The Constitution recognises diversity and plurality among the people of India and therefore, the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), in its present form, is against the idea of India, the Central Nagaland Tribes Council (CNTC) has said in a letter to the 22nd Law Commission, which sought public opinion on the UCC a couple of weeks ago.
The CNTC, representing three of the major tribes of the State — the Ao, Lotha, and Sumi tribes — wrote to the Member-Secretary of the Law Commission, saying that imposing untested laws “alien to the tribal communities will have severe consequences”.
The population of the Ao, Lotha, and Sumi tribes put together comes up to about seven lakh, as per the 2011 Census.
In its July 1 response to the Law Commission’s call for public opinion, the CNTC said, “Nagaland as a tribal State despite unresolved Indo-Naga political issue has so far managed to progress under the Indian Union owing to the diverse and vibrant nature of the country. Different tribes in Nagaland have their own customs, culture and traditions that have been practices for centuries bounded by personal laws without any conflict with one another.”
It added, “Of late, the pitch for ‘uniformity and conformity’ is creating deep insecurity particularly among the ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious minorities that inhabit different parts of the country.”
The CNTC pointed out that Nagaland was protected under Article 371A of the Constitution, which exempts Acts of Parliament from being applicable to it with respect to “religious or social practices of the Nagas, Naga customary law and procedure, administration of civil justice and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law, and ownership of land and its resources”, unless approved by the State legislature.
The apex body for the three tribes also pointed out that this facet was recognised by the 21st Law Commission in its 2018 consultation paper on ‘Reform of Family Law’, which had called the UCC “undesirable and unnecessary”.
“We therefore urge the 22nd Law Commission to uphold the idea of India based on unity in diversity. The constitutional safeguards provided to Nagaland is the umbilical cord that connects Nagaland with the Indian Union and any law that can override these constitutional safeguards will sever the connection that has been painstakingly developed over the last six decades,” the tribes council said.