Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

In India criminal code applies equally to all citizens irrespective of their identity. You murder someone, you go to jail. Even civil matters in public domain that relate to contracts, copyright, torts apply equally to everyone, irrespective of their beliefs, caste or religion.

However civil laws related to personal matters like, marriage and divorce, succession and inheritance are not uniform. Communities and people can decide these issues in accordance with their cultural mores or religious doctrines.

Thus upon its last mile journey underneath the legal umbrella; people stand abandoned by the hand of law and are guided solely by their traditions and local power brokers.

Now this situation is problematic as far as Muslim personal laws are concerned (Hindu personal laws are almost equivalent to civil laws) and there are three arguments which can be made for implementing UCC asap .

Constitutional Argument:

Citizens of one country cannot and should not be guided by differing laws.The protection and due process of law is the birthright of every citizen without distinction and its limited application in any sphere is not only legally untenable but also against the spirit of a nation and equality of its citizens. This situation of having differing Laws based on identity is a doctrinal aberration and should be dispensed with immediately

Sociological Argument:

To have differing laws is to reaffirm the separation of people of the same society. A society which frames differing laws based on religion is in essence non secular for it is segregating its citizens based on their faith. This communal mind set espoused in state laws is highly divisive and should not be allowed to continue.

Gender Equality Argument:

It is a worth while to look at people who are affected by these separate laws. In case of Muslim personal laws, it is the women and the clerics. Women are dis empowered by personal laws permitting polygamy and unilateral divorce ( triple talaq) while jurors and ulemas are empowered by being in a position of judgment. Muslim personal laws being heavily biased towards males put women in a greatly disadvantageous position and are thus overripe for wholesale reform.

Having looked at why UCC should be implemented here is a look at two main objections, people bring out against its implementation.

Islam Argument

“This is an internal issue to be resolved within canons of Islamic faith and outsiders should have no say in it “

This is a non tenable claim as essence of Islamic faith about person’s relation with God (belief in one God, his revealed message and his last Messenger) does not come into play here. This is about a person’s relation with another person or how social practices in a society will be conducted. State and its secular laws, should have the final dominion over all inter-personal transactions in its territory unless it is a caliphate where God has that dominion and is the deemed regulator of all human transactions as well. So this is essentially a state issue and not a faith issue.

Political Argument

“This current Government is pursuing its covert war against Islam and UCC is another weapon in its arsenal.”

Muslim personal laws have stayed unreformed since 1930s. Every time an attempt is made to update them, resistance crops up. So this argument of current mal-intent would be considered valid if Muslim community leaders would have shown willingness to reform at any point of time in their history (In Rajiv Gandhi’s time who wanted to reform or Jawaharlal Nehru in 1950’s who wanted the same, or Supreme Court who is on record stating the same). Hence this argument of current bad intent, is a mere camouflage for a historical unwillingness to reform.

In essence, everything about Indian society has transformed in last 85 years except Muslim personal laws which continue to remain archaic, patriarchal and gender biased. It is high time political will is displayed, Uniform Civil Code implemented and Muslim community is rescued from its own internal power politics that keeps it chained.