The police also said that some anti- social elements are trying to create disturbance under the name of protest, trying to take undue advantage.
In his first public push for a uniform civil code (UCC), Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the country cannot have separate laws for its people and that the Constitution enjoins on the state securing of a UCC for its citizens. At his meeting at Balesar in the Jodhpur district, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh hinted at bringing in the UCC. However, barring the AAP, Congress, Akalis, UML, SAD and others have strongly opposed the move. Nevertheless, Modi’s blue-eyed Member of Parliament Dr Kirori Lal Meena from Rajasthan was prompted to place a private member’s Bill on Uniform Civil Code in Rajya Sabha (Upper House) even though Opposition parties alleged ‘killing of democracy and unity in diversity’.
Will this Bill be a ‘litmus test’ for the NDA government or will it prove disastrous like the three-farmers bills which were withdrawn after year-long agitation by farmers in Punjab-Haryana-Delhi states last year?
For an answer to the query, Yash Goyal of The Statesman approached Dr Kirori Lal Meena. The BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP, who is known for his grouse with the Gehlot government in Rajasthan, revealed the facts about the Bill that he hopes to get through in the near future, if not soon, might be before the LS polls in 2024.
Question: How would you explain the Uniform Civil Code?
Answer: It simply means a common law for everyone in the country. Without considering the religion, castes and domicile, one common law should come in force to protect the personal rights of all citizens. I belong to a tribe. Though a Hindu, I can have two marriages. You cannot do it, and if anyone does it he would be punished under section 494 of IPC for seven years. In our country, Muslim men can have 3/4/5 marriages, whereas in the neighbouring country Pakistan, a second marriage is only possible when Muslim man gets his wife’s consent.
There is a disparity in law, and to remove/correct this disparity, Uniform Civil Code needs to be applied. The bill titled ‘The Uniform Civil Code in India Bill, 2022 was brought in Rajya Sabha for every religion and caste. There is no uniform law in our country with regard to marriage, divorce, adoption, succession, property, and these subjects are controlled by the personal laws. Hence the UCC should be ensured to all citizens residing in areas where the population of entire geographical areas resides.
Q: The NDA Government led by Modi has a full majority in Parliament. Why then this bill was moved as a Private Member’s Bill, why was it not tabled directly?
A: There are certain rules of public interest that give information to the government and Janata at large. This is/was an issue of national interest that is why I introduced it. Members of Parliament (MPs) usually bring such private bills in every session, and it is up to the House and a debate cutting across the party lines to decide whether or not to decide on such public matters.
Q: Earlier, BJP and its MPs were not in favour of supporting the bill if it was moved by you. What then brought them together in Parliament this time?
A: This is wrong. The question does not arise. No one in BJP/MPs opposed it. It was a pertinent issue in early days of Jan Sangh (now BJP) along with abrogation of article 370 in Kashmir, Ram Mandir Nirman, and CAA (The Citizenship (Amendment) Act. These have been very important agenda of the BJP party. This is the ideology and thinking of BJP that a common law be enacted in the country.
Q: Has this private member’s bill been taken up seriously by RS MPs?
It is a sensitive issue. There’s a lot of opposition. The Indian courts were worried and wanted it to be taken up in Parliament. You can consider it as a “Litmus Test” of the BJP government on this particular bill.
Whether UCC would be applicable to all castes like SC/ST/OBC/MBC/EWS? Will it be governing marriages in these castes?
The traditions of tribes are different in many states. The intention of this bill is to bring uniformity and what would be its framework, it would be decided in the UCC. I remember during former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s tenure a bill was brought for daughters’ right in father’s property. This is not possible in Muslims but a Shariyat Law is applied and accepted in marriage, adoption, and divorce. The rights of women are curtailed in the Muslim community; hence, the UCC would empower them. The wrong trend of religious conversion would be contained.
Q: What is the main point in this bill that will be taken up first to start with?
The Central government shall, within a period of six months from the coming into force of this act, constitute a Committee to be called National Inspection & Investigation Committee for the purpose of UCC and its implementation in the country. The Committee will consist of a Chairperson.
Who shall be retired as chief justice of India, Union minister for home affairs-ex-officio member, Union minister of law and justice-ex-officio member and other members mentioned in the bill. The Central government would, after due appropriation made by Parliament by law on this behalf, provide adequate funds to the committee for carrying out the purposes of this act.
India is a nation where there’s unity in diversity (Ekta Mein Anekta Hai). The committee would give its report keeping in mind that no dispute shall arise, no unrest prevails, and the communal harmony maintained.
Q: What are the legal objects and reasons to introduce this bill?
A: I like to quote it, The Statement of Objects and Reasons clearly said, “Besides, no government showed proper will power to implement these constitutional provisions, because the minorities, especially the Muslims believed that the UCC will lead to the violation of their personal laws. Hence, only to compile the Hindu Laws, acts like the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 and Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 were enacted.
In these Acts, along with the Buddhist, Sikh and Jain laws related to different religious communities of the Hindus are included vide which women have been given right to divorce and succession and caste has been termed irrelevant for marriage. Also polygamy has been done away with. In the present context, it seems our country is divided into three classes on UCC, namely political, social and religious. In the Shah Bano case, the Supreme Court decided that section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 is applicable to all irrespective of religion, caste and community. The court directed that Shah Bano must be provided with living expenses. The then Chief Justice Y V Chandrachud said the UCC would end the dissimilarities in the Indian law which would help in establishing national unity. Hence, the SC had observed that the Parliament may make the law related to the UCC.
In the Constituent Assembly, while on the one hand there were people like Dr B R Ambedkar who desired reform in the society and wanted to accept UCC, and there were also Muslim representatives who took side to retaining the Personal Laws based on the religious enshrines. As a result, regarding the UCC, only one line could be added as Article 44 of under Part IV as Directive Principles of State Policy in the Constitution. In this article it is stated that the State shall endeavour to secure for citizens a UCC throughout the territory of India. Since the UCC has been included in the Directive Principles of State Policy of the state, hence this cannot be enforced.
Not only the SC, high courts too have expressed their concern over UCC many times. Thus, it is a proper time to introduce this bill and get it passed in Parliament.
Q: Will this Act bring gender equality too?
A: Gender inequality does exist in society. But in minorities, its level is very high and worrying. I believe this Act will change gender inequality into neutrality, and the discrimination would end.
Q: The NDA Government has been in power for the last eight years, How come this Bill is delayed?
A: This is true. Everything has its own time. The Modi Government has so many other issues to be taken up first. Now, the time has come for this. India has witnessed a number of cases of Love Jihad, and live-in relationships. Recently, in Delhi it was terrible and scary that a man (Aftab Ameen) chopped off his wife’s body into 35 pieces. Our party is worried over such matters. This is a subject of debate for intellectuals. Therefore, it is high time the Act was passed.
A: In Rajya Sabha, many political parties, including Congress, TMC, MDMK, RJD, SP, CPI, CPIM and NCP, have opposed your move to place this Bill, how would you convince them?
A: All those parties which opposed it are doing politics of appeasement. They are engaged in misleading a ‘Dharam Vishesh’ (a particular religion), creating fear, and they have made them a vote bank. Therefore, they (the Opposition) are making an anti-act atmosphere. Even the Triple-Talaq Act was accepted by the Muslim women and they are happy now. Of course, the Opposition made a hue and cry on this too. They always try to create fear in the minds of Muslims so that they can bank on their votes in elections. The Central government has clearly stated this is not against any religion and caste. Everyone will benefit from the UCC. This is the main purpose.
Q: You (Meena) belong to a Scheduled Tribe (ST). Do you think the Act will affect STs too?
As a tribal, I can have two marriages, because the Hindu law does not apply to the tribes. The tribe is governed by their customs rather than the law. In such a situation, the Uniform Civil Code will not have any effect on the tribals. As I said earlier Muslim men in India can have 3/4/5 marriages, but in Pakistan, one has to take legal permission from his wife to do so. That’s a disparity to be corrected.
Q: What would be the future line of action of this private member bill?
A: This bill will go up to the President for her approval/consent. Then it would go to the Business Advisory Committee of Parliament to make a decision on when and whether to place the bill in Parliament. When it is placed, a debate will be invited to clear the bill.
Q: Do not you expect any strong resentment against this bill on the streets by the Opposition parties and NGOs?
A: I don’t see a possibility of any untoward incident. Bringing-in this bill will not harm anyone nor would it do injustice to any citizen.