Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in Parliament

    10-Dec-2022
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Free Thinker
According to news reports a Private Member Bill seeking the enactment of a uniform civil code (UCC) has been introduced in the Upper House of Parliament by Shri Kirori Lal Meena of BJP.  The introduction of this Bill was flayed by the Opposition Members; they vociferously insisted the Member to withdraw the Bill. They also urged the Chairman not to allow the introduction of the Bill.
From the Government side or the BJP side, Shri Piyush Goyal backed the introduction of the Bill saying that it is the legitimate right of a Member to raise an issue that is under the Directive Principles of State Policy and “let this subject be debated in the House”. In fact, Article 44 of the Indian Constitution contemplates a uniform civil code for the citizens. It says, “ the State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”.
The Bill brought by Shri Kirori Lal is not unconstitutional or illegal because the very idea and concept of a uniform civil code is enshrined in the Constitution by its Framers and they also believed that it should be followed as a policy. In the last 75 years or so we are still unable to pursue the policy as contemplated in the Constitution.  We all know that it is not justiciable in a court of law but it ought to be followed as policy.
In the Pannalal Bansilal case, the Federal Court made the following observation  – in a  pluralist society like India, in which people have faith in their respective religious beliefs or tenets propounded by different religions or their offshoots, the founding fathers while making the Constitution, were confronted with problems to unify and integrate people of India professing different religious faiths, born in different castes, creeds, or sub-sections in the society, speaking different languages and dialects in different regions and provided a secular Constitution to integrate all sections of the society as a united Bharat.
Again the Apex Court is of the view that a uniform civil law, though it is highly desirable, enactment thereof in one go may be counter-productive to the unity and integrity of the nation. In a democracy governed by the rule of law, gradual progressive changes should be brought about. Making laws or bringing an amendment to laws, must be rational and steady, and it is the bounden duty of the legislature to attempt to remedy where the need is felt most acute.
If a Member of Parliament brings a Bill which is pertaining to the Directive Principles how can we object to that, and how can we say that it is unconstitutional or it goes against the spirit of our Constitution? Our forefathers have made it very clear that this matter must be pursued as a State policy. More or less we have a uniform criminal law in the country. What is wrong with evolving a uniform civil law for all citizens? Some Members are of the view that the government of the day is testing the water through a Private Member Bill.
In one of its judgments, the Federal Court dismissed a petition seeking a writ of Mandamus against the Government of India to introduce a Common Civil Code. The Court made it amply clear that ‘it is a matter of the legislature, the Court cannot legislate’.
The wise men sitting at the highest court have made it clear umpteen times –  the matter of UCC is not within the domain of the judiciary; it is the duty of the lawmakers to make laws and formulate policies. UCC is part of the Directive Principles of State Policy and so it is the duty of the governments to peruse the directives as enshrined in the Constitution of the country. The Court also made it clear that the policies should be followed and implemented gradually considering the needs and exigencies.
There is a huge misunderstanding in the entire country.  Even educated people don’t understand the philosophy behind the uniform civil code as conceived by the Constitution framers. If I understand correctly the intrinsic meaning of the UCC is that it is not going to be an imposition of the majoritarian personal laws or customary laws; it is going to be a code of the most rational and relevant laws belonging to different communities, classes, ethnic groups, or tribes.
The logical practices of Khap Panchayats,  the Customary laws of Khasis or  Nagas or Nayars or Kukis, and the personal laws of various communities including that of Goans may be picked up and be made part of the uniform civil code.  An impression has been created that only the Hindu laws shall be part of the UCC.  It is not true Baba. UCC ought to be a compilation and codification of all the best and most beautiful civil laws or practices or conventions of the people.
‘A person can have four spouses’ and if this practice is desired by all and sundry, it may be retained in the UCC for all the citizens, including women.  It should be by consensus.