Should India have a Uniform Civil Code?
India has had a long history of personal laws. Till 1935, the Muslims in India followed different rules according to their practice. Khoja Muslims and Kutchi Memons are examples of this. The Kutchi Memons worshipped Hindu Gods and Ali is their tenth avatar instead of Kalki. They had the inheritance laws as per Hindus and also the marriage laws as per Hindus. When a common Muslim Personal law was formed, there were many minority creeds of Muslims who had to accept these laws though they differed from their practices. The Hindu laws, too were different in different parts of the country. However, they have undergone a turbulent change, courtesy, geographically united India. Child marriages were banned, Sati was banned, widow re-marriage was encouraged, divorce was introduced, and inheritance laws were amended. “Narabali” or human sacrifice, which was considered a religious practice of Hindus, was also banned.
When India attained independence and the issue of Uniform Civil Code (UCC) arose, much was debated at the Indian Parliament in 1948. While the founding father of our constitution and Chairman of the Constitution Draft Committee, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, supported by eminent nationalists like Gopal Swamy Iyenger, Anantasayam Iyengar, KM Munshiji, Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer and others favored the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code; it was strongly opposed by Muslim fundamentalists like Poker Saheb and members from other religions. On 23rd November 1948 a Muslim member, in Parliament, gave an open challenge that India would never be the same again if it tried to bring in Uniform Civil code and interfere with Muslim personal law. Earlier, the Congress had given an assurance that it would allow Muslims to practice Islamic personal Law and the architects of the Constitution , therefore, found a compromise by including the enactment of a Uniform Civil Code under the Directive Principles of State Policy in Article - 44. Distinguished members like Shri Minoo Masani, Smt. Hansa Mehta and Rajkumari Amrit Kaur put in a note of dissent saying that one of the factors that has kept India back from advancing to nationhood has been existence of personal laws, based on religion, which keep the Nation divided into watertight compartments in many aspects of life. They were strongly in favour of the view that Uniform Civil Code should be guaranteed to the Indian people within a period of five to ten years. But even after sixty-one years, because of perverse secularism and perverted communalism, Uniform Civil Code has not come into being.
Uniform Civil Code and the Indian Constitution
No one in our country, our political leaders or individuals, have ever concentrated their efforts towards defining the Uniform Civil Code. All we know is that some common law covering issues relating to marriage, succession and property is called Uniform Civil Code but what these laws would be is anyone’s guess. Now, what does our Constitution say about Uniform Civil Code? In article 44, our constitution clearly specifies the UCC: "The State shall endeavor to secure the citizen a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India". The constitution is thus, very clear that unless a uniform civil code is followed, integration cannot be imbibed. However, the fact is that it is only a “directives principle” laid down in the constitution and as Article 37 of the Constitution itself makes clear, the directive principles “shall not be enforceable by any court”. Nevertheless, they are “fundamental in the governance of the country”. This shows that although our constitution itself believes that a Uniform Civil Code should be implemented in some manner, it does not make this implementation mandatory. Hence, the debate on having a uniform civil code for India still continues. The demand for a uniform civil code essentially means having one set of laws that will apply to all citizens of India irrespective of...
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