The Constitution of India came into force in 1950 and the guidelines to the state provided therein are the parameters for a real analysis of the effectiveness of the nation not as a mere state but as a sovereign republic and democratic. In this regard, Article 44 is an important moot point related to a major directive, namely the achievement of a uniform civil code. The UCC administers the same set of secular civil laws to govern all people, regardless of religion, caste, and social group. The need for such a code recognizes the constitutional mandate to ensure justice and equality for all citizens. A uniform penal code is applicable to all citizens without distinction of religion, caste, sex and domicile in our country. But a similar code regarding marriage, divorce, inheritance and other family matters has not been enforced even after seven long decades of establishing the constitutional edifice for the people at large. Personal laws vary widely in their sources, philosophy, and application. Therefore, there is an inherent need to think differently in this regard to guarantee the common civil code.
The truth is that the state of India has failed to fulfill the wishes of the founding fathers of the Indian constitution with regards to the implementation of the idea of UCC. The civil code, if enacted, will deal with personal laws of all religious communities (living in India) relating to marriage, divorce, adoption, custody of children, inheritance, succession property, etc. strengthen the brotherhood of unity among citizens by giving them a set of personal laws that incorporate the fundamental values of humanism. The politicization of the concept of UCC by various political parties, social organizations and religious denominations has made it a contentious issue and hence the issue has remained indisputable till date. Things have come to a point now where the issue deserves to be resolved and resolved forever in order to realize the dream of an egalitarian society.
In this context, a lot of misunderstandings have been created within the Muslim community in India by politicians to use the community as a mere vote bank to garner votes without caring about the future of the society and the nation. All advanced and developed nations and welfare states have a common civil code applicable to all their citizens, regardless of religious or social identifications. Ironically, Islamic countries like Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Pakistan, Iran, etc. codified personal law in which the practice of polygamy was either outlawed altogether or severely curtailed to control the misuse and abuse of this heinous practice. The tragedy is that a secular and democratic country like India is slow to give a red carpet welcome to Article 44 solely because of vested political interests.
Article 35 of the draft Constitution of India has been added as part of the guiding principles of state policy in Part IV of the Constitution of India as Article 44. It has been incorporated in the Constitution as an aspect that would be fulfilled when the nation was ready to accept it and the social acceptance of the CCU could be achieved by developing a consensus. Certain developments in recent years have created a situation that requires a fruitful debate on the issue. There is a good atmosphere to resume the discussion on a broader level keeping in mind the desire of the young generations of the country to solve the unresolved national problems as soon as possible. The recent hijab controversy has only accelerated the debate.
From the year 2013 to the year 2019, the removal of Articles 370 and 35A has been at the heart of all elections in the country. Immediately after the 2019 verdict at the Center, the government successfully continued the movement and brought historic change leading to a political paradigm shift in discourse. It now appears that the 2024 national election agenda will surely focus the nation’s attention on the importance of getting the UCC through parliamentary and constitutional procedures (as in the case of the repeal of the article 370) in case the question is not taken into account. the logical conclusion at that point. There is no doubt that currently the whole nation is obsessed with elections in five states, including the largest state like UP. Things will come to the surface once the elections in the five states are completed and the Rajya Sabha elections are also held in due course, positively affecting the strength of the ruling dispensation in the House.
Although the hijab controversy was pushed by vested interests in the background of the five state elections to impact the election mandate, despite the fact that a number of nations around the world have already banned hijab and burqa in public places. The latest in this context is the example of Sri Lanka. While the Supreme Court of India has previously declined to consider the merits or disadvantages of this issue, the High Court of Karnataka has issued an interim ruling prohibiting the wearing of all kinds of religious symbols in schools and colleges in the state. The controversy was raised with political motivations despite the already existing judgment on the matter. To be very specific, it would be worth quoting the 2018 judgment of the Kerala High Court regarding the hijab controversy in this regard which upholds the right of institutions to decide on the uniform dress code:
“In such a view of the matter, I am of the view that claimants cannot seek the imposition of their individual right against the broader right of the institution. It is for the institution to decide whether claimants can be allowed to attend classes with the headscarf and long-sleeved shirt. This is purely for the institution to decide. The Court cannot even order the institution to consider such a request. Therefore , the motion in writ shall fail. Accordingly, the motion for an order is denied. If applicants apply to the school for a transfer certificate, the school authority shall issue a transfer certificate without comment. Without any doubt, if the petitioners are willing to abide by the school dress code, they will be allowed to continue in the same school.(A.MUHAMED MUSTAQUE, JUDGE, Case No. WP(C).No. 35293 of 2018 in the Fathima Thasneem case).
The judgment mentioned above clearly presents the vision of the judicial and constitutional institutions of the country in such a context. The Supreme Court, on several occasions in the past, has raised questions and petitions before the state apparatus regarding the implementation of the UCC. He also made a number of observations in this regard suggesting rapid progress on the matter. The hijab controversy, despite the final outcome of the sub-judicial case in the Karnataka High Court, has brought the issue of the Uniform Civil Code into an important discourse at an appropriate political moment.
Election results in the five states will certainly determine the speed of the UCC’s rapid advance. The mandate this time will also be followed by discussion and debate on various issues of national importance and interest, including the Uniform Civil Code. It is time to contribute to such discourse and debate through all available channels leading to national consensus on the issue(s).