Published On: Thu, Dec 15th, 2016

Uniform Civil Code: Democracy under threat 

 

The Uniform Civil Code will not only arrest the liberties guaranteed to all citizens under Indian Constitution, but it will also trample upon the secular forces in our democratic country, Faisal Peer writes

The framing of a ‘Uniform Civil Code’ is an acid test of India’s commitment to secularism and modernization. The Uniform Civil Code is the proposal to replace ‘Personal Laws’ based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in India with a common set governing every citizen. It envisages administering the same set of secular civil laws to govern different people belonging to different religions and regions. This supersedes the right of a citizen to subject themselves to different personal law based on their religion or ethnicity. These laws are distinguished from public law and cover marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance.

The debate surrounding the Uniform Civil Code dates back to the Colonial era.The British applied a common criminal code for all but allowed the religious laws to be applied in case of personal matters. The latter laws were to be applied by the local courts when dealing with personal disputes between people of the same religion. Even amongst the Hindus, different rules were used in different regions and for different castes.

uniform-civil-code

At the time of drafting our constitution, there were extensive debates regarding these personal laws. Some argued that a Uniform Civil Code would help in constructing an Indian national identity and eradicate distinctions based on caste and religion. But the proposal was resisted on the grounds that it would destroy the cultural identity of minorities.

Subsequently, a compromise was reached that Uniform Civil Code would be placed under Directive Principles, which the state shall “endeavour” to achieve but which is non-binding.

In Indian Constitution, the Uniform Civil Code has been enshrined as a Directive Principle of state policy under Article 44, which states that the state shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the country of India, which supersedes right to be governed by personal laws. It connotes the same set of secular laws and civil rules for the citizens, irrespective of their religion, caste, etc. It is same for all religions, castes and tribes.

Uniform Civil Code is mandatory in the state under Article 44 of the Constitution as Directive Principle of the state policy. Uniform Civil Code i.e., Article 44 of the Indian Constitution, sets its implementation as a duty of the state. In case of India, there is Constitution of India which lays down the administration of a Uniform Civil Code for its citizens as a Directive Principle but has not been implemented till now because of India’s diversity. It is the second most populous country and the world’s largest democracy. It has emerged as a major power and has a strong military. It has a major cultural influence and a fast growing and powerful economy. Religions not only have been serving as a foundation of cultures in India but have had an enormous effect on Indian politics and society.

Apart from major religions that are followed in India, there are also numerous minor tribal traditions. That is why in India, Uniform Civil Code cannot be implemented. Through Uniform Civil Code, the ancestral, inherited and socio-religious rights of any community can be snatched away. With its implementation, religious intolerance will go uphill in our society which will weaken the secular forces in India’s democratic system. On implementation of Uniform Civil Code, the country’s development will be hit because Uniform Civil Code acts as a Directive Principle which is not justiciable in nature.

Article 14 of Indian Constitution explains the equality before law for all citizens and equal protection from law which signifies that every community or religion gets the same treatment before law which is not possible because Article 14 comes under fundamental rights of Indian Constitution which are justiciable in nature but when Uniform Civil Code is implemented, it gets drained away automatically which is a big blow for minorities in particular.

In India, the word ‘secularism’ was introduced in the preamble, which is like an identity card of the Indian Constitution. If Uniform Civil Code is implemented, Article 25 of Indian Constitution which grants freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion also get snatched away. In Uniform Civil Code, the government will have to adopt only one religion, of the majority population, as a reference which will impact the lives of minorities who cannot even move the courts because Article 44 comes under Directive Principle of the state which is non justiciable in nature. Even a PIL can’t be filed against it.

The implementation of Uniform Civil Code is not a democratic move. It will snatch the fundamental rights of a citizen living in a democracy, especially Article 14 and Article 25 which are personal to everyone’s religion. Downtrodden societies will remain as such which leads to underdevelopment of thoughts and expressions in a country. There should be an integration of all communities on a common platform on the matters which are present governed by diverse personal laws.

 The author is an aspiring civil servant.

 

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