Will Uniform Civil Code be another trump card of the saffron brigade to further strengthen its narrative before the General Election 2024? As it may be used as a whip to beat the Muslim community, will the community bite the bullet or will the Islamic clerics sway them away?
When the BJP MP Kirodi Lal Meena introduced a private member’s Bill in Rajya Sabha, seeking the constitution of a committee to prepare and implement a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the country, the opposition was up in arms.
Members from the Congress, TMC, DMK, NCP, CPI(M), CPI, IUML, MDMK and RJD lodged strong protests against the move.
Some political observers pointed out that the ruling party was behind the move and the private member bill was introduced to test the waters before taking a plunge into the contention issue.
Many people may be surprised to know that it was the Congress and its stalwart Jawahar Lal Nehru who tried to introduce the UCC for the first time in 1954. As the Parliament discussed the report of the Hindu law committee during the 1948–1951 and 1951–1954 sessions, Nehru, his supporters and women members realised that the orthodox Hindu laws were supportive of women’s rights since monogamy, divorce and the widow’s right to inherit property were in the shastras.
Law Minister BR Ambedkar recommended a Uniform Civil Code as he thought that this would reform the Hindu society and also ensure protection to the Muslim women who have little protection under the dogmatic Sharia laws.
Almost all sections of the society, Orthodox Muslims and Hindus alike opposed the Uniform Civil Code. Ambedkar introduced a Hindu Bill to ensure modern reformation of Hindu Society. But, it too came under scathing attacks.
Later, four separate acts, the Hindu Marriage Act, Succession Act, Minority and Guardianship Act and Adoptions and Maintenance Act were enacted in 1956.
UCC is meant to replace the Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act, Indian Christian Marriages Act, Indian Divorce Act, Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act.
The proposals in UCC include monogamy, equal rights for son and daughter over inheritance of paternal property and gender & religion neutral laws in regards of will, charity, divinity, guardianship and sharing of custody.
All India Muslim Personal Law Board has rejected the UCC and called it unconstitutional and against the Muslims.
But there are serious contradictions in the civil code and many Hindu sects and communities may not accept it. There are Anand Marriage Act, Arya Samaj Marriage, Special Marriage Act, Foreign Marriage Act and Krishna Marriage Act. Similarly we have the Indian Divorce Act, Madras Aliya Sanatan Act, Madras Namboodiripad Act, Madras Makkathyam Act as well. Will the UCC address these laws?
The most complicated and controversial parts belong to the right of inheritance and division of property. Hindus have two codes for division of property.
Dayabhag was prevalent in West Bengal, Odisha and Assam. It allows daughters equal rights in father’s property.
The Mitakshara system was prevalent in Mithila of Bihar, Mayurva of Maharashtra, Dravida of Tamilnadu and Benraras of Uttar Pradesh. The Mitakshara system was not abolished, but it was diluted and daughters were given equal rights by adopting certain laws.
In Sharia law, sons are allowed to get property twice as much as their sisters. If the wife has children, she is entitled to get one-eighth of husband’s property, otherwise, she will get one fourth. If there are more than one wife, one-eighth of the property will be distributed among them.
Will the Uniform Civil Code address these issues? Will registration of marriage be made mandatory?
There are certain issues which Muslims should ponder instead of opposing the UCC under provocation of ulemas.
UCC will ensure that childless Muslim widows get share in their husband’s property. It will ensure that she is not driven back to her parents’ house after the death of her husband.
Similarly, a husband will think twice before divorcing his wife if he has to share his property with her.
Political analysts feel that the Universal Civil Code is aimed at appeasing the majority Hindus and assure them that no special privilege is given to Muslims.
Hindus have been made to believe that they are under threat and also that Muslims have been treated with velvet gloves and given special treatment. BJP wants to correct this anomaly and there will be one law for every citizen irrespective of their religion.
Abolition of triple talaq, abrogation of Article 370 and now Universal Civil Code. The saffron party is ready with its juggernaut before the Lok Sabha Election 2024.