Not A Code Of Discord.
India, July 18 -- "The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India." Thus states Article 44, one of the Directive Principles of State Policy, of the Constitution. Though a part of the Statute for over six decades, the issue kicks up a dust only during elections, or some interested groups take it out of the cold storage. As the political atmosphere is warming up with Assembly elections lined up in some of the crucial North Indian States, news is out that the Union Law Minister has asked the Law Commission to examine the feasibility of introducing a uniform civil code.
In a nutshell, uniform civil code calls for an end to various personal laws applicable to different religions, replacing them with a single civil code. Personal laws are those a man confronts from his/her birth to death covering areas like marriage, divorce, maintenance, inheritance, adoption and custody of children. In each religion, laws regulating and guiding the above aspects are at great variance. The fact that such laws have religious sanctity adds to their emotive value and makes them inviolable. Any bid to tamper with them is seen as interference in the sanctity of religious prescriptions.
The moot point is whether the introduction of a uniform civil code would lead to better national integration and deeper patriotic feelings? Will such a move end the gender inequalities and widely perceived male-centric propositions in the society? It is true that some of the personal laws violate right to equality and individual freedoms. One of the laws cited as regressive and 'uncivilised' is the 'triple talaq' practised among Muslims. There are no two opinions on the need to reform such personal laws which are not in tune with civilised human life. Off and on we see judiciary playing a pro-active role in setting such injustices right. But, it will be unwise to burn one's house to smoke out a rat. Any effort to introduce a uniform civil code by force will be interpreted as a bid to bring in Hindu laws through the back door and it can lead to unintended backlash from the affected communities.
A better move will be to persuade various religious communities - mainly Muslims and Christians, as other minority communities follow Hindu personal laws - to improve upon their personal laws which cause major anguish and agony among sections of the community members. The awakening should start within the community and self-improvement is the best way forward. The proponents of uniform civil code should bear in mind that there is no perfect personal law. The ideal initiative would be to gradually move towards a uniform code which is arrived at after assimilating the best from all personal laws. Reactions coming from some of the leaders of Christian community can show the way forward. They are not against a uniform civil code. But it should be arrived at respecting the laws cardinal to various religions. It has to be achieved over a period of time taking each community into confidence. In any case, it should not be seen as an effort to introduce a Hindu Code in the name of uniformity.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Indian Currents.
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