|Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual introduction.
Body. Possible factors that inhibit India from enacting for its citizen a uniform civil code.
Conclusion. Way forward.
In India, each community is governed by its own customs and personal laws related to marriage, divorce, maintenance, adoption, succession and inheritance. The idea behind uniform civil code is to merge them into a single gender neutral code applicable to all citizens of India. The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India proposes to replace the personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in the country with a common set of laws governing every citizen. Article 44 of the Indian constitution envisages India to have a uniform civil code for all its citizens.
Possible factors that inhibit India from enacting for its citizens a uniform civil code:
- No common ground: It is very tough to find a common ground between different communities. The customary practices among communities varies a lot. It is not easy to carry all people with a commonly accepted code.
- May violate fundamental rights: There is an apprehension that the uniform civil code may be in conflict with the fundamental rights of freedom of conscience of free profession, practice and propagation of religions (Article 26) and the freedom to manage religious affairs (Article 25).
- Opposition from the religious groups: This is one of the most trivial and obvious hurdle to bring up the UCC. The fundamentalism which is deep rooted in many of the religions in India doesn’t seem to vanish even in the 21st century.
- Political willpower: The government should have the will to face the consequences of abolishing the personal laws of the major religions and to convince the people of justice and reform they want to bring to the society in order to grow better as a nation.
- Practical difficulties due to diversity in India: It is practically tough to come up with a common and uniform set of rules for personal issues like marriage due to tremendous cultural diversity India across religions, sects, castes, states etc.
- Perception of UCC as encroachment on religious freedom: Many communities, particularly minority communities perceive Uniform Civil Code as an encroachment on their rights to religious freedom. They fear that a common code will neglect their traditions and impose rules which will be mainly dictated and influenced by the majority religious communities.
- Sensitive and tough task: Such a code, in its true spirit, must be brought about by borrowing freely from different personal laws, making gradual changes in each, issuing judicial pronouncements ensuring gender equality, and adopting expansive interpretations on marriage, maintenance, adoption, and succession by acknowledging the benefits that one community secures from the others. This task will be very demanding time and human resource wise.
- False conceptions: Many people still do not know what the uniform civil code really means. There are still false conceptions surrounding it, especially among the minorities. UCC is also sometimes perceived as the imposition of the Hindu code and procedures, and this adds to its opposition from the minorities. This makes a rational debate on its implementation quite difficult.
- Awareness: Major awareness efforts are needed to reform current personal law reforms which should first be initiated by the communities themselves.
- Gradual approach: The social transformation from diverse civil code to uniformity shall be gradual and cannot happen in a day. Therefore, the government must adopt a “Piecemeal” approach.
- Law Commission’s recommendations: The commission stresses on initiatives to reconcile the country’s diversity with universal arguments on human rights. It recommended codification of all personal laws:
- So that the prejudices and stereotypes in all religion can be brought to light.
- They can eventually be tested against the anvil of the fundamental rights in the constitution.
- It could help arrive at certain universal principles.
- These may facilitate prioritising equality instead of the imposition of UCC.
The better course would be to bring about small reforms, correcting some inherent irrationality in some of the personal laws, and make them suitable for modern times. The focus should also be on removing disparities between different religions. This might lay the foundation of implementing a UCC at a later date.