Readers Write In #517: The Impossibility of A Uniform Civil Code

Posted on October 21, 2022


By ​Aman Basha

Thoughts on the discussion about the Impossibility of Indo-Islamic Reform

A few days earlier, I had written about what I perceived as the Impossibility of Indo Islamic Reform and tried to draw ideas for the ideal medium of reform taking the life and work of Hamid Dalwai as a counter example. The responses and replies received were not only encouraging, but highly illuminating for me as well. This post here can only serve as the natural continuation and conclusion of the former. 

I would firstly like to thank the wonderful commenter who introduced me to the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan and Zakia Soman. In an act of laziness, I essentially took the liberty of taking a great deal of the points discussed and presenting the same while adding a few questions of my own. The conversation, split into two parts, is placed below:

Indo Islamic Culture: Its History, Challenges and Solutions with Zakia Soman

The most interesting and surprising part for many would be that the BMMA is interested in seeing a Codified Muslim Personal Law come in place of the Shariat Act for Muslim citizens of India. To develop such a law requires resources and time but this would be a herculean task that requires large-scale backing of scholars, civil society members and ordinary Muslims against the current Islamic establishment that would react with its full strength and power.

A lot of these debates and discussions could be rendered meaningless if the Government in its wisdom decides to implement the Uniform Civil Code (made polarizing and an emotive issue by the Government itself). Yet the Government, that chose to buck the international glare after declaring 370 null and void, seems to have forgotten the much needed implementation of a Uniform Civil Code to end decades of partial treatment of an individual just because he belongs to a particular faith. 

But that may well be precisely the reason why the UCC will not be implemented by the present Government, because they wish for these different standards to exist for different religions and ensure the continuity of the unique tax break that exists for someone who declares himself a Hindu in the form of the HUF.

The Impossibility of the Uniform Civil Code and more With Zakia Soman

The HUF is something many must have heard of, this is a small explainer of how it works. Originally introduced by Dr Rajendra Prasad for Hindu joint families, the HUF consists of a common ancestor and his lineal male descendants and their families while being optional for the daughter. The HUF is treated as a separate tax entity and is taxed at individual tax rates. To put it simply, the Income Tax Department in 2016 estimated that the total tax payable for assets under the HUF is less than 10% and without the HUF shield, would immediately go up to 30%. The HUFs formed are increasing and well over 10 lakh, while joint families are continuously breaking down. 

In numbers, the HUF saves Hindu families as well as Sikh, Jain and Buddhist families nearly 8500 crores (circa 2016) in potential taxation while depriving families of other religions this advantage. It is not surprising that most political dynasties like the Badals have their assets under the HUF.

What would also not be surprising is the breakdown and socio-economic backdrop of these HUF assesses. It is self explanatory why leave the BJP, no party worth its salt is committing to true secularism by abolishing this inherently biased tax system. Like anywhere else, Deep Throat’s “Follow the Money” always brings the receipts. The financial advantage gamed into the system is an effective shield that no UCC can be allowed to penetrate. This leaves one with the most surprising reaction of all: the Sangh Parivar is right, India was never a secular state. But what happened to trying to be one?