Will Uniform Civil Code bring communal harmony ?

1956 notched some landmark legislations which brought about modernization with the means of Hindu religious code like allowance of divorce, equal inheritance, alimony and adoption. Though the composition of constitution in 19th century was influenced by various terrible laws based on vague interpretations and poor conceptions, the reform of Hindu Code by Pandit Nehru was considered a massive step. Obviously Nehru’s perception of the laws of other religions (considerably anti-women) soon catching up with the present reforms failed him terribly as India was too distraught with major wars and intrinsic disturbances in the 60s and 70s. Thus, Muslim women had (still have to) to put up with polygamy, unilateral divorce and restricted access to alimony or inheritance.

However in the 1980s, the landmark Mohd. Ahmed Khan v.Shah Bano Begumcase culminated the absence of modern civil laws for Muslim women. Since then the uniform civil code has come to be a national issue.

The term Uniform Civil Code implies the idea of similar gathering of civil rules for the citizens irrespective of their religion, caste, etc. Civil law governs the matters pertaining to marriage, adoption, inheritance, succession and so on. But in India the situations in question are still administered by the personal laws of their respective communities. Even after 66 years of independence it is just a dream resulting in uncertainties in the interpretation of personal laws.

For instance it was held in Sarla Mudgal vs. Union of India 1995, that, “Article 44 is based upon the concept that there is no necessary connection between religion and personal law in a civilized society.” Article 25 guarantees freedom whereas Article 44 seeks to peel off religion from social relations and personal law. The personal law of Hindus such as relating to marriage, succession, etc. has all a rigid origin, alike the Muslims or the Christians.

India is a country of multi religions and cultures. So, matters befitting citizens should be possessed by the same clutches of law only then the foremost constitutional goal of fraternity can be made to appear in its existence otherwise the divisive forces would continue to violate the constitutional principle. So, in this sense uniform civil code is the need of the hour. A strong political will is required for the same along with the feeling of religious tolerance and mutual respect on part of each and every citizen of India.

However to think practically, the enactment of a Uniform Civil Code carries a strong possibility of sabotaging communal harmony. It cannot and should not be enacted at one go. For example, in the lack of certain planned sketch of UCC, some are taking advantage of the ignorance of public by bringing up issues relating to rites of death and alike. Present day Hindu law or any particular Communities’ law should not and cannot become the uniform civil code. Moreover if this issue is taken up given the prevailing situation in India, the desired environment for the enactment of a code can never be designed; only an emotional outcry will be heard from different quarters leading to protests which are less constructive and more uglier these days. Also there is non-implementation of other directive principles that are far more significant: the right to work, the right to inherit, the right to minimum wage, etc.

I feel it is one thing to amend a community’s personal law for its betterment and another thing to enact for the sole purpose of introducing the unvaried. The former may be an act of alteration, but the latter is a determination of whim that may attract disapproval.