Muslim Personal Law Board Opposes it too
The Catholic Church & Other Denominations Must Make their Opposition Known
secretary, Joseph Dias said in a national television debate that Christians were against a Uniform Civil Code ( UCC ) foisted upon the minorities and even the majority had misgiving about it. This was in reaction to a statement by the union law minister that the Government of India would have a the UCC, as suggested by the Supreme Court and it being part of the BJP manifesto. According to him, the Catholic Church has a Canon Law, which is followed all over the world and regulates family issues like, divorce, marriage and inheritance, implemented by Ecclesiastical Courts, even as they present the Catholic viewpoint to the believers on matters of abortion, contraception, euthanasia, etc. The other Christian denominations are also suspicious as to how the UCC would deal with these issues.
" Such a move by the union government would be ultra vires of the Constitutional right to freedom of religion and gives the impression that the BJP government would like to control especially the minorities and its property or institutions by weakening the authority of religious leadership. The Catholic Canon Law is scriptural and based on the tradition of the Church for the last over 2000 years. For instance, the Bible quotes Jesus as saying ' what God has united, we must not divide ' speaking against divorce and similar other issues. One cannot expect the universally followed doctrine of the Catholic Church to be changed because a government with brute majority comes to power in a country. Those who do not agree with the Church's teaching are free to marry under civil law and get divorced under it too. Similarly, the Indian Succession Acts of 1865 or 1925 was not applied to Indian Christians, then why should we come under it now? " asked Joseph Dias, the CSF general secretary.
According to the The CSF, marriage is considered not an agreement, but a holy sacrament, where God is considered the third partner and hence, cannot be dissolved. The UCC proposed by the BJP is more to reap political dividends and aims more at majority appeasement and consolidating its Hindu vote bank. Minorities, lower caste and backward classes are treated as second-class citizens and hence, issues like social security, education, health or poverty needs to be more looked at, with no interference in personal laws of various religions. If at all, the UCC needs to be considered, then it needs to be optional or voluntary, as assured by BR Ambedkar during the Constituent Assembly debates on the subject, where he also said that the fears of the minorities need to be first allayed.
"Laws must arise out of necessity, social reforms and through progressive community leaders, not foisted upon believers by the governments. We are open to leave the choice to opt for the UCC to the individual, as religion is a personal, sensitive and dividing issue. Conditions must be created to remove psychological barriers as the UCC has been portrayed as majority versus minorities. India is a vast and diverse country with not just multiple personal laws, but also a large spectrum of language, ethnic or tribal variety. Hence Sanskrit, Brahmanical or any other culture cannot be foisted throughout the country, through means like the UCC proposed. We have noticed that such secularization has failed in the West or developed nations and we seem to be importing it from there, which has not solved, but rather created problems ". said the CSF press note.
The CSF general secretary added that " Personal Laws fulfill a great role, which even the government or judiciary cannot. The huge backlog of legal cases and ineffective arbitration has ensured gaps in the quick delivery of justice. The BJP has made unilateral announcements, with no consensus / consultation. We do not even know what is their idea of a UCC is and how would it make provisions for cultural or religious differences through various parts of the country. The earlier NDA regime had to drop the UCC from its agenda because of differences among allies. This time will be no different. The BJP seems to be politicising and communalising UCC, just as they are saffronising other spheres, like police, bureaucracy, judiciary or education with such sinister moves ".
The CSF says that the Directive Principles, which mentions UCC, only talks of an endeavour, which means these are only guidelines. If the Constituent Assembly wanted to accord importance to it, the UCC would have been mentioned earlier in the Constitution and not later, as it did. The union government needs to do more for women and children or against male chauvinism, rather than blame personal laws. Developed countries have personal laws and uniform codes working alongside, with the choice left to the individual. They also have safeguards for vulnerable sections of society and minorities, which we in India do not have.
The BJP needs to enact a law against moral policing in the name of culture, to deal with persons like Muthalik of the Ram Sene fame and his likes. Existing laws can be amended, or new laws enacted, if there are specific cases, like the Muslim Divorce Act 1986 and not a uniform law given that religion is a sensitive issue and can be used to divide citizens. If reform does not come from within the community, its effectiveness will be compromised.
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Joseph Dias: email@example.com