Between Articles 44 and 51A, can we bridge the gap? Need for a Uniform Civic Code, the other UCC
Ahead of Deepavali, our group housing society had completed a round of whitewashing of the stilt-parking area, and the internal faces of the peripheral walls. This had hidden all the randomly-designed paan-spit marks, accumulated over a few years. Residents must have hoped that the walls stay white for a good while, before a paan-chewer decides that enough is enough, and inaugurates a new round of auspicious-coloured designs on invitingly white walls.
Aren’t you heartily sick of seeing your ‘brothers and sisters’ spit here, piss there, jump queues and signals, throw garbage, pluck flowers, jaywalk on the road, drive on footpaths, tease small creatures, shout news on TV?
Are you entitled to speed up just because your car is more powerful?
Is your time more important than the person awaiting medical care in an ambulance?
Is it mere colour-coded artwork that the police have painted on roads and at traffic junctions?
Article 44 of the Directive Principles in India sets the implementation of the ‘Uniform Civil Code’ as duty of the State. The Wiki page on the Uniform Civil Code reads – “Uniform civil code in India is the debate to replace the personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in the country with a common set governing every citizen. These laws are distinguished from public law and cover marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance.”
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam has been the only decent and recent proponent of the Uniform Civil Code. In 65 years, we have had hardly a few statesmen at the helm. Instead we have been having plenty of people who are “smugly sure that their own religion is the finest in existence”, and therefore this UCC has remained elusive.
I admit that I am an ardent citizen hoping for this UCC to fructify, or for at least an informed, intelligent, sober debate on the issue. However I also feel that India needs a far more urgent look at implementing another UCC: a Uniform Civic Code, an as yet unwritten set of civic rules applicable to every citizen of India, irrespective of caste, creed, colour, gender, religion, community, educational qualifications, bank balance, VIP status, number of horns, marital status, security status, geographic location, historical ignorance levels, IQ, EQ, parentage, idiosyncrasies, political affiliations... even past misdemeanours.
In fact they are written down clearly; Article 51A of the Constitution lists eleven duties, reproduced here for the purpose of triggering forgotten high school lessons -
(a) to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem;
(b) to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;
(c) to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;
(d) to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;
(e) to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;
(f) to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;
(g) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures;
(h) to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;
(i) to safeguard public property and to abjure violence;
(j) to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement;
(k) (who is parent or guardian) to provide opportunities for education to his child, or as the case may be, ward between the age of six and fourteen years.
These duties are truly high ideals for citizens to follow, similar to the Directive Principles of State Policy that imply some high ideals to be followed by the state.no citizen can be punished by a court for violation of these fundamental duties.
Are these fundamental duties merely a list of churchy clichés? Unfortunately, they are just that - unless constitutional amendments give the duties higher status. Thereafter we can expect citizens’ adherence because they can be enforced, and courts will be able to take cognizance of violations and award penalties and punishments. Till then, citizen self-regulation, like media self-regulation, will remain a myth.
When will these amendments become an enforceable part of the Constitution of India?