Walking the talk, the Narendra Modi led BJP government which had categorically taken a strong stand with regards to the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in their 2014 election manifesto, on the 7th October, 2016 sought for opinions from various stakeholders on the implementation of the above same.
Rather than showing their concern and apprehensions in the questionnaire, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) called for a press conference raising a unified stand against the government’s proposal seeking a reply on the Uniform Civil Code.
The Maulana’s stuck to their stand that, Article. 25 (Constitution of India) gave them the freedom of conscience and allowed them to practice and propagate their religion, and any attempt to thwart that freedom vide the implementation of Uniform Civil Code, would amount to an infringement of their personal laws which in turn would violate their fundamental rights under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
Coming to the issue at hand, Uniform Civil Code under Article 44 has been lying unimplemented as a ‘dead letter’ for the last 70 years, prohibiting India to have a single uniform law in terms of marriage, divorce, succession, inheritance and Judicial separation.
And while the advocates of regressive practices continue their vociferous campaign against the implementation of Uniform Civil Code, it is important to understand the implications of enforcing it in India. The difficulties involved in bringing persons of different faiths and persuasions on a common platform are enormous, but the end result of having a Uniform law for all, would always be beneficial for the nation and its citizen’s in the long run.
Article. 44 in a nut-shell (The Uniform Civil Code)
When UCC was initially introduced by the framers of the constitution, some Muslim fundamentalists like Poker saheb vehemently opposed it, and although the provision had the support of Dr. Ambedkar, a compromise had to be made wherein they introduced it as a Directive Principle under Article. 44 (unimplemented), with a plan of implementing it after a period of 5-10 years.
Thereafter successive governments came, ruled and ruled over again, but none enforced the same citing that the Muslim populace of the country were yet to be ready to be governed by such a uniform law.
The illiterate and the ignorant remained oblivious to the benefits of the Uniform Civil Code and continue to do so even today, while their political masters are making the most of their innocence (mixed with ignorance) and the trust bestowed upon them by making them oppose UCC for the benefits that would be borne by the politicians and religious leaders.
The most basic advantages of enforcing the UCC would primarily include the strengthening of the secular fabric of India, providing basic fundamental rights to the oppressed women who are distressed by the repressive religious practices which promote gender inequality and to help India achieve complete integration, free of any religious intervention thereby reducing the influence of religion and caste in politics.
THE BASIC FUNDA OF UCC AND WHAT IT HOLDS FOR INDIANS
While the proponents of UCC have voiced their support for its implementation for more than 7 decades now, politicians and religious heads have ensured that any law which has the propensity of infringing over their vote banks is not brought into force. Today’s incident being a prime example, the AIMPB called the government’s initiative as oppressive and forceful, calling for a unified boycott across all sub-groups (sects) against the questionnaire seeking public opinion on the UCC.
The UCC seeks to bring Hindu’s and Muslims together under one roof, to be governed by one single uniform law. It would not only help reduce the burden of the judiciary, but would also help govern the country more efficiently.
The rumour of UCC restricting rituals propagated by its opponents is not only untrue but also irrational. The fear mongering voices which misconstrue the debate on UCC and mislead the citizens of India, stating that the right to practise One’s rituals according to his/her faith would be infringed, are the same ones who exploit these laws the most for political mileage.
It is surprising that, when Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Egypt have banned such regressive Islamic practices, India has held on to these merely because of a few individuals who threaten to disrupt the peace and harmony of the country, if this subject is even touched upon.
Implementation of the UCC would ensure that regressive practices such as polygamy, triple talaq or the forced marriages of 15 year old girls are banned, something that any rational minded individual would be okay with, except for the Mullah’s who feel that by the virtue of the implementation of the code, they would lose control over the rights of women, which today are held by them (the Mullah’s).
A parallel can be drawn from the famous song in the Movie Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, ‘Koyla kaala hai, Chattanon ne paala Andar kaala, baahar kaala, Par saccha hai saala.’ To the oppressors of UCC. As far as terrorists across the border are considered, we atleast know who the real enemy is, but with these hypocrites in the form of critics of the UCC, it gets difficult to identify if they are the ‘koyla’s’ or ‘heera’s’ of our democracy.
THE RAMBLING BY THE OPPOSITION
Opposition leaders like Mr. Veerappa Moily and K.C. Tyagi attacked the Central Government, stating that the present government had come with a communal agenda and that the implementation of the UCC was impossible in a country like India where the people are so strongly governed by their respective personal laws.
The hypocrisy in their statement was there to be seen with the contrasting statements calling the same government communal, which alone had tirelessly attempted to introduce a discussion on the implementation of the UCC. This is an insult to the constitution and its framers who envisaged a pluralistic society to be governed by a uniform set of laws.
THE SUPREME COURT’S VERDICT:
The SC has emphasized in various judgements that steps be initiated to enact a UCC as envisaged by Article 44 in Public Interest. Be it in the case of Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum where the court held that a husband was liable to pay his divorced wife maintenance (beyond the iddat period) or in the case of Sarla Mudgal v. Union of India where the SC stated that Article 44 was based on the concept that there was no necessary relation between religion and personal law in a civilized society.
The SC’s stand that Article 25 guaranteed religious freedom whereas Article 44 sought to divest religion from social relations and personal law needs to propagated and advertised aggressively for people to understand that the UCC will only take them ahead unlike their Maulana’s who are stuck in their anachronistic times.
THE ABSENCE OF FEMINISTS/ SECULAR LIBERALS AND BOLLYWOOD INTELLECTUALS
And while the feminists, the intolerant brigade or the Bollywood superstars who otherwise have an opinion on everything under the sun, be it the beef ban in Maharashtra or the Surgical Strikes across LOC, are all silent on this critical issue to break the social stigma and move ahead with time.
The ‘so called progressive’ Khans of B’Town have said absolutely nothing over this issue. Miss Trupti Desai who barged into Shani Shingnapur or the Akademi awardee Nayantara Sehgal who had returned her award on counts of alleged counts of saffronizations are today missing from the scene entirely.
None of secular Muslims today who should ideally be the torch bearers for their community, are letting their views known because most of them are scared of the extremist mullah’s who prohibit any sort of Ijtihad (right to interpret) of the Quran in any manner.
Ambedkar vociferously stated that the need for Article 44 was based on the belief and the respect for all religions. This is not a fight over Hindu and Muslims, but about liberation of the oppressed. The Constitution needs to be adopted in its entirety and not selectively.
To summarise it; the implementation of Uniform Civil Code would be a secular approach, cutting across all religions to bring all citizens together under one umbrella, under a combined code. The UCC should not to be confused and mixed with the freedom of Religion guaranteed under Article 25. But any religious practice contrary to Article 14 and 21 would have to be regulated/amended and restricted in lieu of Article 44.
And just the way the Sati Prohibition Act, the Widow Remarriage Act and Dowry Prohibition Act were brought into force; the UCC would also have to be implemented in the manner which would harness the progress of this Nation.
Highlights of the Article:
1. The implementation of UCC would ensure that Fundamental Rights are guaranteed to the women suppressed by personal laws.
2. Constitution cannot chosen and be practiced in bits and pieces.
3. Ensure that Personal laws do not violate Fundamental Rights. Thereby declaring any which is inconsistent of the basic framework of the constitution as violative and unconstitutional.