Many public luminaries whoop for UCC underscoring it divests religion from social relations and personal law like Hindu Code Bill, Shariat law etc which are based on scriptures and customs of various religious communities. Replacing it with a common law governing personal matters: marriage, divorce, adoption, inheritance and succession for citizens irrespective of religion, harmonising diverse cultural groups, removing inequalities and protecting women rights, thereby creating a gender-equal society. Moreover, as India’s political realities have changed so much since 2014 and modern society is gradually becoming homogenous whereby traditional barriers of religion, community and caste are slowly dissipating thus supporting national integration. The UCC provides protection to vulnerable sections and religious minorities, while encouraging nationalistic fervour through unity. A thought echoed by Supreme Court in various judgments.
In this monsoon season it’s raining defections in Maharashtra where the BJP-Shiv Sena ‘double engine’ Government has now been charged with ‘triple energy’ with infusion of Ajit Pawar’s NCP . Amidst this confusion confounded trust Prime Minister Modi to set the cat among pigeons when he pitched for the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) highlighting the importance of equality as enshrined in the Constitution last week.
Predictably it triggered sharp reactions from Opposition Parties and Muslim clerics. Hitting out at Parties who revelled in Muslim appeasement and incited minorities against the Code he asserted, “You tell me, in a home, how can there be one law for one member and another law for the other member?
“Will that home be able to function? Then how will the country be able to function with such a dual system? We have to remember that even in our Constitution, there is a mention of equal rights for all,” he added. This comes a week after the Law Commission invited public’s view and “recognized” religious organizations within 30 days..
Questionably, can Modi Sarkar bring UCC? Yes. The Constitution talks about it, Ambedkar was a strong votary, Supreme Court has batted for it innumerably and now the Prime Minister is leading from the front by hooting for it for the first time. Moreover, BJP has the numbers in Lok Sabha even as the situation may not be as good for it in Rajya Sabha, but “floor management” can see the Government through.
The Upper House’s majority mark is 119 and BJP plus allies is 103. Add one Independent MP and five nominated members, it is 10 short. APP and Udhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena have expressed qualified support, BJD with 9 MPs is also likely to extend support, which will further fragment the Opposition which has been scrambling for unity. Also, 10 seats will go to the polls soon.
So, how does this stack up? UCC supporters see it as a way to ensure gender equality. For example, polygamy is illegal under IPC but Muslim men are allowed to have up to four wives under Sharia Islamic law. Polygamy also exists in many tribal communities and it might become an issue for BJP in the middle of its massive tribal outreach.
It’s a political tightrope walk for the Opposition. Any wonder, Congress has made plain it will make plain its views once it sees the Bill. Other leaders don’t want to be seen as bitterly opposed to Modi’s push for a UCC, even as they have voiced their disagreement dismissing it as a “political stunt”.
Calling the Government’s policies divisive they demand discussion which would be the “safest way” to proceed. “Let us understand its entire dynamics”, said a senior leader. Adding, it has been brought up to divert attention from real issues and finds Prime Minister’s remarks aimed at the 2024 general elections.
Expectedly, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board has termed UCC unconstitutional and anti-minority as the Constitution allows every citizen to live life according to their religion which is part of Fundamental Rights. Not a few leaders see it as a ploy to crush India’s plurality and secularism by diluting rights sanctioned under Islam. Averring it would lead to India’s “Hinduisation” and endanger Muslims and Christians.
It is a ‘minority versus majority’ issue and Hindutva Brigade’s policy for Muslims living in India. It would disintegrate the country and hurt its diverse culture, they warn. Interestingly, Muslim women have a mixed reaction. Recall, post Parliament declaring practice of triple talaq illegal, unconstitutional and made it punishable following a Supreme Court order in 2019 many became Modi’s fans and saw BJP as a potent force and could vote for the Party.
Many public luminaries whoop for UCC underscoring it divests religion from social relations and personal law like Hindu Code Bill, Shariat law etc which are based on scriptures and customs of various religious communities. Replacing it with a common law governing personal matters: marriage, divorce, adoption, inheritance and succession for citizens irrespective of religion, harmonising diverse cultural groups, removing inequalities and protecting women rights, thereby creating a gender-equal society.
Moreover, as India’s political realities have changed so much since 2014 and modern society is gradually becoming homogenous whereby traditional barriers of religion, community and caste are slowly dissipating thus supporting national integration. The UCC provides protection to vulnerable sections and religious minorities, while encouraging nationalistic fervour through unity. A thought echoed by Supreme Court in various judgments.
Surprisingly, liberal Muslims have chosen to remain silent on UCC. Given many Islamic countries have codified and reformed Muslim Personal Law to check its abuse. Polygamy has been banned in Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Iran and even Pakistan.
Should they not support a voluntary UCC? But this is easier said than done due to the country’s diversity and religious laws, which not only differ sect-wise, but also by community, caste and region.
As the cacophony for and against UCC grows louder the correct answer lies somewhere in between. However, what cannot be denied is UCC will benefit BJP electorally as it will be used as a ploy to corner the Opposition about being pro-Muslim. A majority of Hindus would view it as the Party implementing its agenda.
Besides, even if it is not brought before elections, the discourse around it and the resultant sharp divisions might be a significant advantage for the Saffron Sangh as the Code has been a key agenda of BJP and part of its 2019 Lok Sabha election manifesto alongside Ram temple at Ayodhya which is set to be inaugurated in January next and abrogation of Article 370 in J&K which have been fulfilled.
Further, Uttarakhand is already in the process of framing its common code soon, Gujarat unleashed its UCC genie November last by setting up a committee to study its implementation and intends rolling it out pre-poll, the third State after Himachal and Assam and Goa already has a UCC regardless of religion, gender, caste. It has a common family law whereby all Hindus, Muslims and Christians are bound with the same law related to marriage, divorce, succession.
Certainly the path to UCC is sensitive and difficult but it must be taken. A beginning has to be made if the Constitution is to have any meaning. Discrimination cannot be justified on the grounds of traditions and customs. To establish equality the law that regulates population of a country should also be one. A common civil code will help the cause of national integration by removing desperate loyalties to laws, which have conflicting ideologies.
What next? Ultimately, no community should be allowed to veto or block progressive legislation. Time now to reject different laws for different communities, implement Article 44 and reform India.
One cannot progress riding on past’s wheels. India needs uniform laws and should figure what is satisfactory to all groups. Criminal and commercial laws are basic, so there is little purpose behind common laws to appear as something else. It just partitions Indians on the premise of religion that should not happen in the 21st century. It is beyond endurance of sensitive minds to allow injustice to be suffered when it is so palpable. What gives? —- INFA