The absence of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India has time and again been discussed and debated in the country. UCC in short is a collection of common laws for every citizens of the country that will replace the personal laws followed by various religions sects and communities of India.
The implementation of the Uniform Civil Code has been mandated by the Article 44 in our constitution which states that:
The State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India
Recently there have been efforts by the BJP government to start a discussion about bringing in this code but this too has been met with extreme resistance by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. The laws which are governed by the personal law board mostly stem from the The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937.
This has ensured a conflict between the Personal Law Board and many Muslim women who continue to be subjected to regressive practices like Triple Talaq, Polygamy and Nikah Halala which are permitted under the Muslim personal laws.
This has raised a question many a times that when did the AIMPLB jump into the fray of preventing these set of reforms. A normal belief is that the AIMPLB existed before the Indian independence and after the Article 44 was introduced, has been opposing any effort of bringing in the Civil Code.
This though is a misconception and truth be told, the personal law board has existed just for 40-45 odd years and its enactment was triggered by this incident.
The Indira Gandhi regime of in the early 1970s was reportedly making continual efforts in order to reduce the dominance of the Sharia Law applicable to the Indian Muslims via a parallel legislation.
This was causing unease among the various Muslim religious leaders which reached a crescendo after the then law minister H.R. Gokhale introduced the Adoption Bill in the Parliament. This bill was reportedly touted as the first step towards the Uniform Civil Code.
This introduction of the Adoption bill was by their own admission a flash-point which triggered the formation of a unified law board for Muslims. According to the AIMPLB website, the introduction of the bill:
Successfully convinced the Indian Muslim community that the risk of losing applicability of Shariah laws was real and concerted move by the community was needed to defeat the ‘conspiracy’
This according to the board prompted Muslims belonging to various school of thoughts to come together on a common platform to defend the Muslim Personal Law. This resulted in a convention on 27-28th December 1972 in Mumbai. In this convention it was unanimously decided to setup the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
The board was formally established at a meeting in Hyderabad on April 7, 1973.
It is rather ironical that Kapil Sibal, a senior lawyer and leader of Indira’s Congress party, is today assisting the same board in fighting for retaining triple talaq.
Also as a foot note, even though the All India Muslim Personal Law Board may give out the feel that it strives to work for all Muslims, the reality is slightly different.
Even though under the Indian Law Ahmadis are recognized as a Muslim community, they are not represented on the All India Muslim Personal Law Board due to possible pressure from other mainstream Muslim sects.
Also the Shia community had formed its own personal law board in 2005. This personal law board has passed a resolution calling for a stringent law against the practice of triple talaq and has also issued a fatwa against cow slaughter.
Editor’s note: The article draws information from and was triggered by this piece written by senior journalist Kanchan Gupta in 2005.