BJP yet to respond to law panel on uniform civil code


New Delhi, March 2: The BJP is yet to respond to a questionnaire sent by the Law Commission of India in October 2016 to seek its views on the uniform civil code (UCC) despite being a strong votary of the proposed reform, at least two officials familiar with the matter have confirmed.
The Congress’ submission had warned against acting in haste, and called for the development of a broad-based consensus before moving ahead with the UCC.
One of the officials said the law commission will send reminders later this month to political parties that have not responded to their questionnaire. “The commission has compiled all the responses acquired from stakeholders and members of the public and started analysing them. In March, it will hold the first meeting to deliberate on the responses and come up with a legal framework that can be suggested to the government,” he added.
India has separate sets of personal laws governing marriage, divorce, succession, adoption and maintenance for each religion. Although the Hindu family laws were modified in the 1950s, Christians and Muslims still adhere to colonial-era laws in such matters.
The commission had sent out the questionnaire to all political parties and issued a public appeal for stakeholders’ views within 45 days from October 7, 2016. The BJP and CPI were the only political parties that did not respond, officials confirmed. The responders included the Congress, CPI(M), BSP, Trinamool Congress and the NCP, besides NDA allies such as JD(U) and SAD.
BJP general secretary Bhupendra Yadav refused to comment on the party’s lack of response.
In the run-up to the 2014 election, the saffron party’s manifesto reiterated its commitment “to draft a Uniform Civil Code, drawing upon the best traditions and harmonising them with modern times”. The promise was also included in previous BJP manifestos from 2009, 2004 and 1998.
Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who was a part of the team that drafted the Congress response, termed the BJP’s silence on the matter as “sad and hypocritical”.
“The Congress reaction was submitted in writing long ago. The BJP’s strategy is to keep the pot boiling for political gain and not address substantive issues. It only wants to use the UCC as a political stick to beat the minorities with,” he said.
The CPI(M), in its letter to the commission, said the “biased” exercise smacks of a “politically motivated agenda”. Although the party was open to the idea of reforms in personal laws, it wanted such an exercise to be carried out only after discussions with all stakeholders.
In June 2016, the BJP-led NDA government asked the law commission to examine all issues pertaining to the UCC and come up with a report. Then law minister Sadanand Gowda also wanted the executive body to suggest if the time was ripe for implementing it in the country.
Law Commission of India chairman Justice BS Chauhan had earlier said that the report would be submitted by the end of its term in August. “If a composite code is difficult (to come up with), we will suggest religion-wise amendments to various family laws in a piecemeal manner,” he told the Hindustan Times in an interview last December.
CPI national secretary D Raja said his party will write to the law commission. (Courtesy: HT)