The Union Law Ministry has asked the Law Commission to examine the issue of implementation of a Uniform civil Code (UCC) -- drawing criticism from the opposition and Muslim groups who termed it a "politically-motivated move devoid of sincerity".
The ministry last month wrote to the panel to examine and submit a report on the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code, which would abolish the personal laws of various communities on matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been pitching for such a measure and had promised to implement it in its 2014 parliamentary election manifesto.
The opposition raised questions over the timing of the move as the crucial Uttar Pradesh assembly elections are due early next year.
Janata Dal-United MP Pavan Varma said that although his party is not against the measure in principle, the present government's intentions are "doubtful".
"If a uniform civil code can be brought in India, we would support it. But it should be brought in through consensus and should not be imposed from the top," Varma told IANS.
"The intentions of this government are doubtful. They seemed to have raised it purposely just ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections," he added.
Communist Party of India Marxist (CPI-M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury too questioned the government's intentions behind the move.
"Have the Hindus given up their personal law? If not, then you cannot target only one community. Uniform should be uniform for all," Yechury told IANS.
"Let the government bring in a proposal or a bill before the Parliament in this regard and then we would discuss it," he added.
The Congress, too, accused the National Democratic Alliance government of trying to draw political mileage from the move ahead of Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.
"Is it not very interesting that near major elections, sometimes they throw Ayodhya, at other times Article 370 and now Uniform Civil Code?" Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.
"Has anything ever been done by the BJP government except for raking up divisive issues for political gains?" he said, adding this was an issue that must be resolved through consensus amongst the political parties and all stakeholders.
"Certainly, if genuine efforts are made to evolve that consensus, a time may come when something can be done in that direction. But if it is a political 'stunt-baazi', which is what we believe it is, we condemn it," Singhvi said.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Asaduddin Owaisi said that the central government is trying to divert people's attention from its failure to provide employment and check price rise.
"If this government is actually serious about introducing a uniform civil code, it should withdraw the tax rebate given to Hindu undivided families in the next session of parliament," Owaisi told media.
All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat President Naved Hamid said that it is not only the Muslims who have reservations about the measure but many other communities such as Christians, Sikhs and tribals too.
"Has the BJP consulted its alliance partner Shiromani Akali Dal before making such a move? What is their stand on the issue?" he asked.
"If the government is so serious about following the Directive Principles, why does it not, for example, impose a complete ban on liquor?" he added.
(Mohd Asim Khan can be contacted at email@example.com)