Article 44 of the Indian Constitution mandates a uniform civil code for the whole nation. Has the time come to realize this directive principle of state policy? Our constitutional forefathers were so foresighted that they thought some of the provisions were necessary for an egalitarian society but could not make them justiciable as compared to fundamental rights due to various historical reasons. They thought that as society will evolve, these directive principles will be followed by the state and we have seen this happen when the government made right to education a fundamental right and now is speaking about making right to food a fundamental right.
Some debate has also started regarding consolidating the personal laws of this country into a uniform civil code. I feel that having a watertight uniform civil code is not in the interests of this nation with such a diversity. We have to respect the traditions of the individual communities and provide them their own personal space in the legal world as is provided by the personal laws today. The best thing would be to have a uniform civil code in certain respects and personal laws in certain other aspects. So, the debate should now focus on the aspects that have to be covered by the uniform civil code and the aspects that have to be covered by personal laws. I personally feel that laws of inheritance that provide equal rights to both men and women should come under uniform civil code. Similarly, polygamy in all its forms is an evil today and should rightly be shown its way out.
The state cannot be complacent about such issues and needs to take a conscious and right decision smartly by using its parliamentary prudence without affecting its vote bank. While opposition is obvious from certain quarters of the society, that cannot be reason for inaction of the State. Sati and Child marriage would have been prevalent widely even today if the British (the then State) had not acted to root out these evils.
We should envisage a uniform civil code that works for the good of all the Indians and that borrows ‘good’ elements from all the personal laws. Something around these lines has already been thought of and implemented in the past but with failure. It was the Mughal emperor Akbar who thought of an universal religion ‘Din-i- ilahi‘. It is also sad that eminent jurists are interpreting such actions for uniform civil code with narrow mindedness and painting these actions with communal overtones. Read more about it in this Hindu article dated 14th February 2011 ‘Court remarks on personal laws draws flak’.