Serious about Uniform Civil Code? Stop making debate Muslim-centric; focus on Hindus instead

"...In a country no caste or religion should have separate judicial system. India needs a Uniform Civil Code and practices such as triple talaq should come to an end. If a Muslim man rapes a woman, will he be tried under the shariyat law and lashed or lynched publically? Even Islamic countries won't accept it..." said Union minister Nitin Gadkari in an interview with The Economic Times. He was replying to a question on his position on the ongoing Uniform Civil Code debate.

Nothing wrong in what he said either morally or from the legal point of view. The only problem is it takes the same tangent as that of his party colleagues. It makes practices in the Muslim community the reference point for his argument while those in any other community could have served the same purpose. The mention of the Muslim community maybe unintentional but it reflects the flaw in the approach to the code debate.

Is it just happenstance that the uniform civil code debate invariably runs into Muslim personal law? No. Is it necessary that any discussion on the code must portray the Muslim community as the resisting party? No is the answer again. The uniform code involves several religious and ethnic communities, including Hindus who constitute above 80 percent of the country's population. Why is it then the debate on it is so Muslim-centric?

 Serious about Uniform Civil Code? Stop making debate Muslim-centric; focus on Hindus instead

Representational image. Reuters

It is possible mischief has been built into it with some deliberateness. No one wants a code; they just want to keep the talk going - communalising an essentially secular debate has its uses, political and otherwise. The fact that the biggest votaries of it are linked to Hindutva politics adds to the suspicion. If they are really serious they would busy themselves preparing the draft code and seek its ratification from the Hindu community first, not get into the business of polarising debates. This idea, proposed by a panellist on a television channel, makes sense.

Uniform Civil Code is not a bad idea at all, at least theoretically. How it would tackle hundreds of communities, including tribals and dalits, following their own personal law, and using it as a social identity marker and instrument of group cohesion is a different matter though. Beginning the process with Hindus would take the rancour off the debate and create a positive ambience for the creation of the common code. This is possible if the real intention is not to have a Hindu civil code imposed on every community in the country.

At present, aggrieved individual members of any community can move court for justice under secular laws guided by provisions of the Indian Constitution. The decision of the courts overrides the decision of those dispensing personal law. Our Constitution, through a set of rights, ensures that the individual is protected against the whims of the community. This in some way blunts the need for a uniform civil code. Just as secular laws have not managed to break the stranglehold of the community over the individuals, the common code may not achieve anything significant. It might even lead to communities getting more rigid and protective about their personal laws.

Now, what is the real intention behind the demand for the common code? It won't ever be known. Since it is favoured overwhelmingly by the members of the Hindutva Parivar, there is scope for suspicion that it could be driven by an agenda. The minorities, including Muslims, have already expressed concern. A BJP government raising the matter aggravates their apprehension.

If the government is really serious about having a common civil code, it should begin by stopping the debate from being Muslim-centric. It would be the first test of its actual intention.

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Updated Date: Oct 27, 2016 20:14:28 IST