Personal Laws and Noninterference: The Late Colonial Era, 1920–47

Rina Verma Williams

in Postcolonial Politics and Personal Laws

Published in print August 2006 | ISBN: 9780195680140
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081721 | DOI:
Personal Laws and Noninterference: The Late Colonial Era, 1920–47

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This chapter deals with the policies of the British colonial government during the colonial period, when the norm of noninterference was established. The state defines the agenda on the personal laws, illustrating a gap between the rhetoric and the actions of noninterference in the personal laws. The social reform legislation ordained under the rubric of piecemeal legislation was apparently intended to benefit Indian women. Official or legislative consideration of the codification and reform of Hindu personal law came in British India in 1921, and 1943-4. The government supported the codification of Muslim personal law in 1937 and 1939. Changes to Hindu and Muslim personal laws were vindicated as conforming to popular demand and community opinion. Despite the rhetoric of community demand and popular support, it was the colonial state that ultimately decided whether, when, what, and how any changes to the personal laws would be made.

Keywords: noninterference; British colonial government; Muslim personal law; Hindu personal law; social reform; British India; colonial state

Chapter.  12492 words. 

Subjects: Family Law

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