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How Are We Secular Without a Uniform Civil Code?

What is secularism? Our constitution does not define it, and it was added only in 1976 as an amendment, sadly without clarity as to what the relationship between religion and state is. Wikipedia defines it as the the principle of the separation of government institutions and persons mandated to represent the state from religious institutions and religious dignitaries.

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In today’s world, while even the likes of Asaduddin Owaisi preach secularism, and when political parties miss no holds appease minorities in the name of it, it becomes important that we know what it really means. My understanding of it is social and civil equality and justice regardless of one’s religion. Our criminal laws do make an attempt in this regard, while our civil laws do not. I became a strong proponent of  Uniform Civil Code after reading about the infamous Shah Bano Case (I really recommend you go through this link to understand the gravity of it). It also made me lose that slight respect I had for Rajiv Gandhi. All secular countries around the world (including France and Australia which have a considerable Muslim population) have a Unform Civil Code. It’s only in India that you have to convert out of Islam if you have to adopt a child, and convert to Islam if you want to marry another wife or have a child before you are 18, the list goes on… Question is, are we living in the civilized 21st century to convert to a religion we don’t even believe in to get things done legally? (Take another example of Dharmendra and Hema Malini who had to convert to Islam to get married!). How is it secularism, if you are treated differently by law when you belong to a specific religion? Doesn’t the basic principle of secularism itself say, all are equal before law?

Another example on how religious laws often don’t serve justice:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imrana_rape_case
(Had there not been a common criminal code, would the lady be served justice?)

It’s not that our constitution is against Uniform Civil Code. The Directive Principles of State Policy recommend that a Uniform Civil Code has to be brought into place as we go forward (apparently we haven’t moved forward at all since 1950!). Through numerous judgements, even our Supeme Court has time and again pressed that we have common code in place at the earliest. It’s because some political parties are concerned about their vote banks, governments since the time of Ambedkar have not been able to implement it. But then we do have a state in India that can get your mind clear if you are skeptical about a common code. Goa is the only state in India which has a uniform civil code. The Goa Family Law, is the set of civil laws, originally the Portuguese Civil Code, continued to be implemented after its annexation in 1961.

The bottom line is as blunt as it can be: one cannot claim to be a secular person if he does not believe in a common civil code. It should be clear to us that no community would force its ideas onto another, as there would be a consultation with all communities before such a common code is brought into force. But the question is, will the political party that has always claimed to be committed to implement it, actually do it? Time will tell!

Jai Hind!

Categories: Standing By India

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Chinmay Hegde

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