Article 370, Triple Talaq, Ram Mandir, Uniform Civil Code were some of the agendas of the ‘Sankalp Patra’ of the current government. After fulfilling the promise of abrogation of Article 370, the abolition of Triple Talaq and construction of Ram Mandir, now it is time for the most contentious topics of all time, ‘Uniform Civil Code’.
Uniform Civil Code is the unification of all the personal laws in India. Article 44 of the Indian Constitution envisages the idea of UCC. It runs as “the State shall endeavour to secure for all citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India”. This provision is a part of part IV, Directive Principles of State Policy which are just ‘Suggestion to the State’ and not mandatory to follow.
The debate on UCC is not new; it dates back to the colonial era. The conundrum of implementing the Uniform Civil Code has always been there. In the Judicial Plan of 1772 during the Warren Hasting’s time, personal laws were used to regulate civil matters and form criminal matters, it was Muslim law. Even in the second law commission report submitted to the British government report in 1835, there was a unification of the laws except for the personal laws. It was stated that since personal laws are derived from the religious text, they should be kept outside the realm of unified laws. Hence, matters like marriage, succession should be governed according to the respective personal laws. Personal laws of all the religion have a huge variance. The most vulnerable to them are women. Since colonial time women have been demanding the unification of the personal laws. Even though there have been various reforms in the personal laws to give women equal rights; nevertheless till date, women are fighting for equal rights. This disparity, hence, makes the implementation of Article 44 imperative.
UCC faced opposition even during the Constituent Assembly debates on Article 39 (now Article 44). Minority group had an altercation with the advocates of UCC. The minority group contended that this provision is a violation of freedom of religion and tyranny of the minority. However, KM Munshi, Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar and Dr B.R. Ambedkar supported UCC and Ambedkar considered it a ‘desirable step’.
UCC in Goa
Goa depicts a “Shining example” of UCC. It is the only state in India to have a one law irrespective of the religion. It is because of the Portuguese Civil Code, 1867 which continues to be functional even after the annexation of Goa by India. Some of the provisions of PCC in Goa that vary from personal laws are-
Polygamy is not allowed in Muslim.
Pre-nuptial agreement is valid
Partners have an equal share in the property.
Time and again, Judiciary through its pronouncements, emphasized on the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code. In the landmark case of Shah Bano , the judiciary stepped in for the first time in the controversial matter of UCC and directed the parliament for the implementation of UCC. The bench through Justice Y.V.Chandrachud observed, “It is also a matter of regret that Article 44 of our Constitution has remained a dead letter.” The constitution bench further said that “A common Civil Code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to laws which have conflicting ideologies”. This judgment of the apex court caused an uproar in the minority and soon became a national issue.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India again in 1995, stressed for the need of one single law for religious affairs in the Sarla Mudgal case. Justice Kuldip Singh cited the judgment in Shah Bano case and said that, “One wonders how long will it take for the Government of the day to implement the mandate of the framers of the Constitution under Article 44 of the Constitution of India. The traditional Hindu law – personal law of the Hindus – governing inheritance, succession and marriage was given go- bye as back as 1955-56 by codifying the same. There is no justification whatsoever in delaying indefinitely the introduction of a uniform personal law in the country”.
To witness time and again, the parliament’s non-compliance with SC’s judgment and its unwillingness to bring in a single law for religious affairs, is dejecting.
Indian politics has seen a shift in the voting pattern. The religious ideologies of the parties play a dominant role in deciding their faith in the election. This is the main reason why parties refrain from interfering in the religious matters as even a minor wrong step can see a big outrage by religious groups. Uniform Civil Code is one such matter. Minorities group in India fear that UCC might infringe their personal beliefs and customs. But this is cannot be believed until we have a draft. There have been debates that UCC is against the very idea of Secularism and violates Article 25 of the Indian Constitution. But this right is not absolute and comes with certain restrictions.UCC is a progressive step and need of an hour. It will be wrong to fight over a topic which has no existence. Once the draft is presented then only we can analyze whether or not it is progressive or regressive. If the terms are unifying in nature and not tyranny of the minority, then it will surely be a progressive and a desirable step. It will also help in simplifying the existing legislations and a step towards gender equality. A common law will help in the national integration. It is also imperative to understand that UCC should not be implemented in a single go as this may create some problem for both the government and the citizens.
- Manooja, D. (2000). UNIFORM CIVIL CODE: A SUGGESTION. Journal of the Indian Law Institute, 42(2/4), 448-457. Retrieved September 17, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/43953824
- Menon, N. (2014). A Uniform Civil Code in India: The State of the Debate in 2014. Feminist Studies, 40(2), 480-486. Retrieved September 17, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.15767/feministstudies.40.2.480
- Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum,AIR 1985 SC 945
- Sarla Mudgal, President Kalyani v. Union of India, AIR 1995 SC 1531
She is a second year student pursuing law from Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA. She has participated in many MUNs and have been in core team of sports fest of her college. She has keen interest in politics, constitution and animal rights.