‘Reasons for atrocities on women similar across religious groups’

The third interim report filed by the Chandrashekhar Dharmadhikari Commission set up to suggest mearsures to curb crimes against women has recommended a uniform civil code, observing that the causes behind atrocities are similar in nature across religious groups.

The committee was set up by the state government in 2010. Its report, which was sent to the government on January 16, was placed before the Bombay High Court on Thursday.

The committee has cited Article 44 of the Constitution, which says that the state "shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India". The report observes, "The condition of Muslim women should be seriously considered. It is necessary to have a uniform civil code as per Article 44 of the Constitution." Referring to deciding the age of a person attaining majority, the report says, "As the law pertaining to attaining the age of majority is 'secular', it should be applicable to every community." It has said the consent of woman for marriage should be "clear and in written form", and that there should be a clear provision pertaining to oral "talaaq" and other forms of divorce.

The committee has also recommended that anti-dowry laws should apply to Muslims as well.

Also, significantly, the committee has recommended that law should be amended so that the statement of a rape victim is recorded only once, and in the presence of a magistrate. According to the panel, the statement should be treated as "examination in chief" and cross- examination should be conducted only on the basis of that statement.

Vijay Raghavan, head of Criminology department at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and member of the panel, said, "This amendment will help to prevent repeated trauma of the victim. Recalling details of a sexual assault is difficult for a victim, and such a change in the law should greatly reduce the difficulties that the criminal justice system poses for her."

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