chapter  6
58 Pages

- The Uniform Civil Code debate: Changing agenda

There is something seriously wrong with the debates about the issue of legal uniformity, which is the subject of the present chapter. We saw in ch. 5. 1 above that the allegedly unlimited potential for universal application of the axioms of modernity has purposely and systematically overlooked cultural specificities, ethnic diversities, religious pluralism, in a sense all kinds of pluralism. There is supposed to be only one good truth, a belief in a bright future in which law (rather than religion) is in control of everything. In this new system, therefore, by implication, lawyers and politicians have untrammelled power over individuals and their lives. This is legal centralism in action, a form of legalised dictatorship which looks wonderful in its idealised modern dressing. However, in a huge country like India with its multiple hybridities, the axioms of legal centralism and of uniformity simply do not work in daily practice, where the diversities and pluralities of 'little people' and of basic human existence re-assert themselves most powerfully all the time. Not surprisingly, this is even recognised by some of the most recent literature on the subject. Thus, it has been reported that Professor S. P. Sathe, who had taken it upon himself to draft a uniform civil code during the 1980s, ended up expressing his reservations about the feasibility of total legal uniformity. Kiran Deshta (1995: 58) writes, partly quoting Professor Sathe:

He stated that in the process of compiling all the provisions of the existing personal laws governing different religious communities, he has run into difficulty in extracting the religious from the nonreligious components of these laws. Professor Sathe opined that the task appears [sic] to be more difficult than I originally thought and all I can anticipate at the moment is that some plurality may have to be provided for even in a uniform civil code.