New Delhi: The Law Commission has suggested certain changes in the marriage and divorce laws that should be uniformly accepted in the personal laws of all religions, while holding that the uniform civil code “is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage” in the country.

The Commission, headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice B.S. Chauhan whose tenure ended on Friday, has come out with a 185-page consultation paper on “Family Law Reforms” said a unified nation does not necessarily need to have “uniformity”.

It said the best way forward was to preserve diversity of personal laws even while ensuring they did not contradict Fundamental Rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

Stating that secularism cannot contradict the plurality prevalent in the country, the Commission said in the paper that: “Cultural diversity cannot be compromised to the extent that our urge for uniformity itself becomes a reason for threat to the territorial integrity of the nation.”

Suggesting amendments in marriage and divorce in personal laws of all religion, the Commission advocated making adultery a ground for divorce for men and women and to simplify divorce procedure.

“While all family laws include adultery as a ground for divorce it is important to ensure that the provision is accessible to both spouses,” the paper said.

The Commission said the filing of cases under Section 498A of IPC (dowry harassment) was actually done by women wanting a quick exit from a difficult marriage.

It suggested that ‘nikahnamas’ should make it clear that “polygamy is a criminal offence” and this should apply to “all communities”.

The paper stated: “This is not recommended owing to merely a moral position on bigamy, or to glorify monogamy, but emanates from the fact that only a man is permitted multiple wives, which is unfair.”

It favoured fixing the marriageable age for boys and girls at 18 years so that they marry as equals, and said that the insistence on recognising different ages of marriage between consenting adults must be “abolished”.

“If a universal age for majority is recognised, and that grants all citizens the right to choose their governments, surely, they must then be also considered capable of choosing their spouses.

“For equality in the true sense, the insistence on recognising different age of marriage between consenting adults must be abolished.

“The age of majority must be recognised uniformly as the legal age for marriage for men and women alike, as is determined by the Indian Majority Act, 1875, i.e. 18 years of age.

“The difference in age for husband and wife has no basis in law as spouses entering into a marriage are by all means equals and their partnership must also be of that between equals,” stated the report.

The Commission suggested enactment of  a law to address the issue of legitimisation of children born of live-in relationships. ians


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