Explained | The Uniform Civil Code

Source– The post is based on the article “Explained | The Uniform Civil Code” published in The Hindu on 7th November 2022.

Syllabus: GS2- Significant provisions of Indian constitution

Relevance– Secularism and related issues

News- The article explains the Uniform Civil Code.

What is Uniform Civil Code?

It would be a uniform set of laws that would replace the distinct personal laws of each religion with regard to matters like marriage, divorce, adoption, and inheritance.

Article 44 says that the state shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.

What do the debates of constituent assembly say about UCC?

Naziruddin Ahmad– Certain civil laws in all communities were inseparably connected with religious beliefs and practices. He felt the UCC would be against the right to freedom of religion. the time for UCC had not yet come. The process had to be gradual and not without the consent of the concerned communities.

KM Munshi– He rejected the notion that a UCC would be against the freedom of religion. The Constitution allowed the government to make laws covering secular activities related to religious practices if they were intended for social reform. UCC will lead to benefits such as promoting the unity of the nation and equality for women. If personal laws of inheritance, succession and so on were seen as a part of religion, then many discriminatory practices of the Hindu personal law against women could not be eliminated.

BR Ambedkar– He had an ambivalent stance toward the UCC. He felt that while it was desirable, it should remain purely voluntary in the initial stages.

What are various arguments around UCC?

There is plurality in already codified civil and criminal laws. The concept of “one nation, one law “ for personal matters is very difficult. Constitutional framers also did not intend total uniformity, which is why personal laws were placed in entry 5 of the Concurrent List.

All Hindus are not governed by a homogenous personal law even after the enactment of the Hindu Code Bill, neither are Muslims and Christians under their personal laws. Hindu Code Bill was amended multiple times to finally be separated into four different Acts.

There is still no uniform applicability of Muslim personal law or the Shariat Act that was passed in 1937. The Shariat Act is not applicable in Jammu and Kashmir and Muslims continue to be governed by customary law which is at variance with the Muslim personal law in the rest of the country. The applicability also varies for certain sects of Muslims.

Goa case is more complex. The UCC has legal pluralities. The Goa Civil Code permits a certain form of polygamy for Hindus. The Code gives certain concessions to Catholics as well.

What is the stand of the Supreme Court?

Shah Bano Begum judgement, 1985 called for the implementation of the UCC.

The Court also called on the government to implement the UCC in the 1995 Sarla Mudgal judgement as well as in the Paulo Coutinho vs Maria Luiza Valentina Pereira case (2019).

What has the law commission said?

The paper on reform of family laws by the Law Commission stated that a unified nation did not necessarily need uniformity. Secularism could not contradict the plurality prevalent in the country.

UCC is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage. It recommended that discriminatory practices, prejudices and stereotypes within a particular religion and its personal laws should be studied and amended.

It suggested certain measures in marriage and divorce that should be uniformly accepted in the personal laws of all religions. Some of these amendments include fixing the marriageable age for boys and girls at 18 years so that they are married as equals, making adultery a ground for divorce for men and women and simplifying the divorce procedure. It also called for the abolition of the Hindu Undivided Family as a tax-exempt entity.

What is the stand of the government?

Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said in Parliament this year that the government currently had no plans to set up a panel to implement the UCC. It requested the 22nd Law Commission of India to undertake an examination of various issues relating to the same.

Read More: The Debate on Uniform Civil Code – Explained, pointwise
Print Friendly and PDF