The outgoing Gujarat government has cleared the first step to implement the Uniform Civil Code in the state. The decision comes ahead of the Assembly elections, dates for which have not yet been announced by the Election Commission.
Gujarat Home Minister Harsh Sanghavi on Saturday told the media that Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel had cleared the decks to a proposal to form a panel to implement the Uniform Civil Code in the state.
Sanghavi said that it was a “historic decision under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership and also that of Home Minister Amit Shah”.
Later, Bhupendra Patel tweeted in Gujarati, “An important decision has been taken in the state Cabinet to form a high-level committee under the chairmanship of a retired Supreme Court/High Court judge to examine the need for a Uniform Civil Code in the state and prepare the draft for the same.”
Earlier, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami had said he would constitute a committee to prepare a draft Uniform Civil Code soon after the new government was sworn in.
The ambit of the committee will cover issues related to marriage, divorce, landed property and succession, he said in a video statement.
Talking on the Gujarat government’s decision on UCC, Union Animal Husbandry Minister Purshottam Rupala said, “The Gujarat Chief Minister will soon form the committee and make the announcement. UCC is being brought to treat all citizens at par so that on religious grounds as well as in other matters, no civil dispute arises. There will be no discrimination, on religious or gender grounds,”
Why Uniform Civil Code?
Union Minister Purshottam Rupala emphasised on reasons that led to UCC. He said, “Gujarat government received serious complaints about marriage and property related disputes. We wanted to give justice to people and avoid their conflicts and so, we decided to bring UCC into practice.”
Scope of work
Rupala said that like Ram Mandir and Kashmir, UCC has been passed by the Gujarat government. A committee will be soon formed and based on its report, the way for implementing this law will open up in the state. When asked on formation of the committee just before the Gujarat elections, Rupala said, “This has nothing to do with elections. The planning for UCC was taking place for quite some time.”
The Cabinet has given the chief minister the right to constitute the committee and is expected to comprise of three to four members and its scope of work too will be decided. I believe when the committee will be announced, the timeline too will be declared.
What about Adivasis?
Will UCC be applied to Adivasis also? To this Rupala said “This is an attempt to bring commonality in religious and communal positions that bring about differences in rights and civil disputes. Adivasis are a constitutionally recognised identity, they do not fall under religious or communal categories. So, yes, this will apply to everyone under the constitution.”
Definition of a uniform civil code
The Uniform Civil Code proposes a single legislation for the entire country to govern issues such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adoption for all religious sects. The law is mandated by Article 44 of the Constitution, which states that the state must work to establish a Uniform Civil Code for its residents across the country.
The governments of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have already declared their intention to adopt the Uniform Civil Code. A plan to create and implement the Uniform Civil Code in India would ensure that all individuals, regardless of gender, or religion, are subject to the same personal laws.
The BJP had included the Uniform Civil Code in its manifesto during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The party said that gender equality will come only when the Uniform Civil Code is implemented.
Many politicians across party lines have also supported the Uniform Civil Code. However, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has termed it “unconstitutional and anti-minority”. The Centre had earlier this month told the Supreme Court that it cannot direct Parliament to enact or implement any law on Uniform Civil Code in the country.