Uniform Civil Code
2023 JUL 6
Polity > Executive > DPSPs
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last week called for the enactment of a UCC, pointing out the anomaly of having varying laws for different categories of citizens.
- In June 2023, the 22nd Law Commission sought the views of religious organisations and the public on the issue of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC).
WHAT IS UCC?
- A Uniform Civil Code seeks to provide one law for the entire country, applicable to all religious communities in their personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption etc.
- A Uniform Civil Code seeks not only to ensure uniformity of laws between communities, but also uniformity of laws within communities ensuring equalities between the rights of men and women
- The debate on the UCC goes back to the Constituent Assembly debates. Since a consensus on UCC could not be reached in the Constituent Assembly, the subject found a place under Article 44 of the Directive Principles.
- Article 44 of the DPSP lays down that the state shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India.
- Presently, in India, different communities are governed by different Personal laws.
- For Hindus, it includes the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, Hindu Succession Act 1956, Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956.
- Similarly, Muslims, Parsis and Christians are governed by their own personal laws.
- Even within a religion, there is not a single common personal law governing all its members. For eg: for registration of marriage among Muslims, laws differ from place to place. It was compulsory in J&K and is optional in Bengal, Bihar.
SIGNIFICANCE OF A UNIFORM CIVIL CODE:
- Address gender inequalities and inconsistencies:
- Uniformity in personal laws is essential for empowering women and ensuring gender equality in matters of marriage, divorce, and inheritance.
- A UCC would eliminate existing discriminatory practices that deprive women of their rights and provide them with equal opportunities and protections.
- For eg: As per the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956 >> Hindu married woman had no right to adopt a child on her own
- Under Shariat Act, 1937 >> women’s share of inheritance is half of male’s counterparts.
- Needed for national integration:
- UCC will separate religion from social relations and personal laws, ensuring equality and thus harmony in the society.
- In Shah Bano Begum case of 1985, Supreme Court observed that, “A common civil code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to law which have conflicting ideologies”.
- To promote Individual liberty:
- The Supreme court in Indian Young Lawyers Association case (2018) ruled that in the constitutional order of priorities, the right to religious freedom is to be exercised in a manner consonant with the vision underlying the provisions of Part III (Fundamental Rights).
- Reduce communalistic tendencies and promote fraternity:
- Different laws based on religion have resulted in the isolation of one community from another, thereby preventing social intermingling of different religious groups. UCC can help eliminate this.
- For example, UCC would enable inter-faith marriages and relationships without any legal hurdles or social stigma.
- Sign of a modern progressive nation:
- While our economic growth has been significant, our social growth has lagged behind.
- A Uniform Civil Code will help the society move away from caste and religious politics and embrace progressive ideals and modernity
- Simplification of laws:
- The current legal system is burdened with complex and overlapping personal laws, leading to confusion, complexity and inconsistencies in the adjudication of personal matters, at times leading to delayed justice or no justice. UCC will eliminate this overlapping of laws.
- Reduction in number of litigations:
- UCC will lead to reduction in litigation emanating from multiple personal laws.
- Establishing a secular society:
- UCC will de-link law from religion which is a very desirable objective to achieve in a secular and socialist pattern of society.
- Moreover, it fulfill constitutional mandates under Article 44 of Directive Principles of State Policy.
- Fear among minorities:
- In the name of uniformity, the minorities fears that the culture of the majority is being imposed over them.
- Given vast cultural diversity in India, bringing uniformity among all such people will be a huge challenge.
- Patriarchal mindset
- Patriarchal mindset of Indian society poses a big challenge in implementation of UCC.
- This is reflected in the fact that, though he Hindu code bill has been already in place from mid-1950s, the quantum of land actually inherited by Hindu women is only a fraction of the land they are entitled.
- Plurality and diversity:
- It has been argued that UCC threatens a pluralistic society like India, where people have confidence in their respective religious beliefs.
- In 2018, Law Commission of India opined that the Uniform Civil Code is “neither necessary nor desirable at this stage” in the country.
- The Commission said secularism cannot be contradictory to plurality.
- It only ensures peaceful co-existence of cultural differences.
- May violate the concept of Indian secularism:
- The Supreme Court in T.M.A Pai Foundation case reiterated that the essence of secularism in India is recognition and preservation of the different types of people.
- The idea of UCC might not be inconsonance with the spirit of Indian secularism as it may violate the fundamental right to practice religion enshrined in Article 25 of the Constitution.
- Issue of drafting the UCC:
- One of the biggest obstacles in implementing the UCC, apart from obtaining a consensus, is the drafting.
- There is no guideline or a vision document, whether UCC be a blend of all the personal laws or a new and common law adhering to the constitutional mandate.
- Lack of political will:
- Due to sensitivity of the issue and vote banks politics
- Adopt a piecemeal approach:
- The social transformation from diverse civil code to uniformity shall be gradual and cannot happen in a day. Therefore, the government must adopt a piecemeal approach.
- Government could bring separate aspects such as marriage, adoption, succession and maintenance into a uniform civil code in stages.
- Law commission recommendation:
- In its consultation paper in 2018, the Law Commission chose codification of personal laws over the UCC as a way to end discrimination within religions.
- Codification of various practices and customs would make them ‘law’ under Article 13 of the Constitution.
- Any ‘law’ that comes under Article 13 should be consistent with the fundamental rights
- Balancing the right to belief and right to equality:
- The UCC must carve a balance between the protection of fundamental rights and religious dogmas of individuals.
- It should be a code, which is just and proper according to a man of ordinary prudence, without any bias with regards to religious and political considerations.
- Bottom-up approach:
- The matter being sensitive in nature it is always better if the initiative comes from the religious groups concerned >> this requires awareness generation.
The overarching objective is to ensure that there is no gender discrimination, everyone enjoys the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, and that the law of the land is uniform for every citizen in our country. In this regard, the UCC will serve as a powerful instrument for the promotion of equality and justice for all citizens.
- Goa has a common civil code called Portuguese civil code 1867:
- Under this Code, a Muslim man whose marriage is registered in the State cannot practice polygamy, a married couple share property equally, assets are divided equally between the man and woman on divorce etc.
Q. “Uniform Civil Code is desirable but for the moment should remain voluntary”. Critically analyze