The State has a “duty” to implement a Uniform Civil Code in the country, but since the matter is sensitive and requires an in-depth study it has been sent to the Law Commission for recommendations, the government today informed the Rajya Sabha. The government’s written response came on questions asked by Vishambhar Nishad (SP), Prabhat Jha (BJP), Shantaram Naik (Congress) and D Raja (CPI). Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was to respond orally but due to a din in the House by lawmakers seeking action against AAP MP Bhagwant Mann for allegedly compromising the security of the Parliament by videographing the complex and putting it on social media, the Question Hour could not take place. In their written response, Prasad and his junior minister P P Chaudhary gave almost identical replies.
“Article 44 of the Directive Principles of the Constitution sets implementation of the Uniform Civil Code as duty of the state…” Chaudhary said. “Having regard to the importance of the subject matter and sensitivity involved, and requiring in-depth study of the provisions of various personal laws governing different communities, the same has been referred to the Law Commission for a detailed examination of various issues relating to the Uniform Civil Code and to make recommendations thereof,” he added. Prasad, instead of mentioning the implementation of a common code as the “duty of the State”, said Article 44 “provides that states shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India.”
On July 6, when Prasad took over as law minister, he had said the government’s decision to refer the issue of implementation of a uniform code to the Law Commission should not be linked to the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh due next year. The move assumes significance as the Supreme Court recently said it would prefer a public debate before taking a decision on the constitutional validity of ‘triple talaq’, which many complain is abused by Muslim men to arbitrarily divorce their wives. Implementation of a Uniform Civil Code is one of the core issues for the BJP and the wider Sangh Parivar but the NDA governments in 1989 and 1999 and the current Narendra Modi dispensation have put the contentious issues like scrapping of Article 370 and construction of Ram temple on the back burner.