Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Sunday said those opposing the Uniform Civil Code have no confidence in the Indian Constitution. He said the proposal should be implemented as soon as possible as it is not to ensure uniformity of practice but to ensure uniformity of justice.
The widely-debated Uniform Civil Code (UCC) proposes a common law for every citizen, irrespective of religion, caste, creed, sexual orientation and gender. Discussions over its implementation have taken centre-stage yet again, while political parties opposing it have said the BJP-led central government is using it as a political trump card.
In an exclusive interview to CNN-News18Khan spoke about his views on the issue. Excerpts from the interview:
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the Uniform Civil Code, there has been a lot of debate and opposition to it. What are your views?
My view on the UCC is the view of the Constitution. As far as the principle of having a common code across the country goes, how can anyone oppose it? If you are opposing it, you are showing that you have no confidence in the Constitution.
Opposition parties are saying the BJP is using the UCC as a political card to create a communal divide in the country and garner votes.
Who is playing the game? At least till the 1990s, Left parties in the country were advocating for the enactment of a uniform civil code. The party, which has ferociously advocated for the implementation of the UCC, suddenly wants to change its position and is criticising it now. So, who is taking a political position?
Do you think ordinary Muslims are opposing the UCC?
When Muslim kings were ruling Delhi, they did not enact a Muslim law; it was the British who did so. Right from the time the British came here, they asserted that India was not a nation but a conglomeration of communities. I don’t think there is much confusion among common Muslims.
There is no draft for the UCC that has been formulated so far, but even before that, we have leaders like (AIMIM’s Asaduddin) Owaisi saying the BJP wants to bring in the Hindu code of law and not the UCC. Do you think there is a lot of distrust among the Muslim minority when the BJP speaks about the UCC?
I only feel that there are vested political interests, who wear religion on their sleeve, so that they can mobilise constituents in its name. Hence, they want this distinctiveness, this exclusivity to continue. Muslim women were happy about triple talaq being banned. As a father or brother, would you want polygamy for your daughter or sister?
In Kerala, the Indian Union Muslim League has already said it will oppose the UCC politically as well as legally.
If Muslim personal law is so integral to the practise of Islam, why don’t Muslims take a stand and issue a fatwa that no one from the community should live in countries where this law is not implemented? Why does everyone want to run to the US or Europe then, where there are no personal laws? Muslims can live as Muslims in the US and UK or in Pakistan without personal law but India is the only exception where they cannot if personal law is not there.
Criticism against the UCC is that India is a country with different cultures and practices and it is not possible to have a “one country, one rule” policy.
Has the Hindu code, which is in respect of four communities, been able to create uniformity? It is not the objective of the law to create uniformity of customs, or uniformity of solemnisation of marriage. The propaganda that is being spread against the UCC is that if it comes into effect, Muslim marriage cannot be solemnised through nikah. This law is concerned with uniformity of justice. We don’t want people to follow the same customs or rituals. India, which is aspiring to be a world power, should have uniformity in justice. I want the same justice for the same issue, irrespective of religion.
Do you think the Centre should hold discussions with opposition parties to reach a broad consensus before going ahead with this?
I think it’s too late. My question is, why not earlier? Why are we wasting time? Half of our population is affected, their lives adversely impacted. The UCC should be implemented as early as possible.
The Kerala CM (P Vijayan) has said rather than imposing the UCC, efforts should be made to reform and amend discriminatory practices within the personal laws.
I wish he had said the same thing to EMS Namboodiripad.
The Tamil Nadu governor has written a letter to CM (MK) Stalin to remove V Senthil Balaji as minister. How do you see this? Do you think governors should be more cautious?
I am not aware of the circumstances but I firmly believe in one thing: all those in public life should be “above all suspicion”. In this case, there is not only suspicion but the arrest recorded. Are we not going to uphold any standards in public life? For me, that is the more important question. The technicality of the decision, the governor has put it on hold. I am not going to comment on it. He is the one who can speak on it.
Is it constitutionally and legally right on the part of the governor to do this?
The Tamil Nadu governor has written to the state government. He has put it on hold; maybe in his mind, he only wanted the public to be aware of this. Maybe real dismissal was not on his mind but he wanted the public to discuss this.
Will we see you back in electoral politics in 2024?
If left to me, I won’t return to electoral politics. I would like to be with my books and resume my writing.