Gujarat govt’s big move for Uniform Civil Code ahead of assembly polls
The Gujarat state cabinet chaired by chief minister Bhupendra Patel on Saturday cleared a proposal to constitute a committee to implement the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the state
Ahead of assembly elections in the state, the Gujarat cabinet on Saturday announced setting up of a committee to study the modalities of implementing the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). With this, Gujarat is the third Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state after Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand to announce such a move.
“This is a historic decision by chief minister Bhupendra Patel. Our government has honoured the wishes of common people as well as BJP workers who want to have such a code in place,” Gujarat home minister Harsh Sanghavi told reporters.
Sanghavi said the decision was taken as per the provisions of Article 44 of Part 4 of the Constitution which expects the state government to apply common law for all citizens.
“The committee will be headed by a retired high court judge and have three to four members. CM Patel has been given powers by the cabinet to select members of the committee,” he added.
The state cabinet cleared the proposal during a meeting, considered the last meeting of the Patel-led cabinet as the schedule for the state elections is expected to be announced next week.
Speaking about the UCC panel, chief minister Bhupendra Patel said: “An important decision has been taken today in state cabinet meeting to form a high-level committee under the chairmanship of a retired Supreme Court/HC judge to examine the need for a Uniform Civil Code in the state and prepare a draft for this code.”
Union minister Parshottam Rupala, who jointly addressed the reporters with Sanghavi, said that the proposed UCC will not violate the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution. The Hindu Marriage Act and Muslim personal laws will be covered under the UCC as these laws are not part of the Constitution, he added.
“We do not intend to override the fundamental rights of the people. UCC is about resolving discrepancies which arise in civil disputes, such as wife or daughter’s claim on husband or father’s property. We had received many representations from people about such issues,” said Rupala.
No deadline has been set for the committee to submit its report as of now, he said.
The UCC is a proposal to formulate and implement personal laws of the citizens which will be applicable to every Indian irrespective of caste, religion and sexual orientation. The proposal has been a major election issue for the BJP.
In its 2019 Lok Sabha poll manifesto, too, the party had promised to implement the UCC if it was voted to power. Several Opposition parties and experts have, however, called the move as being “anti-minority”.
In May this year, the Uttarakhand government had announced its decision to implement UCC in the state. The same month, Himachal Pradesh chief minister Jairam Thakur also announced that UCC would be brought into the state soon. Goa is the only state in India that has Uniform Civil Code.
Many political leaders have backed the UCC, saying that it will bring equality to the country. However, some parties, including the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and All India United Democratic Front, have termed it “an unconstitutional and anti-minorities move”.
On October 18, the Narendra Modi government told the Supreme Court that the UCC is desirable but it is for the Parliament to legislate one. The government said the personal laws based on religion are “affront to the nation’s unity”.
It added that the UCC will ensure the integration of India by bringing different communities on a common platform, but maintained it is only for elected representatives and the legislature to take a decision whether the country should have a UCC, and no court can issue directives to Parliament to frame a specific statute.
Reacting to the Gujarat government’s announcement, the Congress called the move a “gimmick” ahead of assembly elections.
“This gimmick is aimed at misleading the public who are suffering due to inflation and joblessness and a host of other problems because of the failure of the government. The power to implement the Uniform Civil Code lies with the Centre. Personal laws were passed by Parliament, and the Gujarat Assembly does not have the power to make this law,” senior Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia said.
“The BJP has been in power in Gujarat for the last 27 years and it has been in power at the Centre for eight years. Now that the Assembly elections are round the corner, the decision regarding the Uniform Civil Code does not make sense,” he added.