The Supreme Court on November 7 passed a remarkable verdict refusing to entertain a petition seeking a direction to the Centre and the Parliament to enact the Uniform Civil Code.
The apex court bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur declined a PIL filed by senior advocate Gopal Subramanium on behalf of BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhaya seeking to enact a common code to put an end to the alleged discrimination being faced by Muslim women in the country. A common civil code brings all religious personal laws under a one umbrella. Justice Thakur said that it was not for the Supreme Court to issue a direction to the government to introduce a Bill in this regard but the duty of the Parliament warning the petitioner that if such petitions were filed without regard to law, the Court would come down heavily. It questioned why Upadhyay had approached the court citing the harassment of Muslim women due to their personal law. When the counsel tried to convince the three-judge bench that there have been many previous instances where in the apex court made observations related to the Uniform Civil Code, Justice Thakur said that the observations made were in the ‘realm of hope and expectation’ . The Supreme Court cannot pass laws related to the matter and it had made its stand clear by a 1993 judgment where in a two-judge bench dismissed a similar PIL saying “these are all matters for legislature” and “the court cannot legislate”. The bench said that if the Muslim women were suffering due to the lack of a uniform civil code, then it was them who should be approaching the court. It added that those who were being allegedly discriminated haven’t approached the court so far.
Beyond the creation of a modern and progressive society, the Sangh Parivar has been using the uniform civil code as a tool of their communal agenda. Their goal was to accomplish their agenda by coaxing the court into passing a favourable verdict while they were in power. The Supreme Court verdict was therefore a slap on their face. Nobody is against holding discourses with the deserved seriousness provided no sentiments and communal aspects are dragged into it. But the issue is the BJP always using it as tool for marginalizing the Muslims when the elections approach. Uniform civil code is a matter related not just to the Muslims. The ruling party had promised a uniform civil code in their election manifesto ahead of the last Lok Sabha elections. But senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley had negated it the very next day. The Sikh population in Amritsar where he contested was crucial in deciding his victory. The Sikh organizations wanted their own civil code. Jaitley however, had lost in the polls. That is it’s not just the Muslims alone who has their own civil code. It’s the desperation of the Sangh Parivar to create an impression that it was the obstinacy of the Muslims due to which the concept of uniform civil code was put on hold.
A uniform rule to maintain the country’s unity and integration is an old concept. Britain is one of the world powers where two laws namely the English Law and Scotts Law exist at present. There are two kinds of criminal laws in their legal system as well. But these factors don’t destabilize the country due to the lack of integration. Developed democracies deem the existence of the separate personal laws for different cultural and social sections as the strength of pluralism. But the Sangh Privar and the left wing fail to comprehend this aspect. While a group who wants to transform the country into a Hindu nation demands a common code for all the religions, there is no skepticism over the law they wish to implement. Others, who wish to bring it into effect, haven’t so far put forth any model of the civil code even for discourses. It should be understood, that in such a scenario, the outcry for a uniform civil code would only help to boost the regressive politics of the Sangh Parivar. Nowadays the liberals as well as the Hindutwa groups constantly propagate that the women are oppressed and denied their rights by the Muslim Shariat. The latest PIL submitted in the apex court is also due to this ‘parental’ anxiety. But the reality is that the contemporary Muslim womanhood proceeds rapidly disregarding all these ‘guardians’. It’s also true that the present Muslim personal Law consists of several aspects that are against the interests of the Shariat. The voices are raised against it even from the Muslim quarters. Those who are sensible should bolster such voices and oppose the attempts to forcefully impose a one-culture system. The Supreme Court verdict is a relief to such people.