The issue at hand has been a very old one, as old as the existence of the nation. And it has been revived by the current Bharatiya Janata Party government’s MP Yogi Adityanath and managed to attract widespread attention across the Indian polity. The media was taken by a furor as well with debates within various political leanings brimming all over.
In retrospect, it can be said that the Uniform Civil Code debate was first popularized by the Shah Bano case in 1985, even though it was included in the Constitution of India as a Directive Principle, a set of duties recommended for the government to fulfill at any point in time. That particular case brought to light the flaws in Muslim divorce laws when the woman sought to demand maintenance for herself after her husband divorced her after forty years.
But the flaws in traditional civil laws cut across religions as well as the numerous tribes across India. Even the majoritarian Hindu civil code that was formulated at the time of independence for the purpose of moderating communal energies stands as regressive as the Muslim one in light of present Indian thought.
The biggest challenge that personal laws in areas of marriage, divorce, property and inheritance pose is that they continue to hold on to threads of regression, given the diverse customs and traditions that India subscribes to. And this challenge has been in the forefront ever since Mr. B.R. Ambedkar suggested a uniform civil code that sought to fight against entrenched misogyny and the Brahmanical caste system. But being a nation where vote bank politics decide governing bodies and political representatives, India never implemented the idea in the years following independence.
The contemporary situation has been as bleak as always, with the likes of Khap Panchayats only strengthening the stranglehold of caste-patriarchy. The result of the installment of a Uniform Civil Code, then, according to the Supreme Court would be to eradicate the various illegitimate matrices and imparting clean and uniform justice. This does not however prevent law to become majoritarian through the consent of a people across a section.
The crucial point to consider in the matter would be to put forth the definition and implications of the Uniform Civil Code clearly, such that it doesn’t fall under the influence of Hindutva majoritarianism. Even with the assurances of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the code will be neutral in nature, there are doubts among the polity as well as the media that the influence of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will percolate into the code.
The Opposition Congress party has taken a stance that a consensus across all the stakeholders needs to be taken into account, majorly pointing towards minority groups. But if the ruling party can ensure the protection of the minority interests, the implementation of uniform civil code can prove to be beneficial for all.
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