Uniform Civil Code

Criticism against Uniform Civil Code and the Role of State in Implementing It

India is a vast country with 1.28 billion people spread over 3270000 sq. km. it has 22 official languages and another 1527 ‘official’ mother tongue which is a very unique. The country inhibits people from various religions out of which there are primary 7 major religions of which 4 took birth in the country itself. Having a 5000 year old civilization, the country is also called as a land of religions. Religious values are deeply rooted in the lives of the people. The preamble declares India as a secular nation where all the religions have been awarded same status and secularism is the basic feature of the constitution . Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees every person the freedom of conscience and the right to profess and practice and propagate religion . This has led to the enactment of personal laws for people belonging to different religions like Hindu Law for Hindus, Sharia for Muslims. There is a common criminal law for all (IPC, Cr.PC) but different religions have different religions. Article 44 (Directive Principles Of State Policy) endeavors the state to make provisions to bring all the people under the purview of the common civil code thus doing away with the personal laws and establishing harmony and unity among the people.

Article 44 has always been a controversial topic of debate and there have been various issues being raised by the people who are against its enactment. The first and the foremost issue raised is that it hampers the right to freedom of religion as per Article 25. However, Clause (2) of that article specifically saves secular activities associated with religious practices from the guarantee of religious freedom contained in clause (1). Another major argument raised is that it is tyrannical to the minorities. On this, Shri K.M. Munshi, a member of drafting committee, in the constitutional assembly said “…..When you want to consolidate a community, you have to take into consideration the benefits which may accrue to the whole community and not to the customs of a part of it. It is thus not correct to say that such an act is tyranny of the majority. If you will look at the countries in Europe which have a civil code, everyone who goes there from any part of the world and every minority has to submit to the civil code. It is not felt to be tyrannical to the minority.” The most common misconception in the minds of the people is that implementation of a uniform civil code means the imposition of Hinduism on everyone. However, the same is a very vague assumption as uniform civil code demands to bring all the religion of the state under the purview of a common civil code and not under the Hindu law. Due to this reasons many minority groups primarily the Muslims have been opposing it. People also fear that this might lead to a threat to the cultural identity of the minority, and will take away their freedom of religion. To this, it has been said in the case of Gulam Kadar Ahmadbhai Menon vs Surat Municipal Corp. that Article 25 and 26 protects all the religious practices which are an essential and integral part of the religion. Implementation of personal laws can certainly not be termed as an essential part of a religion as these are patriarchal in nature and highly oppressive against the fairer sex which is primal-facie violation of article 14-19 which guarantees equality and against the principles of natural justice as well.

Apart from this, certain other issues also pose problems preventing its implementation. India accommodates people from a variety of religious backgrounds. There is so much of cultural and social diversity that it’s not possible to accommodate each and every religious group while make laws and to bring them to common consensus. People in the country are closely attached to their religion and blindly preach it. Religions command an unquestionable authority on the lives of each and every person. Customs do have a great impact in the Indian culture. People want to be judged on the basis of their own religion or community. Consequences of this are seen when panchayats give horrific decisions and people take pride after committing murder in the name of honor killing as is evident in their customs. Sharia courts have also time and again shocked the conscience of society by delivering unimaginable orders.

As per article 37, Directive Principles of State Policy, these shall not be enforceable by any court and the same can only be implemented by the state. Courts do not have the power to exercise these by any means. Hence appropriate measures should be taken by the state to achieve the concept of ‘One India-One Law’ to ensure equality. However, in the past six and half decade, no such measures have been taken by the ruling party in this context. This issue has been debated but no changes have been made and it has been left untouched since independence. Political parties fear loss of seats if uniform civil code is introduced. Political ruling parties like Congress did not touch the issue because of the ‘let it be attitude’ due to which they have got mass support from the minority groups. The present party of BJP has implementation of uniform civil code in its election manifesto. Minorities doubt it to be an act of promoting the agenda of Hindutva in the name of civil code. This is the reason that only 7-8% of Muslims have voted for the present ruling party as they doubt their very existence under its rule. It’s high time for these parties to stop exploiting the sentiments of the people on such a sensitive issue for their political gains to fill their vote banks. In India, people don’t cast their vote but they vote their caste. This issue can no more be put on backburner. Timely measure on uniform civil code is the need of the hour to achieve a unified and undivided India.

Hunney Mittal
VIPS, New Delhi

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