Nagaland thus became the third Assembly to pass a resolution against the UCC, which would provide for one law for the entire country, applicable to all religious communities in their personal matters, including marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption. Several states have indicated their intent to press ahead with the UCC.
The proposal for a UCC has got a push since Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke in favour of it at a rally in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh. “Today people are being instigated in the name of UCC. How can the country be run on two (laws)? The Constitution also talks of equal rights… The Supreme Court has also asked to implement UCC,” he said.
In July, a Parliamentary Standing Committee met to discuss the implementation of the UCC.
Assemblies against UCC
Though Nagaland’s Assembly is led by the NDA coalition, its 12 BJP legislators voted against implementing the UCC in the state. With more than 86% of the population belonging to Scheduled Tribe communities, the widespread pushback from tribal bodies across the state put pressure on the government. The resolution states the UCC would pose a threat to Naga customary laws and social and religious practices “that will be in danger of encroachment in the event of imposition of UCC”.
In June, the Nagaland government had conveyed its opposition to the UCC “on the ground of the unique history of Nagaland since the pre-Independence era” to the 22nd Law Commission, which had invited suggestions regarding the UCC.
In August, Kerala’s Left Democratic Front government, led by the CPI(M), had unanimously passed a resolution against the UCC, backed by the Opposition Congress-led United Democratic front. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the Centre’s “unilateral and hasty move to impose UCC … without engaging in democratic debate or seeking consensus poses a significant threat to the unity of our nation.”
In February, Mizoram became the first state Assembly to pass a resolution against the UCC. The resolution moved by the Mizo National Front (MNF)-led government was passed unanimously, and said the UCC would “disintegrate the country as it was an attempt to terminate the religious or social practices, customary laws, cultures and traditions of the religious minorities, including the Mizos”. The MNF is a member of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), the regional version of the NDA.
In Meghalaya, another state with a large tribal population, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma has expressed scepticism on the UCC. Though his National People’s Party is a BJP ally, he said in January: “The whole concept of UCC… if it is going to be uniform, it means it is going to be strictly uniform. They may change the cultural practices of the statement of Meghalaya, and that obviously is something that we, as a state, as a party, cannot accept.”
In Tamil Nadu, while the ruling DMK has said it won’t implement the UCC, its rival AIADMK, a BJP ally, has also expressed apprehensions over the code, saying it would “alienate minorities.”
In Karnataka, ahead of the Assembly polls this year, the BJP pledged to implement the UCC. But the state’s new CM, Siddaramaiah, called it an “unnecessary controversy” and said he would only consider implementation after a draft is published.
BJP-led states push for UCC
Following through on its poll promise last year, the BJP in Uttarakhand set up a committee of experts in May to form a Uniform Civil Code draft for Uttarakhand. During the election campaign, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami had said Uttarakhand would be the first state to implement the UCC. Over the past year, the committee has held at least 38 public meetings and received more than 2.5 lakh suggestions and comments. As per a report in The Indian Express around 70 percent of the letters were in favour of the UCC.
Last April, Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma said he supports the UCC and the UP government said it was planning to implement the code.
Late last year, the BJP-led governments in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana also announced they would implement the UCC. In Gujarat, the BJP said it would set up a committee during its campaign for the Assembly polls, though no deadline was set for its final report. In Himachal too, the UCC was part of the BJP’s poll manifesto, but the party lost the Assembly elections to the Congress. During the campaigning in these states, the BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh and Haryana had also said committees would be set up to study the code.
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