When the Law Commission invited people’s views on a Uniform Civil Code while the Supreme Court was hearing the triple talaq case, an impression gained momentum that the commission was set to give its opinion to the government favouring a common law, demolishing various personal laws prevalent in the country, which has been the demand of the BJP since a long time. However, when reports appeared on Sept 1 about the consultation paper, the commission said secularism cannot contradict the existing plurality in the country. It says cultural diversity cannot be compromised to the extent that our urge for uniformity itself becomes a reason for threat to the territorial integrity of the country. The ruling party BJP for a long time adopted a three-point agenda of paving the way for the construction of the Ram temple, uniform civil code and deletion of Article 370. Since its upsurge in the 1989 elections, the agenda has been the guideline for BJP’s poll campaign except in 2014 when Narendra Modi stressed on elimination of corruption and after assuming the charge as the Prime Minister his declared motto is to give clean administration.
India is a vast country inhabited by people of different religions, castes and ethnic roots. Unity in diversity has been the soul of our culture since centuries. When the constitution gives the freedom of religion and practice of prayers, unnecessary and undesirable unity should not be enforced. The commission collected views from people across the country and after reviewing 75,000 responses during two-long year process, the commission came to the conclusion that the uniform civil code “is neither necessary nor desirable”. The commission said the best way forward was to preserve diversity of personal laws. The laws which are discriminatory and contradict some provisions of the constitution should be reviewed.
The report should be considered and discussed in Parliament and the BJP should review its insistence on the uniform civil code. This stand of the party was formulated on the pretext that under the guiding principles of the constitution, states are advised to go for a uniform civil code. This is the suggestion of the constitution which is not mandatory. The Law Commission’s report is based on public responses and the idea of uniform civil code was not supported by the majority view. When diversity is the soul of our culture, it is wrong to assume that the uniformity of personal laws will strengthen the unity and integrity of the nation. As suggested by the paper of the top law body it is true that any attempt in this regard may be a threat to the territorial integrity of the nation. These personal laws are based mostly on religion or old customs which are regarded by people as sacred as their faiths. Any forced change in them will be an affront to them. We may see whether they violate the constitution or not. We have to enforce the constitution and not the whimsical thinking of any political party. The matter was referred to the Law Commission in 2016 for its view. The issue which has been the part of the BJP’s manifesto has been rejected by the paper. Now it is up to the ruling party to chalk out its future line of action. The paper has also suggested the age of marriage as 18, mention of polygamy clause in the ‘nikanama’ and the ground for divorce etc. These issues may also be considered by Parliament.