|Introduction: Describe UCC.|
Body: What is its impact on tribal social & cultural practices?
Conclusion: Way forward.
The Uniform Civil Code (UCC), envisioned by Article 44 of the Indian Constitution, proposes a common legal framework for personal laws for all Indian citizens, irrespective of religion. The goal is to achieve national integration, ensure gender equality, and uphold constitutional values. Common law is envisioned by the UCC for all country residents, regardless of faith. There is a good chance that a uniform code will cover personal laws as well as laws about marriage, inheritance, adoption, child custody, alimony, polygamy, and succession.
What could be the impact of UCC on the practices of tribals in India?
- Polygamy: Polygamy is practiced among Naga tribes, the Gonds, the Baiga, and the Lushai among others, while polyandry is prevalent in the Himalayan region stretching from Kashmir to Assam. These practices would be abrogated following the enactment of UCC.
- Divorce and marriage ceremony: Many tribal groups have objected to procedures of marriage ad divorce under UCC. The tribals feel that their practices have allowed divorce and marriage ceremonies to be much simpler and do not require complex legal procedures which are cumbersome and inaccessible.
- Protection under the Constitution: Northeastern states fear that UCC enactment would withdraw the guarantee of protection of their socio, cultural religious practice as guaranteed under Articles 371A, 371B, 371C,371G, 371H.
Concerns raised by tribals:
- Minimum age of marriage: The tribals are concerned about the change in the legal age for marriage. They fear that minimum age criteria will infringe on their cultural practices.
- Customary dispute resolution practices: Tribals of Northeast and Jharkhand fear that village bodies like akhada, (highest decision-making body) and empowered by the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996, for disputes related to land, family, and marriage, will be under threat if UCC is enacted.
- Inheritance & Succession: Various Law Commission reports have pointed out that tribes in Assam, Jharkhand, and Odisha adhere to ancient customary laws of succession. States like Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram are concerned that UCC would come in conflict with safeguards regarding inheritance guaranteed under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
There have been suggestions from parliamentarians to keep tribals out of the purview of UCC but this may be tantamount to defeat the purpose of UCC. There should be wide consultation involving all stakeholders, state government, tribal groups, and the common public before taking any major step to implement UCC.