The furious furore on Uniform Civil Code in the recent times has grabbed the national attention with mainstream politics and media actively supporting its implementation. As the “Nation wants to know,” it is often better to look beyond the romanticised version of UCC. Going by the definition, which is not so far defined exactly, the term refers to the concept of an invariant law code in India. According to the same set of civil laws will be used to govern all people irrespective of their caste, creed, and religion.
Taking its roots in the article 44 of the Indian constitution where “the state shall endeavour to secure for citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India” included in the Directive Principles of the State Policy, it provides a provision for the future implementation of an integrated civil code.
Considering the diversity and plurality of Indian culture, it is a herculean task to develop a structural framework which is inclusive of all the major laws of various religions. Chances are there for a majoritarian religion to become the centre of focus and the laws and policies will be based on that religion. By taking into account, the recent attempts of saffronisation since the Bharatiya Janata Party came into power and the attacks on minorities and intellectuals, the claim regarding gender justice and how far it can be achieved is highly questionable.
The Uniform Civil Code by the aura appears to be the most elegant and civilised way of imposing a uniform code supposedly to bring equality and justice for all people. It’s aged from Ambedkar and Nehruvian era, discussing the possibilities of its implication. But in a secular country like India where the freedom of religion is enshrined in the constitution, with 1.32 billion people following diverse customs and beliefs, how far the committee can be neutral is a debatable aspect.
The recent clamour on UCC begins with Shayara Bano (vs the Union of India), a Muslim woman who got divorced through a letter, challenging Triple Talaq on the grounds of violation of fundamental rights in the Supreme Court. Though regulations are required to ban Triple Talaq, the crucial question on why the debate on UCC centres only on the Triple Talaq and Nikah Halala while discrimination can also be seen in Hindu laws regarding the entry of women into certain temples exposes the hidden Hindu nationalist agenda repercussions of which, seen in beef ban and the intolerant remarks of “nationalist” leaders.
When the country is ruled by a political party with a religious inclination, it is obvious that the religious minorities might fear the imposition of Hindutva agenda that has been propagated so far through whatever medium available. It is quite impossible to prepare a framework that stands alone and the idea of inclusiveness; how far can it be taken into consideration puts forth the difficulty in bringing out a uniform code.
The idea of a Common Civil Code instead of a mandatory Uniform Civil code is an alternative, that can be pondered upon considering the present scenario. The common code should be a blanket term addressing all the major issues like marriage, divorce and inheritance rights and this code should be made an important provision in the constitution allowing all the citizens to have access to it if personal laws fail to address their problem. The common code should be made as last resort which people can adhere to, whenever basic human rights are denied.
The proposal for a uniform code appears to be a utopian dream in the ongoing situation with widespread opposition by All India Muslim Personal Law Board and Congress party. Though it can effectively resolve the issues of gender inequality and discrimination up to certain extend if adopted with pragmatic measures, the vehement objection by different groups compels for a fresh look into the issue.
As Uniform Civil Code cannot be enforced as a compulsory law, another possible way is to suggest recommendations whereby regulations can be made within the religious communities by amending their personal laws, which will become a reality only with a bit of stir within the community.
So, the best way is to begin within the communities first instead of going for a Universal Civil Code. It is the need of the hour for the younger generation of various communities to look beyond the horizons set by the rigorous religious practices and to question the “unquestionable” aspects.