Without A Uniform Civil Code, India Will Only Be Secular On Paper

Posted on October 15, 2016 in Politics, Society

By Apurva Mayank:

In a recent development, the Law Commission was asked by the Union Law Ministry to examine all issues pertaining to the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). Just like medicines are important for a healthy India, Uniform Civil Code is necessary for a secular India so that the same laws are valid for every citizen without taking religion into consideration.

Day by day, the demand for UCC keeps on gaining momentum. And it is not because of the efforts of religious reformers. It is due to the efforts of women – the section of society which is most suppressed by old religious traditions. There is a fight to implement the UCC and that too since 1985 when the Shah Bano case made national headlines and changed the course of Indian politics. It is a fight to increase the ambit of secularism by giving rights to women, which have been curtailed by various religious laws.

Supreme Court had asked the government in October 2015 why it hadn’t attempted to bring the UCC when it had the mandate. The apex court had said“There is total confusion… We should work on the Uniform Civil Code. What happened to it? If you (government) want to do it, then you should do it. Why don’t you frame and implement it.” 

It also said,“This cannot be accepted, otherwise every religion will say it has a right to decide various issues as a matter of its personal law. We don’t agree with this at all. It has to be done through a decree of a court.”

The most obvious reason for non-implementation of UCC by any government till now is the fear of how the second largest religious community in India would respond to it. But the irony is that many women from the minority community are frontrunners in favouring the UCC. Why should India stay behind, so that some non-democratic, non-secular people can make a conservative and patriarchal society happy and add to the backwardness of the nation? Triple talaq and polygamy are heinous patriarchal practices and should be abolished. Gender justice and equality are not the only things we will achieve as a nation if UCC is introduced. Execution of the UCC will make India a secular nation, not only on paper but also in reality. It will be a vital step for national integration and secularism. Issues like inheritance, succession, adoption will not be governed by people who dictate personal laws in an undemocratic fashion.

In a hypothetical scenario, let us assume that UCC gets implemented. What can be the possible issues and difficulties?

Firstly, the sentimental issue. It will deeply hurt the feelings of people who have engraved these personal laws to their pride. Silent protests would be a far dream, the administration at that time must prepare to handle violence.

Secondly, the legal challenges. Some may raise up issues such as:

  • Attempt to highlight the State’s intervention in the religious matter. Questions will be asked regarding the limit of State with respect to religion.
  • The argument of the conflict of UCC with fundamental rights would be brought to the table, challenging the common code’s authenticity.
  • Articles 25, 26 and 29 are the most conflicting fundamental rights in relation to UCC. However, it will totally depend on the decision of the Supreme Court regarding its validity. Article 44 of the Directive Principles of State Policy advocates for the Uniform Civil Code.

Despite the challenges, India needs to find a way forward towards the path of development by adopting UCC. A vast number of interests and sentiments must be addressed while devising the rules. It should not be implemented at once. It will create chaos just like the liquor ban which was implemented in Bihar. Bringing the UCC is a social transformation and needs to be done gradually, not at once. It is not necessary that only some people from the minority community will oppose it. Any section of society that is being deprived of benefits may protest. Such as an undivided Hindu family which gets tax benefits. We will need to build trust, make common cause, create campaigns of awareness with social reformers rather than conservative religious leaders. As the situation is fragile, we should bring changes one by one, highlight one issue at a time and generate awareness about them. It might include divorce, marriage, inheritance, succession, adoption and so on.

National identity will be more secure and human resources much better utilised. It will add to the country’s growth and development. Indian Divorce Act, Christian Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act , Shariat Act are unnecessary complications. A Uniform Civil Code embodies justice and there should be no compromise on it. One nation should have one civil code.

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Image Source: Daniel Berehulak/ Getty Images,  Allison Joyce/ Getty Images

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