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`Need to reform Muslim personal law'

Special Correspondent

Imrana episode a case in point: Jaitley

NEW DELHI: The case of Imrana, allegedly raped by her father-in-law, being virtually "punished" by the Muslim Personal Law Board, which has declared that her marriage stands terminated, was cited on Tuesday by Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary and spokesperson Arun Jaitley as an instance which proved that there was need to make the Muslim personal law gender-sensitive.At a press conference here, Mr. Jaitley issued a statement pointing out that the entire nation was aghast that the victim Imrana was being punished and "driven to destitution" through the termination of her marriage. He said that the Constitution under Article 44 provided that "the State should endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India" and yet nothing had been done about this 55 years after India became a republic. Mr. Jaitley pointed out that Imrana had been "raped by the culprit but condemned and discredited by her own" and this was "wholly unacceptable under any civilised notion of rule of law."

Virtually challenging the Congress to make clear its stand on the case, Mr. Jaitley also referred to the Shah Bano case recalling the overturning of a Supreme Court judgment by the Rajiv Gandhi government, which was, he said, a "glaring example when the legislature failed this reform process."

He strongly criticised the "obnoxious religious practices" still prevalent in the country and went on to demand a "national debate" on the issue that has already exercised almost all women's groups, including some Muslim women who have criticised the fatwa against Imrana terminating her marriage for no fault of hers. The former Law Minister said the BJP believed that personal laws of all religious denominations should be in consonance with Constitutional guarantees of equality and dignity for women. And he hoped that the Imrana case would be an eye-opener for those resisting reform of personal law.

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