India Uncut

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Saturday, July 02, 2005

On Imrana

Soli Sorabjee, a former attorney general of India, writes in the Indian Express that the Uniform Civil Code is not the issue in the Imrana case: the fundamental rights guaranteed to her by the Indian constitution are. He says:
Personal laws are recognised by the Constitution as Salman Khurshid reminds us. Unfortunately, he forgets that it is those personal laws which are in conformity with the mandate of the Constitution. Personal laws do not enjoy any immunity from compliance with constitutional obligations guaranteeing fundamental rights. Besides one of the fundamental duties prescribed by the Constitution is “to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women” (Article 51-A (e)). The fatwa indeed is destructive of the woman’s dignity.
Meanwhile, Gaurav Sabnis has a couple of posts on the subject here and here, and Ravikiran Rao has something to say here. Both raise an interesting point: if Imrana and her husband are willing to abide by the fatwa, monstrous though it may be, does the government have a right to go against their will?

My opinion on that: individuals are sometimes irrational, especially when under immense stress, and they have a right to take their own decisions. But crimes need to be punished for the greater good of all of us. A rape victim may decide to marry her rapist; I'd say, let her do so if she really wants to, but the rapist must do his time in prison first (by which time, one hopes, the victim would have come to her senses). Allowing the perpetrator of a crime to get away because the victim reconciles to it is, in effect, condoning the crime and increasing the chances of it happening again.

It is, as Gaurav puts it, a dilemma for libertarians. Can the state keep its role to a minimum when certain sections of society are so backward, or should it play the part of an enlightened and firm moderator? In my view, as far as criminal behaviour is concerned, the state has a necessary role to play. And right now our state is failing Imrana.
amit varma, 12:58 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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