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Tahir Mahmood

By S. Chandrashekhar
Blackie & Sons (India) Ltd., 1976, Price Not Stated

VOLUME II NUMBER 5 September-October 1977

In a book on ‘population and law’ the readers should expect an account of where the principles of planned parent­hood and birth control stand in the legal system of the country. In India the most relevant branches of the legal system in this context are obviously the personal laws. Therefore, the primary concern of students of ‘population and law’ in this country is the position of family planning under the personal laws applicable to various sections of the peo­ple. The author of the book under review, an eminent demographer, has com­pletely overlooked this concern of the academic world. The book has no refer­ence at all to the treatment of population control and planned parenthood in the personal laws of Hindus, Muslims, Chris­tians and other communities. While Islam contains a detailed and meticulous law on family planning, one can surely locate in the Dharmshastras also rules and precepts establishing permissibility of planned parenthood at least by implica­tion if not by direct statement. Full chapters on how family planning is view­ed under the Islamic Shariat and the an­cient laws of India, if included in the book, would have been immensely useful. It seems that the author has understood ‘law’ in the narrow sense of statutory law only and has therefore devoted his study to an examination of nearly all those rules found on the Indian statute book which have any bearing or reflection on the issue of family planning. Even where the author has discussed aspects of personal law relevant to the subject of his study (e.g., laws relating to age of marriage, succession and women’s rights) he has confined his discussion to Hindu law. The book makes no refer­ence to these aspects as treated under the laws of Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Jews who, too, are part and parcel of the Indian community. Moreover, even the account of Hindu law given by the author is neither comprehensive nor up to date. In the section on adoption, for instance, there is no mention of the Adoption of Children Bill, 1972, and an impression is definitely created that the author is not aware of it. In the context of family planning, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, comes next to personal laws in the order of importance. The treatment of this Act in the book is surprisingly brief and inadequate. The book is ...

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