Common / Uniform Civil Code - How to implement it?

Common / Uniform Civil Code - How to implement it? by Maj P. Tuhinikar Choudary (Retd)  Chairman - Institute for Democratic & Economic Affairz (IDEAz) Summary A Nation must have ONE system of Law for all its citizens as all citizens should have equal rights and be considered by the Government with equality. A Common or Uniform Civil Code is thus essential and it is so recognized by the Framers of our Constitution. Many with vested interests, seek to confuse the common man with their own interpretation or rather mis interpretations, of how such a code would negatively affect the citizens daily life, especially in the implementation of their religious beliefs. Such misinterpretations must be addressed and the worries raised by removed by a proper explanation of what a Common / Uniform Civil Code really would be and how it will have nothing to do with the rightful practice of any religion, and that it would be in the interest of and for the benefit of all citizens. If introduced in a manner as to allow time for contradictions to resolve themselves and call for a great measure of voluntary acceptance the Common / Uniform Civil Code would be welcomed by almost every citizen. Highlights:
  1. All citizens need equality of rights, opportunities and consideration.
  2. Hence all must be subject to Laws that apply uniformly to all
  3. The necessity for a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is impressed in our constitution.
  4. Such a UCC should be made as acceptable to all as possible and be so designed as to affect the religions of the people. True secularity means the State is separate from and has no business in anyone’s religion.
Today, when every citizen wants equal treatment before the Law, it is unarguable that we need a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) for all. A Civil Code that does not carry any religious overtones but only calls for equal treatment before the Law. In a Secular State, Religious rules or Laws based as they are on personal beliefs or faith, are left for those who desire to follow them, and to do so only in personal and community spaces, and as long as such choices do not infringe on Public spaces or on the rights of others to choose similarly for themselves. A Secular State has no business in supporting or financing or seeking to benefit any religious group. It is is for the Members of that religion to do so for themselves. Even subsidies and tax concessions should not be given, or if at all given, should be on a universally applicable basis, say on economic or disability grounds and not on religious grounds. Today in the absence of a draft bill available for consideration, everyone visualizes the UCC as containing their worst interpretation of what it might be. Hence it is essential that such a draft bill be first prepared and put on the Net for consideration by all. NALSAR / Law Colleges in Bangalore and Delhi, could be tasked to each independently prepare such drafts and they could them be combined into one draft by a committee of some Members from all Communities duly taking consideration of comments and recommendations received there on in a time-bound manner. To ensure against delays caused by nit-picking and calls for too much details to cater for every contingency that may arise in future in every tradition, it would be better to insist on the time given to be realistically limited. Perhaps it may even need for us to follow what President Sukarno of Indonesia did when he was trying to get the Scholars to finalize a script for Basha Indonesia - lock them all in till it was done. Hopefully the threat of this should suffice. In the 1930’s, China in a similar situation, handled the problem of introducing a UCC very effectively. The law was made applicable on passing, to all people then below 18 years of age. For the rest of the population the law would become applicable only after 30 years, or if a person volunteered earlier to be dealt with under the new law. Thus allowing for any existing situation contrary to the proposed UCC, to simple expire in due course. Once the option to be dealt with under the new law was exercised there was no going back and within a decade most people had opted for the new code. The real ‘die-hards’ and those for whom the new code was not an option, as they were already locked in against its provisions, continued to live under the old code. This at one stroke removed most of the anxieties of the affected population. We could also do the same. Marriages and property contracts / divisions can thereafter be registered under the new Law, or the old, at the time of entering into them. Again the decision once made to select the new Code, cannot be reversed. We have already delayed this matter by over 70 years, therefore allowing for a further period of 25 to 30 years for finally settling this matter should not really be a concern. The other matters that need to be addressed are as given below. The worry of some communities about marriage and inheritance Laws, can be cleared by making them understand that the UCC deals in a secular manner and does not interfere with sacramental matters that concern religions. Hence, registrations of births, marriages and deaths, have nothing to do with the ceremonies conducted therefor by the religious groups. Actually the word marriage is not applicable in a Secular State by which. It should be seen as a Civil union contract and be applicable to all. Marriage is based on religions sacraments and is conducted differently in various religious groups and the State should have no rules about such Ceremonies. So also for property inheritance, if done by a Will. The Testator (Will Writer) can direct the disposal of his property as he deems fit, which may be as per his religious inheritance rules or otherwise and the Government will then deal with inheritance entirely as per the Will. It is only in case of intestate property, where there is no Will, that the property will then be disposed off, as per the common law (UCC). Gender equality for inheritance is already there in the Hindu Act, and it will naturally be there for all in the UCC. However, if there is a Will, it will take preference even under the UCC. The HUF will also need to be done away with and the UCC made applicable to all citizens of India. Clarification will also need to be given regarding some Acts, like the Dowry Act, which are causing considerable confusion and knee-jerk reaction from all communities. The misuse of the Dowry Act by many Brides has resulted in many Domestic problems and in confusion, especially in the Muslim community leading to the proliferation of divorce by Triple Talaq. All such acts need a thorough review to eradicate such misuse. The misuse of the SC / ST Atrocity Act has also resulted in innocents being victimized. Law should not futilely attempt to foresee and respond to every situation as may arise in the future. It would be more appropriate to have a Law that is simple, clear and which lays down the general principles and direction and allows the Courts to interpret the implementation as appropriate from time to time in the context of that time. Also the Law should for a great measure of voluntary acceptance. Also See - Gay Rights - A Secular Solution’ for understanding the difference between ‘Marriage’ and a Union by a Civil Contract. Conclusion: Introduction of the Common / Uniform Civil Code need not be an immediately applicable in all circumstance, which could lead to confusion and disputes for many. If done in a proper manner, allowing time for contradictions to resolve themselves and calling for a great measure of voluntary acceptance, it would be a measure welcomed by almost every citizen. Jai Hind!
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