Indian community in UAE hails new civil law for non-Muslims

Abu Dubai, Nov 8 (PTI) The Indian community in the United Arab Emirates on Monday hailed the landmark new civil law for non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi, the capital and the second-most populous city of the Gulf nation, which has been introduced by the emirate with an aim to maintain its competitive edge as a regional commercial hub and emerge as the most attractive destination for talent and skills.

In his capacity as the Ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Sunday issued a law to regulate personal status matters for non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi to provide a flexible and advanced judicial mechanism for the determination of personal status disputes for non-Muslims.

The decision, which is the first of its kind in the world, will enhance the Emirate’s position and global competitiveness as one of the most attractive destinations for talent and skills, the official WAM news agency reported.

Reacting to the decision, Ipshita Sharma, International Publishing Sales Manager, termed it as “an incredible gesture for those of us who think of the UAE as home.”

“I have been here for 12 years now and it feels more and more like we’re being included in the narrative of the country despite our religion, nationality and beliefs, says Sharma, who is based in Dubai.

According to M Unnikrishnan, a communications professional, the new Abu Dhabi civil law on marriage, divorce, custody, and inheritance for non-Muslims is promising for its residents.

“By introducing a new legal framework for non-Muslims, the UAE’s leadership has ensured a flexible and advanced judicial mechanism aligned with international practices, he says.

For Unnikrishnan, who is based in Abu Dhabi, the announcement of the reforms while the UAE is celebrating its Golden Jubilee celebrations, is yet another milestone in the history of the nation.

“Bilingual court procedures, the right to divorce, equal rights for partners on the custody of children, dedicated special courts for non-Muslim family matters, etc, are some of the features of the reform, guaranteeing transparency in upholding the rights, he said.

Connected with the legal overhaul in November last year, the new measures will safeguard the rights of all the affected people, says Unnikrishnan.

Kevin Bayan, a Filippino national, who is working in the healthcare sector in Abu Dhabi, said the new set of rules will make the civil cases less complex.

“So it will come as a blessing for the residents and expats, living for a longer period in the country. The flexibility, priority, and the advanced approach taken while formulating the new law are commendable, he said.

Over the years, UAE has been giving attention and focus to the residents to ensure that their rights and needs are taken care of. I think the aspects in the law regarding marriage, divorce, and child custody are advanced and capable of guaranteeing the rights of individuals and their children,” he added.

Dubai-based Chandrashekhar Bhatia of Maharashtra Business Forum said that the law is a good move for the country.

“It is very useful for non-Muslims as in case of child custody, both the parties will be responsible for the care of their children now. The community should welcome this,” he said.

An Indian technician living in Abu Dhabi said the details related to the new law are still not known.

We should wait for more details to emerge. Specifically on inheritance law, I am looking for clarity how this will go in parallel to Indian inheritance law. Suppose one has property in UAE and India both but don’t have a will, he said on the condition of anonymity.

The law, which is in line with international best practices, guarantees the right of non-Muslims to be subject to an internationally acknowledged law that is familiar to them in terms of culture, customs and language, according to a report in the Khaleej Times.

It will also help in protecting the best interests of children, particularly in the case of parental separation, it said.

The move will further enhance the Emirate’s position and global competitiveness as one of the most attractive destinations for talent and skills, it said.

The law consists of 20 articles divided into several chapters covering civil marriage, divorce, joint custody of children and inheritance, the WAM report said.

Youssef Saeed Al Abri, Undersecretary of the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD), said that the new legislation is the first of its kind in the world as it deals with the smallest details regarding non-Muslim family life.

The new law applies civil principles in the regulation of family matters, Al Abri was quoted as saying by the official news agency.

He also said the establishment of the first court dedicated to non-Muslim family matters, which would be in both English and Arabic to facilitate understanding of judicial procedures by foreigners and to improve judicial transparency.

Al Abri added that the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department has been working in order to provide innovative solutions to non-Muslims’ personal status issues that are brought before the courts, after studying and analysing them and working to come up with sophisticated legislative solutions that provide a modern judicial framework for foreigners residing in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi to resolve family disputes in a flexible manner in line with international best practices, the Gulf News reported.