Uniform Civil Code

  • A UCC would establish a single law for the entire country, governing all religious communities in personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adoption.
  • In other words, the UCC is a set of rules/regulations that proposes replacing personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in the country with a unified set that governs all citizens.

Current Situation in India

  • Currently, Indian personal law is fairly complex, with each religion following its own set of laws.
  • Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists, as well as Muslims, Christians, and followers of other religions, are governed by separate laws.
  • Furthermore, diversity exists within communities. The country’s Hindus, Muslims, and Christians are all subject to different laws.
  • For example, in the Northeast, there are more than 200 tribes, each with their own unique customary laws.
  • The Constitution of India protects local customs of Nagaland . Meghalaya and Mizoram have similar protections.
  • The state of Goa is an exception to this rule, as all religions have a common law for marriages, divorces, and adoptions.

Constitutional position.

  • According to Article 44 of the Constitution, the state must make every effort to secure a UCC for citizens across India’s territory.
  • Article 44 is one of the Directive Principles of State Policy.
  • Directive Principles are not enforceable by courts, but they are intended to inform and guide governance.

Previous Efforts 

1.Shah Bano judgement.

  • The Shah Bano case ruling from the Supreme Court on maintanence in 1986 was regarded as a precursor to UCC.
  • However, it was overturned by Parliament, which passed an amendment to maintain the status quo.

2.Incremental changes over the years

  • Throughout the decades, there has been incremental change.
  • Parliament reformed Hindu succession in 2005, and Christian divorce rights became gender equal in 2001.
  • In various judgements, the courts have consistently affirmed women’s rights to maintenance, adoption, and other benefits, thereby strengthening reform in minority communities.

3.The 21st Law Commission’s Position on the Matter

  • In 2018, the 21st Law Commission stated that the Uniform Civil Code is neither necessary nor desirable at this time.
  • It advocated for the reform of all religions’ family laws through amendments and codification of certain aspects to make them gender-neutral.
  • It went on to say that cultural diversity could not be compromised to the point where our desire for uniformity becomes a threat to the nation’s territorial integrity.

What Is the Need for UCC?

1.To promote national unity.

  • The existence of religious-based personal laws has historically restricted India’s progress towards nationhood.
  • These laws keep the country divided into watertight compartments in many areas of life.
  • A uniform law created and made available to all would promote national unity.

2.various personal laws are put to subversive use.

  • There have been reports of Hindus converting to Islam, as bigamy is legal under Muslim personal laws in the country.

3.To promote gender justice.

  • Gender justice requires a uniform civil code. Women’s rights are usually limited by religious law, whether Hindu or Muslim.
  • Not within the scope of religious activities
  • Inheritance, marriage, divorce, and other legal issues are unrelated to religious activities.
  • As a result, any regulation addressing these issues would not constitute an infringement on the religious freedom guaranteed by Article 25.

4.Vision of Constitution Makers

  • The drafters of the Constitution envisioned enacting UCC in the future so that everyone, regardless of religion, would be subject to the same set of civil laws.
  • The enactment of the UCC is required to realise this dream.

Why is there opposition to UCC?

1.Diversity cannot be sacrificed for uniformity.

  • The imposition of UCC would mean overlooking the diversity of Indian cultures, customs, ethnicity, languages, religious ideologies, and so on.
  • From north to south and east to west, each state in India has a distinct culture and outlook on life.

2.Violation of Fundamental Rights

  • Marriage, talaq, and polygamy principles are inextricably linked to Muslims’ religious and cultural rights.
  • State intervention would constitute a violation of fundamental rights (Articles 25, 26, 29).
  • The Constitution recognises the customary laws and procedures prevailing in the Northeast states.
  • The constitution, through the VI schedule, recognises the customary laws and procedures that exist in the North Eastern States.
  • As a result, practical difficulties will arise in both the formulation and implementation of UCC.

3.Negative impact on India’s communal harmony

  • The perception that the UCC encroaches on religious freedom is growing.
  • Many people believe that UCC will have a negative impact on India’s communal harmony.

Conclusion

  • Following the Shah Bano case, the Universal Civil Code became the focus of communal politics, forcing the then-government to overturn the verdict.
  • Hence, we need to follow a bottom-up approach. The demand for UCC must come from the people.
  • It can only emerge through an evolutionary process that preserves India’s rich legal heritage, of which all personal laws are equally important.
  • A community debate can be started to address this issue. However, these debates must be approached with extreme caution so as not to polarise the nation.

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