Uniform Civil Code: Not to divide by religion, but to unite by nationality

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Muslims praying at Jama Masjid
Debate on Uniform Civil Code has once again come to the fore after Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday said that issue requires consultation of various stakeholders. The Union Minister said that provision is already mentioned in Article 44 of the Constitution and only thing now needed is proper discussion over it.

In a written reply to a question raised by party MP Yogi Adityanath in Parliament, Minister said, "Provisions of Uniform Civil Code is there in Article 44 of the Constitution. Wide stakeholder consultation would be required for further steps in this regard".

Hindu Code Bill was passed in 1956 amid high protest

Bringing the Uniform Civil Code means to make change in entire gamut of personal laws related to property, marriage, divorce, maintenance, adoption and inheritance. The minority perceives that it is the Government's interference in their personal matter and terms this (UCC) as a conspiracy against the community to annihilate them.

Where UPA stands?

As Minority always ups in arm with the mention of the topic, successive Congress's Government never dared to touch the issue. In a written reply to Parliament in 2011, former Law Minister M Veerappa Moily had said that Central Government will not touch the topic.

"Bringing in a Uniform Civil Code involves changes in the Personal Laws including those of the minority communities. Therefore, it has been the consistent policy of the Central Government not to interfere in the Personal Laws of the minority communities unless the necessary initiatives for such changes come from a sizeable cross-section of such communities themselves", a 2011 PIB report said.

BJP's position

But BJP believes that there should be a single law for all Indian citizens irrespective of their religion.

BJP in its election manifesto had prominently made this point. "The party believes that there cannot be gender equality till such time India adopts a Uniform Civil Code which protects the rights of all women and BJP reiterates its stand to draft a Uniform Civil Code, drawing upon the best traditions and harmonising them with the modern times," BJP manifesto had said.

Earlier, in an interview to Urdu weekly Nai Duniya, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said, "Constitution says that the Government will make efforts to implement the Uniform Civil Code.... The second important point i would like to make clear is that implementing a UCC does not mean that all citizens of the country will be brought under the Hindu code.

"I believe that there are several provisions in the Hindu Code which are irrelevant and they need reforms. Carrying 18th century laws in 21st century is unnecessary".

Legal aspect

The Article 44, which comprises the Part IV of the Constitution of India, lists UCC as one of the Directive Principles of State policy which can't be enforced by any court.

Recently, former Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju had supported the provision saying minority faced the consequences for this outdated law and vote-bank politics is main reason for not making this provision into a law.

"Muslims suffered due to absence of Uniform Civil Code. An archaic law can't apply to present times," Press Council of India Chairman Katju said.

Uniform Civil code and historical aspect

At present, different set of rules and laws are in place for different communities as far as the matter concerned with marriage, divorce, maintenance, adoption and inheritance. Under Uniform Civil Code, idea is to make one unified set of laws which will comprise of all these personal rules. Every citizens of India have to abide by those ‘unified set of laws' irrespective of their religion and castes. Currently, among States only Goa has this similar provision called Goa Civil Code or the Goa Family Law. Though, first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had raised this demand during his tenure but only succeed to include it in Directive Principles of the Indian Constitution. Even Hindu Code Bill faced massive protests but ultimately, it scraped through in 1956.

Shah Bano case

Shah Bano case brought this debate to forefront once again in 1985. The case was about a 65-year-old Muslim lady named Shah Bano who had demanded alimony from her husband after she was abandoned by him. According to the provision of Muslim law, Bano was entitled to three months' maintenance. The matter reached to Supreme Court which not only ruled in the favour of the deserted lady but also referred to the need to enact a Uniform Civil Code. This judgement of Court invited huge protest among Muslim communities saying they (court) were interfering in our personal law which Constitution never allowed.


Now, going by the Law Minister's comment that emotive issue requires consultation of various stakeholders is praiseworthy. Point is there should be a talk on the contentious issue and nothing wrong with that. Muslims groups themselves should come forward with their own point of views. The Prime Minister has reiterated the statement that implementing a UCC does not mean that all citizens of the country will be brought under the Hindu code so they needn't to become insecure about that. Their (Muslims) interest will be safeguarded in the best possible ways. But at the same time, intellectuals of minority community should also understand that if some rules have become redundant that must be tweaked upon. If we are counted as one not as Hindu or Muslims but Indians then why not a single law should govern us all?

Everyone should get this message clear that UCC is not to divide by religion, but to unite by nationality.

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