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Unity Through Uniformity

'Unity in diversity' is centuries old adage. Politicians frequently refer this proverb to pacify various communities and for other political mileages.

Union of India is a conglomeration of 28 States and 8 Union Territories. India is further divided (unofficially) in different regions, viz; east, west, north, south and central India. Broadly, States were formed and reorganized by way of enacting States Reorganisation Act, 1956 on the basis of linguistic predominance. Each State and region has its own characteristic, be it religion, caste combination, language, culture, food habit etc.

As per one of the statistics 1652 languages and dialects are spoken in India. This variety of culture is known as diversity. Despite that, we have a single identity- 'Indian'. We have accepted one National Flag. Hindi is our national language. Peacock is our national bird and so on. Now, we are going to take a call as to what should be our national drink. In the face of so many uniformities are we still united? Do we have fraternity and unity in true sense? If not, why.
Under Article 14 of the Constitution of India all are equal before law, exceptions apart. Constitution also guarantees freedom to profess any religion, freedom of speech, equal protection of life and liberty etc. The Constitution, inter alia, protects interest of minority, tribals and backward classes. In view of all kinds of protections and taking care of all classes of its citizens, secularism being the thrust of all protections, Indian Constitution is considered as most beautiful constitution in the world.

Demands and expectations are unending. At the inception, there were hardly half a dozen of States. Now the number has gone up to 28. Demand of equal number of more States is gaining momentum. Every State is disturbed despite equal rights and liberties being provided under the Constitution. India has seen number of riots on religion, ethnic and communal lines. Recent ethnic violence in Manipur is globally censured.

This violence on communal line may spread its tentacles in other parts of the country. The ethnic violence has also proved how weak and fragile is our fraternity. A new section of citizens are vying for reservations in public employment and the other section is opposed to this idea. In sixties there was an anti-Hindi movement in certain States. In the political arena regional politics is gaining force and occasionally regional emotions rein heavier to national feeling. Both land and water dispute among few States is persisting since independence.

Squabble over Cauvery water between two sister states is disgraceful. No political doctor is able to solve thorns of temple-mosque disagreement from the neckline of two communities. Then, where is 'unity in diversity'?.

Besides nearly two dozens fundamental rights the Constitution of India has also incorporated more than one dozen directive principles under Part � IV in the Constitution. The directive principles are preceded by fundamental rights encompassing equality, personal liberty, freedom of expression, protection of interest of minorities etc. Fundamental rights have been made available to all the citizens of India across race, religion, caste and community. On the same analogy the State is also obliged to implement the directive principles to all sections of people without any discrimination.

Article 44 of the Constitution is one of the directive principles that stipulate that the State shall endeavour to secure 'uniform civil code' throughout Indian territory. Very recently, the Law Commission has once again sought opinion from public to re-examine the feasibility of recommending uniform civil code to the Govt. of India. I am sure it will be followed by rational debate and interaction of views with all stakeholders.

Intellectuals and people with progressive mindset from all communities have no objection to have a uniform civil code. For instance, females with broader perception are already against the concept of polygamy and triple talaq. Since UCC is likely to concentrate to codify only the personal laws relating to marriage, divorce, inheritance of paternal/maternal and ancestors' properties there is less possibility of any serious objection from any community in adopting UCC.

The concept of UCC became a flashpoint in the political arena after the judgment of the Hon'ble Supreme Court delivered in the case of Shah Bano in the year 1985. In the said case the Apex Court had held that Shah Bano, though a Muslim citizen, she was entitled to alimony from her former husband under the codified law of India, deviating from the dictates of the personal laws of Muslims. In this case, the Supreme Court had also observed that it is a matter of regret that Article 44 of our Constitution has remained a dead letter.

The judges were also of the view that a common Civil Code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to laws which have conflicting ideologies. The court further observed that no community is likely to bell the cat by making gratuitous concessions on this issue.

It is the State which is charged with the duty of securing a uniform civil code for the citizens of the country and, unquestionably, it has the legislative competence to do so. Long after 38 years of the judgment the Government has now taken the initiative to enact an UCC.

Be that as it may, the views of minority community should be taken into consideration so that there should be no occasion for further heart burning. In the Editorial column in the Assam Tribune, Guwahati on 30.06.2023 the editor of the esteemed daily has also observed that theoretically and ideally any sovereign and secular democracy should have a common law for all citizens and offer equal rights and opportunities to each individual.

The learned editor, however, cautioned the parliamentarians that they must ensure that all stakeholders are brought on board and any suspicion of imposition is allayed to maintain communal harmony being a sensitive issue.

Implementation of 'Uniform Civil Code' will be a milestone in bringing cherished goal of the fathers of the Constitution into a reality that every citizen is equal before law. UCC will further accelerate the process of national integration. It will also establish the new concept of 'unity through uniformity' amidst vibrant diversity. The new theory may look silly but it is likely to fetch long term resolutions.

Written By: Retd. Justice B D Agarwal
Vip Road, Radhanagar, Guwahati-781022, Assam
Email: [email protected], Ph no:  9435136573

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