Uniform Civil Code Necessary, Discrimination Against Women In Personal Laws Should Be Removed: NHRC Chairperson Justice Arun Mishra
Article 44 of the Constitution, which contains a constitutional edict to 'endeavour to secure for citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India' should no longer remain a dead letter, said former Supreme Court judge and current chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, Arun Mishra. "We see discrimination against women worldwide due to social, customary, and religious practices. The time has come to take care of same by enacting legislative provisions to remove discrimination in inheritance, property rights, parental rights, domicile of married woman, and legal capacity," the former judge said.
Justice Mishra was delivering the welcome address at the Human Rights Day celebrations organised by the National Human Rights Commission. Also in attendance were the President of India, Draupadi Murmu, gracing the occasion as the chief guest, and United Nations Resident Coordinator for India, Shombi Sharp, who read a message from António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Speaking about the need for empowering women to ensure societal progress, Justice Misra said, "Improving the condition of women in vulnerable sections and rural areas is needed to ensure equality. Empowerment of women through development and proper education is essential. They cannot be made to suffer discrimination and gender violence for eternity." Without providing dignity and equal rights to them, he said, a celebration of Human Rights Day was 'meaningless'. While he commended the Supreme Court for 'showing the way forward' by progressively interpreting various statutory enactments, he also noted that the time had come to enact a uniform civil code. "Article 44 of the Constitution enabling equality by enacting a common civil Code should not remain a dead letter," he strongly asserted.
Justice Mishra also said that the theme of the United Nations slogan for the year, 'dignity, freedom, and justice for all', reminded him of the Rigveda shloka, 'saṃgacchadhwaṃ saṃvadadhwaṃ, saṃ vo manāṃsi jānatām, devā bhāgaṃ yathā pūrve, sañjānānā upāsate', which he explained, meant 'taking everyone together in human progress'. He invoked one of the basic tenets of Hindu philosophy, 'bahujan sukhaya bahujan hitaya' which means that public welfare lies in the happiness of the masses. In this connection, he briefly touched upon various facets of human rights, including the rights of women, children, and other vulnerable sections of society, environmental rights and intergenerational equity, economic and business-related human rights, and the right to life, with special focus on countering drug trafficking and terrorism.
Further, the gathering was informed by the retired judge that the human rights commission received 1.21 lakh complaints last year and decided 1.28 lakh cases, including carry-forward cases. It recommended compensation worth Rs 11.69 crores in 356 cases. In addition to 21 advisories issued during the pandemic, it has also issued advisories on myriad topics including bonded labour, court security, protection of the environment, mechanised cleaning and providing safety gear to workers involved in cleaning sewers and septic tanks, and rehabilitation of visually-challenged persons, Mishra said. "The Commission in its endeavour to do justice for all is committed to ensure that benefit of social welfare schemes of free housing, health, food, and pension trickle down to the needy," the chairperson promised.