Uniform Civil Code debate gains momentum
- The Uttarakhand Chief Minister after getting elected for a second time kept his pre-poll promise and announced an expert panel that would examine the possibility of applying the UCC in the State.
- A private member’s Bill for a law on the UCC was also moved in Rajya Sabha.
- This issue has seen a renewed push in the Supreme Court as well, especially after the top court indicated that the government should explore the UCC as a means to secure gender justice, equality and dignity of women.
Uniform Civil Code
There was a lack of consensus in the constituent assembly on what a potential uniform civil code would entail. While many thought the UCC would coexist alongside the personal law systems, others thought that it was to replace the personal law.There were yet others who believed that the UCC would deny the freedom of religion. It was this uncertainty that led it to be included in the Directive Principles of State Policy rather than the chapter on Fundamental Rights in the Constitution
- Article 44 of the Directive Principles in the Constitution says the “State shall endeavour to provide for its citizens a uniform civil code (UCC) throughout the territory of India.”
- The objective of this endeavour should be to address the discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise diverse cultural practices
- The UCC calls for formulation of one law to be made applicable to all religious communities in matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption.
Reasons to have a UCC
- A secular republic requires a common law that applies to all people rather than various standards depending on religious customs.
- Gender justice: Women's rights are typically restricted by religious legislation, whether Hindu or Muslim.
- Many religious practices are in conflict with the fundamental rights provided by the Indian Constitution.
- Courts have also frequently said in their decisions that the government should strive toward an unified civil code, such as in the Shah Bano case.
Status of Uniform Codes in India
Goa is the only state to have a Uniform Civil Code called Portuguese Civil Code, 1867. It is basically an alien code given by the Portuguese. It has survived by virtue of Section 5(1) of the Goa, Daman and Diu Administration Act, 1962 that permitted its continuance.
- In most civil proceedings, Indian laws follow a consistent code, such as the Indian Contract Act of 1872, the Civil Procedure Code, the Transfer of Property Act of 1882, the Partnership Act of 1932, the Evidence Act of 1872, and so on.
- States, on the other hand, have made hundreds of revisions, and as a result, there is variety in certain areas even under these secular civil laws.
- Several states have recently declined to be governed by the 2019 Uniform Motor Vehicles Act.
Benefits of enacting UCC
- Protection for the Most Vulnerable Members of Society: a Uniform Civil Code will protect the vulnerable sections like Women, religious minorities, children, etc
- Simplification of Laws: The legislation will streamline the complicated regulations governing marriage ceremonies, inheritance, succession, and adoptions, making them one-size-fits-all. * The same civil law will then apply to all people, regardless of faith.
- Adherence to the Ideal of Secularism: As stated in the Preamble, a secular republic requires a single law for all people rather than varied standards based on religious customs.
- Gender Justice: If a UCC is passed, all personal laws will be abolished.
- It will eliminate gender disparities in existing laws.
- Communal Politics: The demand for a common civil code has been framed in terms of communal politics. A considerable segment of society perceives it as majoritarianism disguised as social change.
- Conflict with Right to Religion: Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, which attempts to maintain the right to practise and spread any religion, conflicts with the equality ideas entrenched in Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
- Diversity in Nation: As our country is highly diverse with every single community having its own codes and regulations
- It will be a highly daunting task especially in case of tribal communities like Nagas who are very much hostile when it comes to interference in their personal laws and regulations
The Way Forward
The government and society will have to work hard to establish confidence, but more crucially, they will have to unite with social reformers rather than religious conservatives. Rather than an all-encompassing approach, the government might gradually include discrete features like marriage, adoption, succession, and maintenance into a UCC. The need of the hour is the codification of all personal laws so that biases and stereotypes in each of them may be exposed and tested on the anvil of the Constitution's fundamental rights.