|Introduction: Define UCC.|
Body: What role did SC play in shaping discourse around UCC and highlight its impact on various issues.
Conclusion: Way forward.
Uniform Civil Code is a constitutional provision mentioned in Article 44 of the Indian Constitution that aims to replace personal laws based on religions, customs, and traditions with one common law for everyone irrespective of religion, caste, creed, sexual orientation, and gender.
Role of SC judgments in shaping discourse around UCC:
- Shah Bano Case: In its Mohd. Ahmed Khan vs. Shah Bano Begum decision of 1985, when a divorced Muslim woman demanded support from her former husband, the SC asked for the execution of the UCC while deciding whether to give precedence to the CrPc or the Muslim personal law. SC urged that Common Civil Code will help the cause of national integration.
- Sarla Mudgal Case: The Supreme Court in Sarla Mudgal v Union of India held that religious conversion for the sole purpose of committing bigamy is unconstitutional & the Court also urged the government to put the UCC into effect.
- Paulo Coutinho v. Maria Luiza Valentina Pereira case (2019): In this case, SC upheld Goa as a shining example of an Indian state where UCC is applicable and again revived the debate around UCC.
The potential impact of UCC on communities:
- Gender Justice: The primary objective of UCC is to promote gender justice and equality by eliminating discriminatory practices against women. Regardless of a person’s religious background, the UCC seeks to develop a standard body of laws that guarantees equal rights and opportunities for all citizens. This might result in a more equitable division of land and inheritance rights among various populations.
- Marriage laws: The minimum legal age for marriage, bigamy’s abolition, and problems with interfaith weddings would be resolved to a certain extent if a UCC were to be put into effect.
- Hindu Religion: Existing legislation like the Hindu Marriage Act (1955) and the Hindu Succession Act (1956) would need to be revised if the UCC were to be implemented. For instance, Section 2(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act states that the Scheduled Tribes are exempt from its prohibitions. The law specifies in sections 5(5) and 7 that customary practices will take precedence over the rules. However, UCC won’t permit all of these exceptions.
- Property: If UCC comes into effect the benefit of Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) in Income Tax will not be availed by Hindus. Once the law comes into effect, no Hindu will be entitled to claim any interest in ancestral property due to his birth in the family.
- Inheritance & Succession Rules: UCC could establish a uniform set of laws that provides equal inheritance rights to all individuals, regardless of their religious background or gender. A UCC would streamline these procedures, making them more consistent and accessible to all citizens. Simplified inheritance procedures could reduce legal complexities, speed up the settlement of inheritance matters, and minimize disputes.
The need for UCC was spelled out by the framers of the Constitution and it should be implemented in the true spirit of the Constitution by holding dialogue with people of different communities, religious scholars, and legal experts.