Simultaneous elections and a nationwide Uniform Civil Code will be implemented within the next five years if the Bharatiya Janata Party retains power in the Lok Sabha polls, Union home minister Amit Shah told PTI on Sunday.

In an interview with the news agency, Shah said: “The Uniform Civil Code is a responsibility left to us, our Parliament and the state legislatures of our country since independence by the makers of our Constitution.”

“The guiding principles decided for us by the Constituent Assembly include the Uniform Civil Code,” said the minister. “And even at that time, legal scholars like KM Munshi, Rajendra Babu, Ambedkar Ji had said that there should not be laws based on religion in a secular country. There should be a Uniform Civil Code.”

The Uniform Civil Code, an ideological plank of the ruling BJP, is a proposed common set of laws governing marriage, divorce, succession and adoption for all citizens. Currently, such personal affairs of different religious and tribal groups – except in Uttarakhand and Goa – are based on community-specific laws, largely derived from religious scripture.

The BJP-ruled Uttarakhand implemented the Uniform Civil Code in February. However, it has been criticised for drawing largely from the Hindu personal law. Legal experts have said that the code could lead to the erasure of the personal law practices of minority communities.

Shah told PTI that the code’s implementation in Uttarakhand was an “experiment”.

“I believe that the Uniform Civil Code is a huge social, legal, and religious reform,” said Shah. “The law made by the Uttarakhand government should undergo social and legal scrutiny. Religious leaders should also be consulted.”

Shah said that there should be an extensive debate about the Uniform Civil Code model implemented in Uttarakhand to identify if there are changes required.

“Because someone will definitely go to court,” Shah told PTI. “The judiciary’s opinion will also come. After that, the state legislatures and Parliament of the country should think seriously over this and a law must be enacted.”

The minister also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government will implement “one nation, one election” in the next term.

The BJP has been pushing for simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and the state Assemblies on the grounds that holding elections every year is a burden on the government, businesses, courts, political parties, candidates contesting elections, and civil society at large.

In September, the Centre set up a committee to look into the feasibility of implementing simultaneous elections in India.

“The Prime Minister had formed the Ram Nath Kovind committee,” he told PTI. “I was also a member of it. Its report has been submitted. The time has come that elections should be held simultaneously in the country.”

The report, submitted in March, said that there is a need to bring back the cycle of simultaneous elections as had been held during the initial decades after Independence.

The Opposition parties have criticised the government, saying that it has acted unilaterally in taking steps to implement the “one nation, one election” plan. The Congress had said that the proposal goes against the basic structure of the Constitution. The proposal is based on the idea that the entire country is “one but this contradicts Article 1, which envisages India as a ‘Union of States’.”

Besides the Opposition, northeasters states like Nagaland and Mizoram have opposed the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code.

In September, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had said that the state should be exempted from a Uniform Civil Code on account of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act. The law grants judicial, executive and legislative powers to Nagaland, as well as autonomy in land-related matters.

In July, the Mizo National Front had also threatened to sever its coalition ties with the BJP if a Uniform Civil Code is imposed in Mizoram.

Plans to implement a Uniform Civil Code across India and hold simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies are also part of the BJP’s manifesto for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

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