Uniform Civil Code

 Uniform Civil Code


Why is it in News?

Lately, the Ministry of Law and Justice stated in response to a PIL filed in 2019 that the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), a directive principle under the Constitution (Article 44), is a matter of public policy and Court cannot issue any directive.

·       The Centre has requested the Law Commission of India (21st) to examine the various aspects and issues related to UCC and to make recommendations thereof.

Key Points

·       About:

1.     UCC will give one law for the entire country, which will apply to all religious communities concerning their personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption, etc.

2.     Article 44 of the Constitution states that the state shall endeavor to secure a UCC for the citizens throughout the territory of India.

o   Article 44 in the Indian constitution is one of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP).

o   DPSP as defined in Article 37, cannot be enforced by any court but the principles laid down are central to governance.

·       Status of Uniform Codes in India:

1.     In civil matters Indian laws do follow a uniform code such as the Indian Contract Act 1872, Civil Procedure Code, Transfer of Property Act 1882, Partnership Act 1932, Evidence Act, 1872, etc.

2.     States, however, over time have amended these laws and, therefore, in certain civil matters, there is diversity under these secular civil laws.

o   For example, several states have refused to be governed by the uniform Motor Vehicles Act, of 2019.

·       Background:

1)     The origin of the UCC goes back to colonial India when the British government submitted its report in 1835 and stressed uniformity in the codification of Indian law related to crimes, evidence, and contracts, especially recommending that personal laws pertaining to Hindus and Muslims be kept outside such codification.

2)     As the British government was dealing with increased legislation and personal issues in the far, it forced the government to create the B N Rau Committee to craft Hindu law in 1941.

3)     On the basis of the committee’s recommendations, a bill was adopted in 1956 as the Hindu Succession Act to modify and codify the law relating to unwilled succession, among Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs.

o   But there were distinct personal laws for Muslims, Christian, and Parsis.

4)     In order to bring uniformity to the laws, the courts have often suggested in their judgments that the government should make a move to implement UCC.

o   The judgment in the Shah Bano case (1985) is popular.

o   Another case that was popular is the Sarla Mudgal Case (1995), which dealt with the issue of polygamy and the conflict between the personal laws which exist on matters of marriage.

5)     By arguing that practices such as triple talaq and polygamy adversely affects affect a woman’s right to a life of dignity, the Centre has raised the question of whether legal protection given to religious practices should be extended even to those that are not within fundamental rights.

·       Implications of Uniform Civil Code on Personal Laws:

o   Protection to Vulnerable Communities of Society:

ü  The UCC's purpose is to provide protection to vulnerable sections as thought by Dr. B R Ambedkar which includes women and religious minorities, while also encouraging nationalistic fervor through unity.

o   Simplifying the Laws:

ü  The code also aims at simplifying the complex laws around marriage, inheritance, succession, and adoptions making them one for all. The same civil law will then apply to all citizens irrespective of their religion.

o   Following to Idea of Secularism:

ü  Secularism is the objective written in the Preamble; a secular country needs one law for all citizens rather than distinguished rules based on religious practices.

o   Gender Equality:

ü  If a UCC is imposed, all personal laws will diminish. Gender biases will go away that is in existing laws.

·       Challenges:

o   Exceptions in Central Family Laws:

ü  The primary sections in all central family law Acts implemented by the government since Independence declare that they are applicable to “the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir state.”

ü  A Second exception was added in 1968 by the government in the central family Acts, saying that “nothing herein contained shall apply to the Renoncants of Pondicherry.”

ü  A third exception is that none of these Acts applies in Goa, Daman, and Diu as well.

ü  A fourth exception which is related to the north-eastern states of Nagaland and Mizoram, comes from Articles 371A and 371G of the Constitution, announcing that no government legislation will replace the customary law and religion-based system for its administration.

·       Communal Politics:

o   The petition for a uniform civil code has been outlined in the context of communal politics.

o   A huge section of society sees it as majoritarianism under the facade of social reform.

·       Constitutional Hurdle:

o   Article 25 of the Indian constitution, which preserves the freedom to practice and spread any religion is in conflict with the concepts of equality written under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.

Way Forward

·       The government and society should work hard to build trust, but it is more important to make common cause with people who are social reformers rather than religious conservatives.

·       Rather than a blanket approach, the government should gradually bring separate aspects such as marriage, adoption, succession, and maintenance into a UCC.

·       It is needed that the codification of all personal laws is done so that prejudices and stereotypes in every religion come to light and can be tested on the grounds of fundamental rights of the Constitution.

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