The Telegraph
Thursday , December 1 , 2016

Language test for uniform code push

New Delhi, Nov. 30: The Zakat Foundation, one of the few Muslim organisations to respond to the law commission's questionnaire on a uniform civil code, has picked on the language used in the directive principles of state policy to question the government's prioritising of the contentious issue.

The thrust of the two-part submission is that even the framers of the Constitution had kept the uniform civil code (UCC) low on their list of priorities for subsequent governments.

"We must consider Part IV of the Constitution (the chapter on directive principles) in its totality," foundation president Syed Zafar Mahmood said in the response.

The foundation's argument is that the way the directive principles are listed and the language used for each of them speak volumes for the order of priority and the effort that should be made by governments to realise them.

Among the 25 directive principles, the uniform civil code has been placed at no. 19 and many of those listed ahead of it are yet to be implemented.

Some directive principles yet to be implemented but listed ahead of the code include participation of workers in the management of industry, minimising inequalities in income, and distribution of ownership/control of material resources in a manner that will serve the common good.

Further, the foundation has divided the 25 directive principles into nine categories on the basis of the language used for each to show that least importance has been attached to a uniform civil code by the drafting committee of the Constitution.

In the case of the code, the language used is "The State shall endeavour". On other issues, the words include "The State shall regard among its primary duties"; "The State shall promote with special care"; "The state shall secure"; "It shall be the obligation of the State"; and "The State shall make provisionake steps".

According to the foundation, the code was deliberately placed among the Constitution's last priorities.

"Also, no other directive principle is the subject matter of so much national controversy as the UCC. The latter is even polarising the country on religious lines, which is injurious for a democratic system like ours.

"We are told that tens of thousands of adverse petitions have been filed with the law commission regarding UCC, reflecting sharp national cleavage. In any case, the directive principles are not mandatory."

Apart from questioning the undue priority attached to the code by the current regime, the foundation is of the view that codification of personal laws needs to be attempted internally by respective communities.

Finding the questionnaire skewed against certain communities, the foundation has flagged issues with Hinduism, particularly those it thinks are not gender-friendly as that is the main plank used by the government to advocate a uniform civil code.

The Upnayana, Mahmood pointed out, should be discontinued as it denies women and Shudras the right to read the Vedas.

"Likewise, the dichotomy between Mitakshara and Dayabhaga need to be sorted out," he said about the laws governing succession for property matters.

After the All India Muslim Personal Law Board gave a call to all Muslims to boycott the law commission's effort to generate public opinion on the code through the questionnaire, the Zakat Foundation was one of the few to have decided to participate in the process, if only to point out its flaws.

The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan - a petitioner in the triple talaq case in the Supreme Court - is another community organisation that has decided to participate in the process. But it is yet to firm up its views on the issues flagged by the law commission.

Zakia Soman of the Mahila Andolan told this newspaper that since the commission had extended the deadline for submission of views till December-end, it would take some more time to respond.

The questionnaire has come in for much criticism within and outside the community for treating the contentious issue almost like a reality show debate.

Describing it as such, Rushda Siddiqui of the National Federation of Indian Women had quipped earlier this month that the only thing missing was a provision for an SMS vote.


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