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UCC: Disability Rights Activists Submit Representation, Call for More Legal Safeguards for PwDs

The 224 signatories, representing disability rights groups and individuals seek wider consultations for a more equitable and inclusive legal framework.

New Delhi: In response to a public notice dated June 14, 2023, issued by the 22nd Law Commission of India, a significant representation has been made from the disability perspective regarding the Uniform Civil Code. This submission has been endorsed by 224 signatories, including disability rights organisations, professionals, individuals with disabilities, other organisations, eminent personalities, and individuals. The submission was officially submitted to the Law Commission on July 28, 2023.

The signatories include Muralidharan, general secretary of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD), Roma Bhagat, a Delhi High Court advocate, Seema Baquer, a cross-disability professional, and Sadhna Arya, a gender and disability activist, as per a press statement by NPRD.

The submission emphasised the need to consider the views and concerns of persons with disabilities (PwDs) in the formulation of the Uniform Civil Code, which covers various aspects such as the institution of marriage, provisions of maintenance (spousal and children), adoption, guardianship, inheritance, execution of property rights, and more.

The representatives highlighted the vulnerabilities of PwDs in familial, community, and social spheres, where they are susceptible to abuse and exploitation. They stressed that any changes to existing laws should take into account the diverse and heterogeneous nature of the disabled population, considering their different roles as family members across age, sex, gender, religion, caste, ethnicity, class, and regional identities.

The submission pointed out that certain personal laws and customs offer some safeguards for disabled individuals, such as provisions for their care and share in family property. The representatives suggested that rather than introducing an entirely new legal regime, existing laws should be strengthened to provide more safeguards for vulnerable populations, including PwDs.

They also emphasised the importance of synchronising the legal framework with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPwD Act, 2016), and the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 (MHCA, 2017), which provide for legal capacity and supported decision making for PwDs.

The representatives urged the Law Commission to hold extensive consultations with all stakeholders, including persons with disabilities and their representative groups and organisations, before proceeding with any reforms to personal laws. Considering that there are 21 recognised types of disabilities, they emphasised that consultations with all of them are imperative to understand the diverse lived experiences and interactions within these domains.

Additionally, the submission made some noteworthy recommendations, including harmonising all Indian laws with the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), amending the Constitution of India to include "disability" as a ground for prohibiting discrimination, and removing other discriminatory provisions against PwDs in various laws.

 The representation advocates for a needs-based model that eradicates bad practices and strengthens good practices through legal reform. This ensures that all persons, including PwDs, can freely exercise and enjoy their rights and seek justice through equitable, accessible, and inclusive processes.

 In conclusion, the representatives urged the Law Commission of India to consider their views and recommendations in shaping the UCC to create a more inclusive and equitable legal framework for persons with disabilities in India.

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