The Uniform Civil Code: An Overview

INTRODUCTION

India is a diverse country, where citizens practice different religions. The Uniform Civil Code in such a country is a debatable topic. Article 44 of the Indian Constitution empowers the state to formulate a single law that will govern all religious communities regarding inheritance, divorce, marriage, and adoption.

The Uniform Civil Code intends to replace personal law, which presently governs interpersonal relationships or related matters within different religious communities.

Background of Uniform Civil Code

The background of the Uniform Civil Code dates back to colonial India when the British government in 1835 submitted a report stressing the need for uniformity in the codification of Indian laws. This report recommended keeping the Muslim and Hindu personal laws outside such codification. British rule compelled the government to set up the B. N. Rau Committee to codify Hindu law in 1941The Hindu Succession Act was adopted in 1956 to amend and codify the laws regarding intestate or unwilled succession among Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains. However, for Christians, Parsis and Muslim separate law were made. 

Status in Goa

The State of Goa has adopted the Portuguese Civil Code after Independence. It led to the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code in Goa for its residents. Under this, the married couple holds joint proprietorship in all advantages claimed and obtained by every mate. Parents can’t exclude their children. At any rate, half of the property must be given to them by the parents. Polygamy prohibited for Muslims who have enlisted their marriage in Goa. There, every individual is obliged to the same laws relating to marriage, succession, and divorce. The communities are not under their personal laws.

Implications of Uniform Civil Code

  1. Protection to Vulnerable Section of Society – The implication of the Uniform Civil Code will protect the vulnerable sections of the society, women and religious minorities as envisaged by Dr B. R. Ambedkar. It will also help in promoting nationalistic fervour through unity. 
  2. Gender Justice – Enactment of the Uniform Civil Code will cease all personal laws and the gender biases in the Hindu law, Christian Law and Muslim Law that had challenged the ground of violation of the right to equality by women. 
  3. Adhering to the Ideal of Secularism – The Preamble enshrines the objective of Secularism. There is a need for Common law for all the citizens rather than different law based on religious practices.
  4. Supporting National Integration – Implication of the Uniform Civil Code will lead all the citizens to share the same set of personal law. It will end the politicization of matters associated with discrimination, special privileges and concessions enjoyed by a particular community based on their personal law.[iii]

Challenges to Uniform Civil Code

  1. Constitutional Hurdle – The freedom to practise and propagate any religion under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution conflicts with the concept of equality under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. 
  2. Sensitive and Tough Task – The enactment of the Uniform Civil Code will be demanding human resources and tie wisely. The government should be unbiased and sensitive while dealing with the majority and minority communities, or it might take the form of disastrous communal violence.
  3. Communal Politics – The demand for the Uniform Civil Code had formulated in the context of communal politics. It is seen as majoritarianism under the grab of social reform by a large section of society. 
  4. Practical Difficulties – Practically, it is not feasible to implement the Uniform Civil Code due to the cultural diversity for personal matters such as marriage. Furthermore, it would be hard to convince each community to replace their old tradition with a new law. 

Recommendations of Law Commissions

The commission emphasizes initiatives to appease the nation’s diversity with a universal argument on human right. Law Commission recommended the codification of all the personal law to test against the anvil of the fundamental rights in the constitution; to remove religious prejudices and stereotypes. Furthermore, it can help reach certain universal principles and facilitate prioritizing equality rather than an imposition of the Uniform Civil Code.

Landmark Cases

  • Mohd. Ahmad Khan v. Shah Bano Begum  

In this case, Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, Chief Justice Y.V Chandrachud held that a Common Civil Code could remove discrimination among the people of a different religion. It would also help in the loyalty towards law.

  • Sarla Mudgal, President, Kalyani v. Union of India

In the case, Sarla Mudgal, President, Kalyani v. Union of India, a woman filed a petition against her husband who married a second woman without divorce. Also, he converted his religion from Hindu to Islam. 

The court held that the second marriage is void concerning Section 494 of IPC without resolving the first marriage. For better justice raised the need for the Uniform Civil Code.

  • Shayara Bano v. Union of India

This recent case challenged the constitutionality of triple talaq in Muslim personal law. In this case, the husband divorced his wife by saying talaq three times.

The five-judge bench of the Supreme Court held that the practice of triple talaq is unconstitutional as well as un-Islamic. To stop such personal law practices raised the question of the Uniform Civil Code. 

Way Forward

  1. Efforts should be made by the government and society to build trust and to unite with social reformers rather than religious conservatives. 
  2. Emphasis should put on women empowerment for all women of all religion.
  3. Present institutions should be modernized, strengthened and democratized to bring this change.

CONCLUSION

The idea behind the enactment of the Uniform Civil Code is broad and should be understood well. The Uniform Civil Code is a secular code for personal laws that a country like India needs. It deals with the personal laws and the changing scenario of the society. Change is required in our social structures, full of disparities, separations and different things which struggle with our Fundamental Rights. With developing times, the need has appeared for having a uniform civil code for all citizens, independent of religion, guaranteeing that their vital and constitutional rights are secured. Presenting the Uniform Civil Code can also reinforce Secularism and National Integration.

This article is written by Gracy Singh, a student of 2nd year, pursuing BA.LLB (Hons.) from Mody University of Science and Technology, Lakshmangarh, Rajasthan.

BIBLIOGRAPHY 

  1. Krishnadas Rajagopal, What is the debate on uniform civil code all about? The Hindu, Sep 18, 2018, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/what-is-debate-on-uniform-civil-code-all-about/article24903560.ece.
  2. Scope of Uniform Civil Code in India, Indian Institute of Legal Studies, https://www.iilsindia.com/blogs/scope-of-uniform-civil-code-in-india/.
  3. Uniform Civil Code, Oct 30, 2020, https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-editorials/uniform-civil-code-1.
  4. Viraj Gaur, Uniform Civil Code: What It Is & Why It Matters, the quint, Nov 23, 2019, https://www.thequint.com/explainers/uniform-civil-code-explained-what-it-is-and-why-it-matters#read-more.

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