American based Indians appeal for implementation of Uniform Civil Code, Bill of Rights for Indian Citizens
Washington, Dec 01: Highlighting several shortcomings in laws governing Indian citizens, whose attitudes and aspirations have and are shaped by the Constitution, a three member body has called of the people of India A three member body has come out with a blueprint for a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and a Universal Bill of Rights for the Indian Citizen (UBRIC).
Tufail Ahmad, a British journalist, political commentator of Indian origin, who is the Director of the South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute in Washington, D.C., and two others, namely Satya Prakash and Siddharth Singh have issued a statement in this regard, in their personal capacity.
Maintaining that Article 44 of the Constitution of India clearly states that it shall be “The State’s endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”, the three-member body said that ever since the Constitution came into force on January 26, 1950, no attempt has been made by the Indian government to draft a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) for fear that political parties could lose Muslim votes.
Emphasizing that contemporary India is a totally new society in which 55 percent of its 1.3 billion people are below 25 years of age that is willing to shed ideas about caste and religion inherited from parents and religious leaders and clamouring for a UCC to ensure that equal rights are available to all citizens, irrespective of religious and other identities, they further went on to say that it is time to let go of the past wherein civil society organisations and human rights activists have shied away from advocating a UCC for Indian citizens.
They cautioned that not having a UCC has resulted in the prevailing erroneous belief that the UCC is meant to curb personal laws, especially only of Muslims.
Stating that the UCC was desired by the framers of the Constitution to ensure that basic fundamental rights of citizens, irrespective of their religious and other identities, are protected within a larger human rights framework, the three signatories to the blueprint said that now there is a realisation greater than before that a UCC will protect the constitutional rights of Indian citizens.
They said that since at present no draft UCC exists that could enlighten the people of India regarding the specifics that will constitute such a code; they have come out with a UCC draft within a broader context of a Universal Bill of Rights for the Indian Citizen (UBRIC). This draft UCC, they said is the first-ever attempt to bring specific issues before the public for a wider discussion.
The blueprint has called for the inclusion of twelve clauses:
We the people, whose attitudes and aspirations are shaped by the Constitution, recognising that there are shortcomings in laws, adopt this Universal Bill of Rights for the Indian Citizen, as under:
The fundamental right to education shall be compulsorily available to the citizen till the age of 18. Education shall not mean religious education imparted through institutions of theological nature. A child’s fundamental right to education shall override all other fundamental rights, except right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The fundamental right to religion and beliefs shall be available only to the individual, not to communities and organisations. In disputes involving an individual’s rights, the state or courts shall generally not accept interventions from organisations and groups of religious nature.
Individuals, irrespective of gender, may marry under religious practices but after marriage, disputes involving divorce, joint property, child custody and alimony shall be decided under one law which shall override personal laws. No one can remarry before divorce obtained through a court. Parallel courts run by religious groups shall be deemed a criminal offence.
Parliament, state legislatures and courts shall not make laws or issue orders based on religious scriptures of any community, in keeping with the secular nature of the republic. The Constitution itself shall be the source for such orders and for further legislative improvements.
Citizens – irrespective of gender, religious persuasion or sexual orientation – shall a) inherit equal share in the ancestral/parental property, b) shall have equal right to adoption and will not bring up the adopted child as per their religious beliefs, and c) shall have equal right to succession. No tax benefits shall accrue to the individuals or groups for the reasons of religious and other identities.
The citizen shall have unhindered freedom of thought and speech, which cannot be curtailed by the state for any reason, except when there is imminent danger to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India. The state shall not impose restrictions on books, magazines, movies, newspapers and the like with retrospective effect from January 26, 1950.
Rule of law shall apply equally to every citizen. Government officials using the laws selectively under political or other consideration against some individuals, and not against others, within their jurisdiction shall cease to hold their position from the time such an omission or commission occurs.
No citizen can be held in custody for more than 24 hours, and rarely to a maximum 90 days in serious cases such as terrorism and sedition, without being chargesheeted before a court of law.
The state, through the Election Commission, shall ensure organisational and financial transparency of political parties. Political parties can accept donations only through verifiable, recorded and cashless means of financial transaction. Elections of political parties shall be organised by the Election Commission. Violations shall make them liable to be de-recognized.
A citizen shall be permitted to buy, sell or transfer land throughout the territory of India. Any existing laws that contravene this provision shall be deemed null and void.
All children born throughout the territory of India including Gilgit Baltistan, which being the part of Jammu & Kashmir, shall have an automatic right to be the citizen of India.
Use of words that describe individuals or groups of people in a discriminatory and hateful manner (examples thereof being bhangi, chamar, kafir, munafiq and the like) shall be a criminal offence. Such words could be of religious, caste, regional, gender or other demeaning connotation. It shall be dealt with by one law.
They appealed to the Members of Parliament to enact this Bill as Law in fulfilment of the objectives set out in the Preamble of the Constitution and in particular Article 44.