Uploaded on January 28, 2023
UNIFORM CIVIL CODE UNACCEPTABLE TO THE INDIAN PEOPLY: WHY?
Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam
Since time immemorial, India has been home to various cultures, customs, and traditions, and it has accommodated followers of several religions who have been conducting their social life according to their own customs and personal law. India is also a secular and democratic country, but here the meaning of secularism is different from how it is understood in Europe, where secularism means distancing from religion, in other words, not believing in any religion. As against this, secularism in India is understood as an ideology or philosophy that does not believe in any particular religion, and according to this, the government will profess no religion and assume the role of a spokesman for any particular religion, and lastly, the country will not be identified with any religion. However, all citizens will have the right and freedom to practice their religion. Therefore, here in India, the idea of the Uniform Civil Code can’t be conceptualized on the European and American models. The Uniform Civil Code exists in Europe, where laws regulating marriage, nikah, divorce, inheritance and the like are common for all citizens. Contrary to this, India is a country where people belonging to different religions, castes, races and tribes live, and everyone possesses their own distinctive personal law. Sikhs have their own laws concerning marriage, heritage, etc., which are derived from their religion; Christians follow their personal law; Hindu society also boasts of distinct customs and practices, and Adivasis, too, have their distinct cultures and traditions. It is for this reason that India is known worldwide as a country where followers of diverse cultures and religions live together. In such a situation, if all the people are made subservient to a single custom, law, culture and religion, there is a fear that this would lead to conflict, turbulence and split in the society since no community will compromise with its culture and personal law. The beauty of India lies in the fact that here all communities have complete freedom to practice their personal law, culture, and religion. Herein also lies the survival of India and together with freedom of religion, regard is shown in the Constitution. Experience tells us that the people of India give preference to their personal laws and customs, which is exemplified by people’s disinterest in the Special Marriage Act. If a person doesn’t want to enter into wedlock as per rites of his religion, they can then marry according to the Special Marriage Act. However, generally speaking, people don’t go for this Constitutional provision, which proves that people are opposed to the Uniform Civil Code. And also, it is in violation of the Constitutional right to freedom of religion.
The manifest motive for introducing the Uniform Civil Code in India is that Muslims shall have to perform matters related to nikah and divorce against the commands of their religion. Again, in matters concerning will and inheritance, they shall have to act according to other laws instead of their religious laws. Likewise, followers of other religions and customs shall have to renounce their religion; they shall have to erase their customs and shall have to be bound down by a new law because the Uniform Civil Code is clearly a law distinct from the Muslim Personal Law, which will have no space following the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code. Commanding or forcing Muslims to follow some other law in place of the Muslim Personal Law in matters related to civil code amounts to preventing Muslims from acting according to religious instructions and depriving them of their existence as Muslims, and consequently, their conscience will reproach them. Prohibited actions and sins will be perpetrated. The identity of Muslims will be eroded. Their religious identity will be lost, and Muslims will be Muslims only nominally.
For example, if a man divorces his wife on reasonable grounds, the relationship between the two will cease to exist, and it will not be permissible for them to have any truck with each other. However, according to the Uniform Civil Code, divorce will not be legal without the permission of the court. Consequently, the status of the divorced wife will not change, that is to say, she will stay as the wife of her husband. Later, the husband will be pressurized to have marital relations with his divorced wife. Here contradictions will surface because according to the Muslim Personal Law, it is prohibited for a man to have any marital relationship with the wife he has already divorced since the relationship has ceased to exist. If a child is born in this condition, that child will be illegal, but according to the Uniform Civil Code, the marital relationship will remain intact. As a result of this, a Muslim will commit what is forbidden; physical relations will be considered adultery, and according to Islamic law, Muslims will be guilty of committing prohibited sins. The issues from such a forbidden relationship will be regarded as illegitimate as per Islamic law. Contrary to this, according to the Uniform Civil Code, this illegitimate child will have the right to inheritance, while as per Islamic law, an illegitimate child is not entitled to have any share in inheritance. Likewise, if a person converts to Islam or a Muslim turns an apostate, in this case, their wives can no longer be lawful according to Islamic law, nor could they be heirs of each other. Contrary to this, the Uniform Civil Code would state that conversion does not have any effect on the right of inheritance and nor does it cause any hindrance in marital relationship. In this way, a convert to Islam will be compelled to continue marital relationship with his non-Muslim wife. Similarly, a Muslim woman will be pressurized to live with her apostate husband, while in the view of Islamic law, marital relations terminate on account of apostasy.
The above discourse leads us to an important question that when peace and security— the beauty of togetherness and national integration— lie in the survival of different cultures and customs, then why is mischief being spread after some intervals in the name of the Uniform Civil Code? Why is the bogey of the Uniform Civil Code raised? Such voices are not a new phenomenon. This came up in the colonial period, but people protested vehemently, and the British government realized that the unity of India consisted in granting religious and cultural freedom to all the people. It was during this period that Shari’at Application Act was implemented in 1937. In this Act, the Muslim Personal Law was clearly explained, stating that family matters of Muslims will be settled in the light of Islamic laws. Post-independence also, the Muslim Personal Law was retained. During this time, several changes were made in Hindu traditions and customs; social reforms were undertaken. In 1954, the Hindu Code Bill was introduced that brought reforms to Hindu traditions and customs; regulations were made governing marriage, divorce, inheritance and other such issues, which are still in force. In any case, the Uniform Civil Code violates the provisions of the Constitution, and it is also against Indian society. There are no benefits to it; it would only harm the Indian people and disturb the social harmony and unity of the country.
(The writer is General Secretary of All India Milli Council)