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'Not in the Interest of the Nation': Akali Dal Writes to Law Commission on Uniform Civil Code

The party argued that a uniform civil code will have an adverse impact on the 'diverse customs, culture, and different personal laws', and it becomes 'all the more important as peace and communal harmony in the sensitive border state of Punjab must always remain a national priority".

New Delhi: The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), in its official response to the Law Commission, has said that a Uniform Civil Code is “not in the interest of the nation”, and urged the Union government to ensure that the sentiments of the Sikh community are “respected” while taking a call on the contentious matter.

“As far as the Sikh community is concerned, the question of their religious identity, which includes their customs and culture, is more important to them than life itself. The younger Sahibzadas of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji preferred martyrdom to life in order to demonstrate that for the Sikhs, the Khalsa identity supersedes even life,” the party conveyed to the Law Commission.

It noted its opinion is based on wide consultations it had held with stakeholders in the state of Punjab and outside. “The widespread impression we gathered is that a UCC if implemented will definitely affect the freedom of minority communities of different caste, creed and religions,” it said, according to Indian Express.

The party argued that a uniform civil code will have an adverse impact on the “diverse customs, culture, and different personal laws” of various communities in the country. “It will thus unnecessarily cause disturbance & unrest in the country, especially in certain, the North Eastern states which enjoy special exemptions from certain laws under Article 371 of the constitution,” it said.

Describing Punjabis as the “most patriotic community”, SAD said their sentiments should be respected while taking a call on the matter. “It will be worth mentioning that Punjabis in general, and the Sikhs in particular, have made supreme sacrifices for securing and safeguarding the freedom of the country. This tradition of sacrifices continues even today,” it added.

The party said it becomes “all the more important as peace and communal harmony in the sensitive border state of Punjab must always remain a national priority”.

Once an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the SAD sought to know from the Union government what was the need to call for a fresh exercise given that the 21st Law Commission had said that UCC was “neither necessary nor desirable at this stage” in August 2018.

“Nothing significant has taken place after 2018 to compel the GOI to seek the views of stakeholders afresh. The previous commission had completed the exercise and submitted a detailed consultation paper on the issue in 2018. Now without considering this report, a fresh exercise has been started which appears unjustified,” the party said.

Even after the 21st Law Commission of India in August 2018 made it clear that a uniform civil code (UCC), the 22nd Law Commission on June 14 issued a fresh notification to elicit views from various stakeholders – including public and religious organisations – on the matter. As of July 10 evening, the Law Commission received 46 lakh responses on the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). The deadline for sending views on the matter to the Commission ended on Friday, July 14.

Demanding a concrete draft from the Union government, the party said, “No draft has been prepared…Without the relevant draft, it is impossible to make any tangible suggestions on the issue.”

The SAD, an opposition party in Punjab, has also been critical of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party, which has made contradictory statements on UCC.  While AAP Rajya Sabha MP, Sandeep Pathak, had said recently that his party “in principle” supported a UCC, AAP leader and Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann slammed the Narendra Modi government for allegedly raising religious issues for electoral gain. AAP’s “double-speak on the sensitive issue” has been slammed by SAD.

“The Punjab CM @BhagwantMann should now tell AAP Convener @ArvindKejriwal to clearly spell out (the) party’s stand on UCC & end AAP’s doublespeak on this sensitive issue. It is shocking that AAP wants to vote in favour of UCC in Rajya Sabha even as Bhagwant Mann is befooling Punjabis by asserting that party is against it in Punjab,” Akali Dal leader Daljit S Cheema had tweeted along with a video statement.

Sikhs account for 60% of Punjab’s population. Several Sikh leaders and organisations have been accusing the BJP for long that it is trying to “distort” the Sikh history and culture as part of a larger Hindutva push.

Last year, the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which controls gurdwaras in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, had also issued a statement against a Uniform Civil Code. The statement said a UCC goes against the interest of the country. The SGPC is dominated by Akali Dal members, who are on a collision course with Mann’s government in Punjab. They sense a political opportunity in the form of UCC and how AAP responds to the issue.