The Law Faculty at a Catholic college has proposed changes to the Indian civil code. Students at the Mar Gregorios College of Law in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, came up with a proposal as part of a national competition organised by the Law Commission of India.
The Law Commission released a questionnaire inviting the public to
submit suggestions on one of the most discussed issues of recent times: a uniform Civil Code, in particular the rules governing marriage, divorce, inheritance, maintenance and adoption.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Paul Thelakat, director of Light of Truth
and former spokesman for the Syro-Malabar Synod, stressed that "it is a
simple student competition [. . .] It does not mean anything as far as
the Catholic Church’s” position.
The latter is "concerned but no definite policy has been given. There
will be debates on the issue at an academic level. Of course, people in
the Church have given certain opinions on the topic.”
“As far as I am concerned there must be unity on the essentials in
our country. Equality, fraternity and freedom are core values enshrined
in the Constitution.”
The debate over a uniform civil code has been ongoing for months.
Marriage law in India is very complex and governed by different rules.
The Constitution provides for different legal frameworks to protect
the country’s various religious communities. Article 44 is one its
"guiding principles" (but is not mandatory). It calls for a uniform
civil code for India. However, the Constitution also leaves great leeway
to each community.
Discussions are centred on this article and on greater protection for
Muslim women. Islamic marriage is governed by the Muslim Personal Law
(Shariat) Application Act 1937, a law passed under British colonial
Adopted to ensure compliance with Islamic cultural tradition, it has
provided justification for discriminatory practices. Women have
repeatedly slammed as abusive verbal divorce (triple talaq), which is often done "at a distance" by text messages or mail.
According to Fr Thelakat, a "human approach and the respect for all
citizens must prevail. The Catholic Church will support with enthusiasm
any initiative to this effect."
In some contexts, the law is already uniform, particularly when it
comes to criminal law, the clergyman noted. In this domain, "there are
no distinctions of caste, religion, language or regional origin. Only in
civil matters there is no uniformity."
However, such uniformity "cannot be reached through outside
imposition by a State seeking to interfere in religious affairs and
impose a tyranny of monologue. Uniformity is achieved only by bringing
all affected communities to trust the dialogue."
"Our desire is that reform take place within the communities themselves, as a renewal and rethinking of themselves," he added.