Plurality and Uniformity in Uniform Civil Code

 Plurality and Uniformity in Uniform Civil Code


Dealing with a batch of petitions regarding an interfaith marriage undertaken by the petitioners seeking protection from the Court, the Allahabad High Court asked the Central Government to implement the mandate of Article 44 in the Constitution of India which is the Uniform Civil Code. The Bench headed by Justice Suneet Kumar noted that the issue of UCC, even though Constitutional, always takes a political turn whenever it is discussed in the public domain, and its implementation is demanded due to multiple laws regarding marriage and family.

What is the Uniform Civil Code?

The UCC is a uniform civil code that aims at replacing the personal laws that are based on the customs and religious texts of each religious community which has a common law governing every citizen.

Why does India need Uniform Civil Code? (Pros)

·       Nature of India: India is a secular country that needs a common and unified law for all citizens rather than different rules based on their religions.

·       Gender Parity: The rights of women and men are not equal and are restricted by religious law, irrespective of whether them being Hindu or Muslim. For example, in Triple talaq, priority is given to men regarding succession and inheritance.

·       Uphold rights: Many practices that are administered under religious tradition are opposed to the fundamental rights given by the Indian constitution.

·       Judicial orders: Courts have also recommended that the government should introduce a Uniform Civil Code in some cases like the Shah Bano case.

·       Constitutional mandate: The constitution of India has incorporated a provision for the Uniform Civil Code in Article 44 as a Directive Principle of State Policy (DPSP) which states that “The State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”. But DPSP should be voluntary and cannot be enforced by the court. However, the government can enforce UCC by passing it as a law.

·       National Integration: UCC would make “One Nation, One Law” come true. India believes in one nation and secularism so no community should govern under separate religious laws. With UCC, it’ll promote national integration.

·       Young people's aspirations:55% of India’s population includes people who are below 25% years of age. Young people’s social attitudes and aspirations are based on humanity, equality, and modernity. To encourage them in nation-building, their attitudes and aspirations should be respected.

Why is it not feasible in India? (Cons)

·       Practical difficulties: India is a diverse country with different religions, ethnicities, castes, etc. Thus, it is not practically feasible to come up with one set of rules for personal problems like marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc. It will also be difficult to convince different communities to replace their age-old customs and traditions with a new law.

·       Violation of religious freedom: Religious minorities consider UCC as a violation of their rights to religious freedom. They fear that their traditions and religious practices will be replaced by the rules and orders of the majority religion.

·       The state should stay out of personal matters: The constitution gives the right to freedom of religion to every individual. If UCC is introduced would be in violation of that right.

·       Sensitive and difficult task: UCC in its true form should be created by borrowing from various communities’ personal laws and making changes gradually in each, issuing a judicial decree, assuring gender equality, and implementing extensive interpretations on marriage, maintenance, adoption, and succession. These can be daunting for people resource-wise. Moreover, the government should be sympathetic and unbiased at each stage when dealing with both majority and minority communities. Otherwise, there might be communal clashes.

·       Time is not right yet: There have been many controversies over the beef ban, saffronization of the curriculum in school and college, love jihad, etc. At this time, if UCC is introduced it would only make things worse making Muslims more insecure and they will be more vulnerable to getting attracted to fundamentalist and extremist ideologies.

Law Commission’s recommendations

·       The commission suggests taking initiatives to unify the country’s diversity on the basic universal human rights.

·       It recommended the systematization of all personal laws:

o   So that the preconceptions and stereotypes in all religions can be exposed.

o   They can sooner or later be tested against the anvil of the fundamental rights given by the constitution.

o   It could help implement certain universal principles.

o   These may help in prioritizing equality instead of implementing UCC.

·       Uniform Civil Code may discourage many from using and abiding by the law altogether. In particular, it is true when you consider the fact that matters pertaining to marriage and divorce can be settled extra-judicially as well. So, the commission suggested certain amendments to the personal laws relating to marriage and divorce.

o   Making the marriageable age for boys and girls at 18 years so that they have equal rights.

o   Making adultery a ground for divorce for both men and women.

o,   Make a simpler divorce procedure.

o   It recommended making polygamy a criminal offense and making it applicable to all communities.

What is the way forward?                

·       UCC can only be successful through an evolutionary process. Hence sensitizing is required to reform recent personal laws which should be first implemented by the communities themselves.

·       Existing institutions should be modern, run on the basis of democracy, and should be strengthened for this change to happen.

·       Serious efforts in the direction of women empowerment have to be taken for all women of every community and religion.

·       The plural democracy is what modern India is known by. Hence the initiatives should be focused on bringing harmony in plurality, rather than introducing uniformity for flourishing Indian democracy.

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