Over the past month or so, there has been a debate brewing on whether the central government should introduce the contentious Uniform Civil Code which will ride over inconsistent personal laws in different religions. The Supreme Court wants a categorical answer from the central government on the issue; an issue that was part of the BJP manifesto in the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections.
A Uniform Civil Code would bring about a common set of laws governing personal matters for all citizens of the country. Currently different laws regulate these aspects for followers of different religions. Examples of these include the Cannon Law which governs Catholic Christians, Sharia Law that governs Muslims, Hindu Law that governs Hindus etc.
Although the religious communities want the respective personal laws to be codified as has been done several times before, I think it’s high time that the legislative stops pandering to the minorities and introduce a code that gives equal rights to every man and woman, irrespective of their religion.
Not having every citizen governed by the same set of laws attacks the very nature of democracy and is in direct contradiction with the Right to Equality article of the Constitution of India. More importantly, it allows discrimination on the basis of gender and caste within each religious community. It also plays a part in further polarising a country like India, which is already so horrifically divided on the basis of religious lines. Thus, the need for a Uniform Civil Code is immediate and the government must act on it as soon as possible.
Moreover, implementing the Uniform Civil Code could prove be a rather opportunistic move for the BJP who are accused of not being able to contain the fringe elements within the party that has resulted in murders of rationalists and attacks on minorities. The BJP can win back the liberal media and the intellectuals who have constantly slammed the party for creating an atmosphere of intolerance in the country. They can prove to the world that they are committed to the idea of securalism in India but they must ensure not to give it a communal undertone which may further worsen the situation that persists.
The government is said to take a stand on this issue sometime later this month and we can only hope it makes the right choice. Only time will tell.