The NDA government’s decision of making the Law Commission look into the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code has got a strong response from all corners. The Opposition has called the move a ploy to polarise the electorate before the Uttar Pradesh elections, while others have claimed that a UCC will disturb the “secular” fabric of the country. The responses from Christian community on this are positive but not without caution.
“All discussions on the uniform civil code must be within the purview of the freedom of religion ensured by the great Constitution of India,” says a statement released by the Office of Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).
The secretary general of the CBCI, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas told The Sunday Guardian something similar: “The secular nature of the Indian Constitution is to be respected and laws should be added or removed always taking care of this aspect. Secondly, the widest of consultations should be held on this issue before any changes are made.”
The bishop also added that Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s statement that the government would move forward with UCC only through consensus was reassuring.
His other major concern was that through all the steps of the procedure the government should keep in mind not to hurt anyone’s religious sensibilities.
However, Bishop Mascarenhas also raised questions as to the purpose of the UCC. “If we want to do something we must ask if there is really a need to do it. We have laws governing everything, so unnecessarily feathers need not be ruffled,” he said.
“Our basic requirement, that what the president of the CBCI has said is that the secular fabric of our country should remain safe,” he added.
The bishop of the Delhi diocese of Orthodox Church of India, Dr Yuhanon Mar Demetrios, expressed his personal opinion about the UCC, when asked: “As the Orthodox Church has not defined their particular stand on the UCC, I can only tell you what my personal opinion is. As long as the UCC envisages the concerns of all the minorities of our country it will be all right. Often times when we try to bring in a generalised civil code, concerns of some minorities can be overlooked; as long as that doesn’t happen it will be ok.”
“Right now, there is a set of Christian laws but everyone conforms to the principles of the Indian Constitution too. And anyway the Orthodox Church has never really had any principle clash with Indian law. So we do not see any major problem in this situation,” he added.
On being asked if the church feared any loss of authority with their followers, he said, “It is still early to say anything like that. But not really, I don’t think so.”
On the other hand, Bishop Mascarenhas said that “One does not lose one’s moral authority among followers. The rest we will have to wait and see.”