The NDA government Monday indicated in Parliament that it was inclined to usher in the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), saying “wide stakeholder consultation” could be held on the issue.
In his written response to a question by BJP MP Yogi Adityanath, Union Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad told Lok Sabha that the provision of the UCC is already there in Article 44 of the Constitution and that wide consultations with stakeholders were required for “further steps in this regard”.
The BJP MP had asked the government if there was any proposal to “implement a Uniform Civil Code across the country in the interests of national unity and integrity”.
While there have some recent instances of NDA ministers talking of consultations on the issue of common civil code, this is the first time that the Narendra Modi government has formally put forth its stand on the contentious issue in Parliament since coming to power.
The UCC is part of BJP’s election manifesto. “BJP believes that there cannot be gender equality till such time India adopts the Uniform Civil Code which protects the rights of all women and BJP reiterates its stand to draft the code, drawing upon the best traditions and harmonising them with the modern times,” the manifesto reads.
Article 44 of the Constitution lists the UCC as one of the Directive Principles of state policy, which are not enforceable by any court. Incidentally, in 1999, Adityanath had introduced a Private Member’s Bill in Lok Sabha to amend the Constitution to enact the UCC.
The government response Monday is a sharp shift from the stand on this issue taken by successive governments at the Centre, with then law minister M Veerappa Moily telling Lok Sabha in March 2011 that there was no move to enforce the UCC. “Bringing in a Uniform Civil Code involves changing personal laws, including those of minorities. Therefore, it has been the consistent policy of the Centre not to interfere in personal laws of the minorities unless initiatives for changes come from communities themselves,” he had said.