One Nation, One Code: Decoding the Impact
"I personally do not understand why religion should be given this vast, expansive jurisdiction, so as to cover the whole of life and to prevent the legislature from encroaching upon that field. After all, what are we having this liberty for? We are having this liberty in order to reform our social system, which is so full of inequities, discriminations and other things, which conflict with our fundamental rights."
“Father of the Indian Constitution” BR Ambedkar
What is One Nation, One Code?
Stressing on the need for a uniform civil code is nothing new. It has been a debate since India's independence and the framing of its constitution. An application one national civil code irrespective of religion, the Uniform Civil Code covers important areas such as adoption, inheritance, divorce and marriage. As these are matters concerning secularism, it needs to be enacted through a uniform law, termed as a personal law. But some see the code as a means of the government infringing on personal freedom. The Indian constitution has a provision for Uniform Civil Code in Article 44 as a Directive Principle of State Policy which states that, the state shall endeavour to all citizens a uniform civil code throughout territory of India. What is the impact of enforcing a single code for the entire nation? Let us understand the impact through a deeper examination of the issues underlying implementation of the code.
The Positive Outcomes…
1. Gender Equality
Through implementation of the uniform civil code, the nation will be able to abolish gender discrimination and ill treatment of women. According to many religions, men are given power and primacy in inheritance and marriage laws. After 70 years of independence, it is pitiable that women are still fighting for liberation from discrimination. The uniform civil code is therefore the right step in this direction.
2. Uniting the Nation
Forming a Uniform Civil Code will also impact national integrity. Though the country is divided in terms of religion, communities and other factors, a uniform personal law regardless of caste, creed, or gender will further enhance national unity.
3. Cornerstone of Secular State
While the Preamble to the Indian Constitution states distinctly that India is a sovereign, secular socialist state, the question arises whether theory has become practice. The question is whether India can enjoy true secularism without the Uniform Civil Code. Different personal laws are in place for different religions, standing in the way of a truly secular nation.
4. Social Reform
India will experience widespread social reform. This is because women will be given rights and protection when it comes to marriage and divorce laws. Many Muslim majority nations like Morocco and Pakistan have codified personal laws in place. Once the Uniform Civil Code is implemented, codification of personal law will initiate widespread social reform in the country as well.
The Negative Outcomes…
1. Question of Religious Sanctity
Understanding the Uniform Civil Code may be tough for communities, especially minorities. Many communities and religions see the One Nation, One Code movement as aimed against their religious and cultural values. Therefore, Uniform Civil Code cannot be implemented without winning the trust of the minorities.
2. Government Interference Into Personal Freedom
Personal freedom is something all individuals have a right to. But many see the Uniform Civil Code as a game of the government to interfere in personal freedom. The Muslim community is opposing the code on account of the various issues such as saffronisation, beef issues and more. The implementation of this code is a tough proposition due to the massive diversity of the nation.
3. Question of Long Standing Customs
Uniform Civil Code is one of the most controversial issues which has been witnessed by the country. The Muslims are opposing the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code to a large extent. However, there are a lot of Muslim women groups who are supporting the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code. With the coming of the Uniform Civil Code, the Muslim personal law would undergo a drastic change. This includes practices like the now abolished Triple Talaq, iddat, polygamy, maintenance and inheritance, registration of marriages and more.
One Nation, One Code: Why It Matters
The Uniform Civil Code is being considered to be the need of the hour. After India had become independent from the British rule, the parliament stressed upon the necessity of a standard code to be established for governing the secular matters which include marriage, divorce, inheritance and succession with a view of bringing national integrity and unity among the diverse religious groups which are existing in the country.
India needs a uniform civil code for two principal reasons. First, a secular republic needs a common law for all citizens rather than differentiated rules based on religious practices. There is a second reason why a uniform civil code is needed: gender justice. The rights of women are usually limited under religious law, be it Hindu or Muslim. The practice of triple talaq is a classic example. It is important to note that B.R. Ambedkar fought hard for the passage of the Hindu Code Bill because he saw it as an opportunity to empower women. The great social reformer Hamid Dalwai also made the rights of women a central part of his campaign for a uniform civil code. With over 7 decades of freedom and 66 years since India framed its Constitution, it is time to put the Uniform Civil Code into practice, not just theory!