Law panel suggests reforms in Family laws

Asserting that a uniform civil code is “neither necessary nor desirable at this stage”, the Law Commision of India, has submitted a consultation paper on family laws, suggesting for immediate reforms from discriminate aspects. However, the outgoing panel was led by former Supreme Court judge Justice B S Chauhan, has left the task of framing reforms in these laws to the next Commission.

Two years ago, the 21st Law Commission of India was asked to examine the feasibility of a uniform civil code as enshrined in the Constitution. Hoever, the law panel in its 185-page report noted that the mere existence of religious differences does not imply discrimination, and is instead indicative of a robust democracy.

“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,” the paper read. It suggested that the legislature first consider guaranteeing equality within communities between men and women, rather than equality between communities.

Calling for reforms across religions, the commission stated that codification of different personal laws can help achieve certain universal principles that prioritise equity rather than imposition of a uniform code. 

Acknowledging the role of a woman in a household, the panel said regardless of her financial contribution, she should get an equal part of the property gained after marriage if the relationship ends in divorce. The report suggested that all property acquired after marriage of either spouse be treated as a unit between the couple.

The proposed amendments in personal laws include fixing the marriageable age for boys and girls at 18 years so that they marry as equals, making adultery a ground for divorce for men and women and to simplify the divorce procedure. The commission said cases under Section 498A IPC (dowry harassment) are filed just to quickly get out of a difficult marriage. Inordinate delays in divorce proceedings can be avoided if a provision of ‘no fault’ divorce is incorporated in several personal law legislations, it proposed.

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