be strongly protected in a secular democracy, but it is important to bear in mind that a number of social evils such as the practice of triple talaq and child marriage should not be allowed to take refuge under religious customs. To seek their protection under law as religion would be a grave folly, it said in the paper titled Reform of Family Law. This comes at a time when a bill to ban the practice of instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat is pending in Rajya Sabha despite having been passed in Lok Sabha. The panel added that diversity of Indian culture should be celebrated, but specific groups, or weaker sections of the society must not be disprivileged in the process. Resolution of this conflict does not mean abolition of difference. This Commission has therefore dealt with laws that are discriminatory rather than providing a uniform civil code which is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage, the document said. Panel chairman Justice B S Chauhan (retd) had earlier said instead of recommending a uniform code, the commission might suggest piecemeal changes in personal laws. The 22 Law Commission will now bring out a final report on the controversial issue. On the issue of equal rights for women, it said, there is a need to recognise the role of woman in a household and regardless of her financial contribution, she should get an equal part of the property gained after marriage upon divorce. The panel also suggested that 18 years should be the minimum legal age for men and women alike to get married, saying the insistence on recognising different ages of marriage between consenting adults must be abolished. Currently, the minimum age for men is 21 years and 18 years for women to get married. Apart from this, the paper also discusses rights of widow and changes to general laws on self-acquired property after marriage, inclusion of irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground for divorce.