Vol: 26 No: 01
12 August 1979
This is the Year of the Child and public opinion must insist that the adoption law should be put on the statute book this year. No legislative procrastination should be permitted and no fear of religious or obscurantist opposition should be allowed to deter the Government from carrying out this most essential and beneficial reform.
I like to remind the Government and Muslim friends of some potent facts of which they seem to be oblivious:
1. We in this country are governed by Indian Law and not Islamic Law. The Legislatures, the Privy Council and the Supreme Court have constantly altered and amended the strict application of the Shariat. Under the Penal Code, peoples’ hands are not cut off on their conviction for theft nor are women who have committed adultery stoned to death as required by Muslim Law. The Special Marriage Act, which was recently passed, equally affects the Shariat, but a Muslim member in the debate in Parliament admitted that they had allowed it to be passed without any objection or opposition, through inadvertence!
2. We have no official Church and we are a secular country unlike Iran, Pakistan and other Muslim countries.
3. Uniform Civil Code is a directive principle under the Constitution and Muslims cannot be heard to say that they are not bound by it and that the Shariat can override that principle.
4. This is an enabling measure and no one is bound to adopt. Therefore, in effect, the Muslim opposition is coercing the minority which wants to adopt legally. The Muslim opposition may be a large majority. But even the smallest minority has its rights. It cannot be taken away by a vocal, vociferous and obscurantist majority.
Here is a directive principle (Uniformness of this policy and whatever Civil Code), which we have refused to implement because although constitutionally we are a secular country, in practice our secularism is distorted by communal considerations.
I presided over a public meeting in Bombay protesting against Government’s attitude over the Adoption Bill and I was happy to say, quite a large number of Muslims and particularly Muslim women joined in the protest. Such meetings should be held all over our country. Public demonstrations should be organized. Deputations should meet the Government in Delhi and everything possible should be done to see that the welfare of the child is ensured by the passing of this Law.
The child constitutes the potential wealth of this country. We have immense resources. But these resources cannot produce real wealth unless the citizens of tomorrow are protected and constitute a disciplined and progressive nation. It is our solemn duty to do all we can to preserve this potential wealth and make it worthy of our country and our country’s tradition.
12 August 1979
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