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The Big Picture- Uniform Civil Code: Time for Debate?

 

 


The Big Picture- Uniform Civil Code: Time for Debate?


 

The Uniform Civil Code is back in focus. Ever since, the Constitution was adopted in which Article 44 talks of the need to endeavor to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens, this issue has periodically engaged the country. At this point of time, the issue has once again come back to focus because of two reasons:

  1. The affidavit that the Central Government filed before the Supreme Court few days back which stated that the practice of triple talaq among Muslims is against the gender equality and dignity of women while opposing it.
  2. The Law Commission of India few days back circulated a questionnaire on the feasibility of evolving a Uniform Civil Code

Both the Government as well as the Law Commission’s stand on triple talaq have been rejected by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board among some other Muslim organizations. However, many Muslim women and their organizations have strongly opposed the triple talaq among other practices.

Views and Counterviews:

This does not mean that it limits the freedom of people to follow their respective religious beliefs and customs. It simply means that every individual is supposed to be treated equal in the matters of marriage, inheritance, property, family, adoption etc. 

This is a question that has been put in the Directive Principles of our Constitution. There are many such principles which the state should strive for but it is not mandatory to implement them here and now. At present there is a Government which is supposedly rightist in its social thinking and has an absolute majority. This might be seen as an unwilling change for some sections of the society. Past experiences have taught us at times when there has been a non NDA government; this issue somehow never came to the fore except once during the Rajiv Gandhi government when the Supreme Court interpreted Section 125 of CRPC in Shah Bano case. It said that Section 125 of CRPC applies across all communities. There was a huge uproar from the Muslim community that led to most of the current politics today. It is important that people from all sections should be willing to accept Uniform Civil Code.

People of different cultures stay in this country and if the Uniform Civil Code is implemented, attempts will be made to paint all in one colour. There is no need for any reform in the law as per the Muslim Law Board. Triple talaq is not an issue and the government’s move to impose Uniform Civil Code is being seen as a move to snatch religious freedom guaranteed in the Indian Constitution. Triple talaq has certainly been legislated upon in a large number of countries. What is required is that the Law Commission’s questionnaire should be taken into consideration and reasons should be given for not accepting it by those opposing it. Boycotting the questionnaire is not going to help. The questionnaire not only talks about the Muslims. It also takes into account the problems of the Christians and Hindus.

Conclusion:

There is a misunderstanding which prevails that Uniform Civil Code is based only on triple talaq which is not the case. There are three or four issues but on all of them there has to be uniformity even among the Hindus. There is vast difference in Hindu customs across the country like marriage between first cousins, matriarchal system of succession which is not possible in North India. We possibly need a working draft of the law which is effective for marriage, divorce and succession. A law can be written down in the first place and then objections can be invited.