Sunday, February 26, 2017

INDIA : A law faculty at a Catholic college proposes an amendment to the Civil Code

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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 rule.

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.