The Centre should bring a draft law on UCC to clear confusion – Catholic Sabha Central Committee
Mangaluru: The Catholic Sabha Central Committee on Wednesday, July 12, said that the central government, instead of creating confusion amongst minorities and other communities, should first bring out a draft law on the Uniform Civil Code (UCC).
Addressing the media, Allwyn DSouza, president of the Catholic Sabha Central Committee, said, ‘’India has been described as an “Ethnological museum” owing to its diverse culture. This diverse culture is due to more than 10 religions living side by side of each other, 3,000 castes, 25,000 sub-castes, around 1,109 scheduled castes, and 744 scheduled Tribes in India. All these religions, castes, sub-castes, scheduled castes, and scheduled tribes have their own distinct cultures, customs, traditions, languages, forms of marriage, inheritance, food habits, dress habits, ways of life, etc. that have been followed since time immemorial. These distinct cultures, traditions, religious beliefs, etc. have been protected by the Constitution of India through its fundamental rights. Even while framing the constitution of India, Unity in Diversity was the motto.
The customs and traditions in various communities in India were codified into personal laws in India in regards to marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption, etc. Even though most of the laws in India are uniformly applicable to all citizens in India irrespective of religion, caste, class, race, etc., only the personal laws, which form part of their respective customs and traditions, have been distinct with respect to marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption, etc. These personal laws were enacted for the preservation of the customs and practises of various communities, as most of these customs and practises are totally different and distinct from one religion to the other. For example, the practise of marriage among Hindus is totally different from the practise of marriage among Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, etc. Hence, personal laws to preserve these unique practises are very much required, and the removal of these personal laws is detrimental to the customs and practises of particular communities that have been following these customs from time immemorial and which have already attained the force of law.
The central government’s recent pointer towards a uniform civil code has created confusion among different communities. The Law Commission of India circulating a questionnaire and asking the views of different communities on the said questionnaire has given the impression that the government wants to somehow bulldoze a so-called uniform civil code on all communities. When cultural and religious practises are so diverse and distinct, personal laws are required to protect those practises. Trying to bring uniformity where uniformity is not possible is striking a death knell and giving the go-ahead to all the customs and traditions. The government’s slogan, “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas,” promotes diversity and not uniformity.
Many supporters who have been batting for the promulgation of the uniform civil code argue that the personal laws are riddled with biases and discrimination of different kinds, especially against women, and that to ameliorate their conditions, a uniform civil code is a must. Any discrimination or error in any law could be rectified by bringing about an amendment that could resolve any bias or discrimination, and the removal of personal laws is not a solution. For example, there have been 105 amendments to the Indian Constitution, and certain additions and deletions have been made. This means that changes can be made to existing laws, and the promulgation of new laws is unnecessary.
If the government is serious about the uniform civil code, it should first bring out a draft law, circulate it amongst its citizens, and then call for suggestions. By circulating a questionnaire, how the government intends to bring about uniformity is not shown. With a draft bill, the general public could give suggestions or be in a clear position to either assent to the bill if it protects their customs or oppose the bill if it’s against their interests. Even during the constitutional debates, it was discussed that when bringing out the uniform civil code, the assent of the respective communities whose personal laws would be taken away was required.
Instead of causing confusion among minorities and other communities, central governments should first issue a draft law or delay implementation of the uniform civil code. Hence the government shouldn’t go ahead with the promulgation of the uniform civil code, or on the alternative, the government could prepare a draft and circulate it amongst all and then invite public opinion, which could really subserve democracy,” he said.
Legal advisor Praveen Pinto also addressed the media. Former presidents Rolphy D’Costa, Stany Lobo, and general secretary Wilma Monteiro were present.