On December 2, 1948, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, seen as one of the architects of the Constitution, defended the state’s endeavour to put in place a uniform civil code in future by including it among the Directive Principles of State Policy.
But this couldn’t be done by force, he told the Constituent Assembly, adding that it would be “mad” to introduce it by “provoking Muslims.” This was days after he had suggested, on November 23, 1948, that the future Parliament could — for a start — extend it to those who voluntarily agreed to be bound by it.
In the last few days, there has been a debate in Parliament on Ambedkar and the Constitution, and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had wondered in his address how MPs today would have reacted had Ambedkar stood before them to introduce the clause.
“I personally do not understand why religion should be given this vast, expansive jurisdiction so as to cover the whole of life and to prevent the legislature from encroaching upon that field. After all, what are we having this liberty for?” Ambedkar told the Constituent Assembly.
“We are having this liberty in order to reform our social system, which is so full of inequities, so full of inequalities, discriminations and other things, which conflict with our fundamental rights.”
He, however, added that the provision wasn’t an “obligation” on the state to introduce a common civil code but just gave the state the power to move towards it. “No one need be apprehensive… that if the state has the power, the state will immediately proceed to execute… that power in a manner that may be found to be objectionable by the Muslims or by the Christians or by any other community…,” he said.
“No government can exercise its power in such a manner as to provoke the Muslim community to rise in rebellion. I think it would be a mad government if it did so.”
On November 23, 1948, he disagreed with an amendment suggested by some Muslim members that nothing in the provision should affect the personal law of citizens. He, however, suggested that a possible shift to a common civil code could be voluntary for a beginning, meaning only those agreeing to be bound by it be brought under it.
“It does not say that after the Code is framed the State shall enforce it upon all citizens merely because they are citizens. It is perfectly possible that the future Parliament may make a provision by way of making a beginning that the Code shall apply only to those who make a declaration that they are prepared to be bound by it, so that in the initial stage the application of the Code may be purely voluntary,” Ambedkar said.