By Ajay Justin Odathekal
“The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India” reads Article 44 of the Constitution of India, which forms part of the Directive Principles of State Policy. Why is this Article part of the Directive Principles, one may wonder, especially considering that Directive Principles are non-justiciable, i.e. not enforceable in court. To answer that question, one has to go back in time and look at the lofty principles that were at work when Directive Principles were formulated. At about the time when the Constitution was being formalised, India was in a nascent phase of its democracy – ‘roti, kapda and makaan’ (food, clothing and shelter) were the prime concerns – a Welfare State was still a distant dream, with a very grim present standing in the way. The need of the hour was to ensure basic human rights – but the framers of the constitution could not leave their work at it, no, they had a dream for India, and that dream saw India become a Welfare State.
In order to pave the way for that dream to be realised, the framers of our Constitution developed the Directive Principles, borrowing the idea from Directive Principles of Social Policy as laid down in Article 45 of the Constitution of Ireland. The idea was to implement these Directive Principles once the country had matured to such a level that it could strive to become a Welfare State. So, the recent debate on Uniform Civil Code should essentially be premised on the question – Are we mature enough to implement this Directive Principle?