In what comes as major news, the Union Law Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Wednesday dropped a major hint on the issue of the Uniform Civil Code, and whether the Modi government would be introducing legislation for the same in the country’s parliament any time soon.
The Union Law Minister was replying to an unstarred question from Lok Sabha MP Dushyant Singh, who sought to know whether the government has any plans to introduce a bill on the Uniform Civil Code this year.
“Article 44 of the Constitution of India states that the state shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory,” Prasad said in a written response to the unstarred question. “The government is committed to honour this Constitutional mandate.
However, this requires wide-scale consultations.” Additionally, in response to another question, the Law Minister also clarified that the Government did not intend to nullify the minority status of certain religions within the Indian Union under an umbrella Uniform Civil Code. This shows that the government is actively deliberating upon UCC, which is why the Law Minister could clearly state in his answer that no religious communities would lose their minority status under the civil code.
The issue of a Uniform Civil Code has been an ideological promise which the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has made to the country’s electorate time and again. In the BJP’s 2019 manifesto as well, the party committed itself to bring in UCC.
Last year, the Supreme Court of India had remarked, “there has been no attempt to frame a Uniform Civil Code applicable to all citizens of the country despite exhortations of this court in the case of Mohd Ahmed Khan vs Shah Bano and Sarla Mudgal and Others vs Union of India and Others”. The top court has time and again nudged various governments to bring in the UCC, as it is a vociferous supporter of the same.
Despite the Supreme Court recognising the need for a Uniform Civil Code in some of its historic and landmark rulings, subsequent governments have turned a blind eye towards this Constitutional goal. It must be borne in mind that though the UCC is a Directive Principle of State Policy, which are not justiciable before the Courts of the country, are “nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws.”
What this basically means is that while the Directive Principles are not justiciable in Courts, these principles remain fundamental to the governance of the country and this is why the Uniform Civil Code is important. These are also positive obligations cast upon the State, which is made duty-bound to apply these principles in lawmaking.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Directive Principles are not a dead letter. While the Constitution does not give the option of getting these Principles enforced through the Courts, it was believed that a failure to implement these principles like the Uniform Civil Code would trigger a backlash during elections, which would serve as a sanction for the enforcement of these Principles. Thus, Directive Principles of State Policy are not mere guidelines for the State but real constitutional goals which the State must at all times, strike to achieve.
The Modi government, frankly, is the only one that has the political will and mandate to roll out legislation to the same effect. With Ravi Shankar Prasad reiterating the government’s commitment to its promise on the Uniform Civil Code, Indians can, rest assured be confident that the code is all set to be rolled out soon.