PM raises UCC pitch but govt should avoid rushing through bill
If the PM’s strategy was to use the issue to divide the opposition, he succeeded. But his plan appears to be more than just that.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pitch for the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) to move India towards the goal of one nation, one law has spurred diverse reactions on the political and socio-religious fronts. The opposition parties that had come together at Patna to discuss forming a united front against the ruling alliance appeared divided.
The Aam Aadmi Party and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction) openly voiced their support for the UCC. They cited Article 44 of the Indian Constitution, which says: “The state shall endeavour to secure for its citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.” However, the other opposition parties have not exactly concurred with the views of the AAP and Shiv Sena.
If the PM’s strategy was to use the issue to divide the opposition, he succeeded. But his plan appears to be more than just that. The UCC has been in the BJP’s manifesto for years, along with the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya and the withdrawal of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir.
The Centre has implemented these two, and the UCC remains to be executed. The government’s seriousness is reflected in the fact that the present Law Commission, and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, are involved in consultations with stakeholders to see how best to draft a law to bring in the code. However, a law acceptable to all would require more time than the few months before the 2024 election.
The UCC aims to unify all personal laws, including that of different religions, tribes and groups, governing matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption, etc. Muslim and Sikh bodies have opposed changes in their personal laws. So have the tribals. Then there are states, especially in the northeast, opposing the UCC. Mizoram has passed a resolution in the State Assembly opposing the code.
Other northeastern states, too, have cited their special status under Article 371 to resist any tampering with their customs and traditions. Evolving a consensus to end tax concessions provided to Hindus under the Hindu Undivided Family structure will also take time. While implementing a constitutional provision is a desirable goal, rushing the bill through Parliament and forcing people to accept its conditions may prove counterproductive.