If the implementation of UCC means Hindus losing benefits, so be it.

 If the implementation of UCC means Hindus losing benefits, so be it.


Asking whether or not a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is needed is like asking if we need to give equal justice to disadvantaged women, children, and the oppressed section in a democratic society that is secular. It doesn’t matter whether we are speaking of the western model of secularism or the Indian world view of ‘Sarva Panth Samabhav,’ meaning to treat all belief systems with equal respect.

The irony is that the debate is being supported or opposed and there is no draft of the UCC. There is a sense of apprehension that it may be a new form of the Hindu Code Bill, which was imposed on Hindus without taking any opinions from Hindu leaders or authorities. The new UCC has to come with wider discussion with every religious community. The basic aim of the UCC is to simplify the law enough that gives speedy and equal justice to all the people, without bias of religious beliefs.

If the imposition of UCC means Hindus losing certain benefits like Hindu Undivided Family or extending this benefit to other communities, so be it. If it means that women will get equal inheritance rights, as opposed to different rules in different communities, it would be desirable. If UCC means an easy divorce process and equal rights for women to divorce, then it is a welcome move. If UCC means easy adoption of kids for spouses of any religion, it would be a great service regarding social well-being and the children’s future.

In a TV debate held in October 2015, Father Shankar of the Delhi Diocese said that even though Catholics have their laws, they know that they must obey and follow the laws of the land where they reside. He said Christians would not oppose the Uniform Civil Code.

Debate on the Uniform Civil Code or UCC is as longstanding as the Indian Constitution. The aim of the Constituent Assembly was clear – that UCC was needed, hence it was inserted in Directive Principles. Courts of India have suggested successive governments bring in UCC. They have raised this issue time and again, in 1985, 1995, 2015, and again in 2017 when they were giving a ruling in the Triple Talaq case. Now, Muslim women have gone to courts proclaiming their right to wear hijab against uniforms prescribed by the schools. This is despite, four judgments in High Courts and Supreme Courts against this idea.

The issue has been brought up again as it is a part of the manifesto of the ruling BJP party, and due to continued efforts by orthodox Muslim leaders who have always shown that for them, Sharia is above the Constitution.

Strong resistance to judgment that was in favor of Shah Bano’s maintenance by orthodox Muslims lead to an amendment to the Constitution – the first step towards making the Constitution greater than Sharia. Then came a ban on Triple Talaq. Shah Bano’s case of maintenance and Triple Talaq were not a matter of religion, but gender justice.

Resistance to reforms and doubt about a democratic society by orthodox people come from the belief that they are living in Dar-ul-Harb. This mentality needs to change. People who wished to have Dar-ul-Islam had moved to Pakistan. Others wanted to live in a secular democratic society. Directive Principles in the Constitution state, “The State shall endeavor to secure for citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.” It was a grave mistake to not do what was needed to support the idea of an equal democratic society.

From the expert of learned Muslim scholars like Sultan Shahin, one can say that Sharia is not a divine, God-given law. Sharia law is based on Quran and Hadiths. Sharia had been in progress for nearly 100 years. The majority of these laws do not come from Quran and they reflect the traditions and customs of Arabic societies of those times. It is not even across all sects of Muslims. It has been altered as per local culture in different countries. Most Islamic countries have outlawed many clauses in Sharia.

The Muslim women have come out strongly against malpractices in the name of Sharia. This is a great sign for our democracy. The stubbornness of orthodox clergy and their habit of opposing religious freedom to force patriarchal attitude through unrepresentative bodies like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) tell us that the judicial path is the best way to bring in UCC.

If we go by the Indian code, respect for individual faiths is inherent in the Indian being. But we should not abandon ‘Dharma’. Dharma holds society together through a principled rule of law, not religion. It means rule of law and ethics are the same for all. This is why UCC should be seen as the state treating all communities on par.

Laws should be equal for all citizens regardless of religion, caste, or gender. In a secular democratic country, no religious law should be above Constitution. If we can have uniform criminal laws, then we should have uniform civil laws. They do not impose upon one’s religion. Goa has had UCC in place for decades. No citizen of any religious community has had any problem with it.

The cloud over civil laws has made the lives of people seeking justice very painful. There is an urgent need to unify civil laws for common people to seek easy and fast justice, just as there is a need to amend outdated criminal laws. What is the use of laws if they give justice to Shah Bano in three decades or an innocent person is released after 10-20 years in jail as an undertrial? What is the use of laws that require an expensive advocate to interpret them for a poor complainant and allow the cases to be dragged on for years, essentially breaking the willpower of the plaintiff rather than delivering justice?

A prior condition to imposing UCC is that the State should have the determination to enforce it on all citizens. We can discuss UCC only if the state is willing to implement it. Uniform Civil Code needs to be discussed widely, away from religious beliefs, and as a way to provide equal justice to the vulnerable section of society.

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