Uttarakhand is all set to become the first state in the country to implement the Uniform Civil Code or a common personal law code applicable to citizens of all religions in personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adoption.
What Is Uniform Civil Code?
The Uniform Civil Code is a proposal to replace personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in India with a common set of rules governing every citizen.
The Constitution of India, under Article 44, calls for the state to secure for its citizens a uniform civil code (UCC). Even though it is mentioned in the Directive Principles of State Policy, the UCC has not been enacted to date.
The UCC can be seen as an attempt to address the inequity between men and women in terms of inheritance, divorce, and marriage under different religious laws. It aims at bringing uniformity among all citizens by taking into account their gender and religion. However, there has been controversy around the implementation of the UCC, primarily arising from minority groups who have objected to the imposition of majoritarian values and beliefs on their personal laws.
What is the Importance of Uniform Civil Code?
Uniform Civil Code is one of the most important elements of a secular state. If a country is said to be secular, then it needs to treat its citizens equally irrespective of their religion and faith. In India, the constitution-makers have made provisions for UCC in the Directive Principles of State Policy.
UCC is needed because of the following reasons:
- It will end discrimination on grounds of religion, which is completely against the basic structure of our constitution.
- India has always been a country where people belonging to all faiths have lived in harmony and it is time that the outdated personal laws based on religious texts are replaced by a uniform civil code.
- A uniform civil code will help promote national integration as people from different religious backgrounds will be governed by one set of rights, duties and obligations.
- A uniform civil code in India will remove gender biasness.
- A uniform civil code promotes equality before law because all citizens are governed by the same set of rules and regulations.
- A common civil code would go a long way in ensuring gender justice.
- The diversity and plurality of our culture can be safeguarded only under a common civil code that ensures equal rights for all citizens.
- A uniform civil code is necessary for social transformation in India.
- The Constitution makers intended to give equal status to all religions; hence, there was a need for a uniform civil code to replace personal laws based on religious scriptures.
- It would also help in abolishing anomalies like polygamy.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Uniform Civil Code
A Uniform civil code is a necessity for the country but it doesn’t mean that we should impose it on people who don’t want it. It will be better if we can convince them about its advantages. Let us look at its advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Uniform Civil Code
- Uniform civil code will help in integrating the country and its people.
- It will give equal rights to both men and women in property, marriage, divorce and inheritance.
- It will reduce the number of laws because there won’t be different sets of laws for different religions.
- This code will ensure that everyone is treated equally regardless of their religion or caste.
- It will also help in ending religious conflicts related to marriage and other things between different groups of people in the country.
- Uniformity in laws will bring peace to the country as everyone will enjoy equal rights and privileges which they were deprived of earlier due to their caste or religion
- Since there will be one set of uniform laws for everyone, discrimination based on religion or caste will end completely in the country.
- Women from minority communities have a lot of restrictions placed on them because of their religious customs like triple talaq etc., this code will help them.
Disadvantages of Uniform Civil Code
The disadvantages of uniform civil code are as follows:
- The biggest disadvantage of this code is that it will be very hard to enforce it in a country like India, where there are so many religions and regional practices. It is not possible for the government to overlook them.
- The second disadvantage is that the enforcement of this code will weaken the federal structure of our country. There are many states who already have their own personal laws, so imposing a uniform civil code on them might anger them, as they will feel that their individuality is being threatened. This could lead to protests and other issues in the future
- The third disadvantage is that there are certain communities in India who are against having a uniform civil code. The chief among them are Muslim community members, because they believe that the personal laws in their religion make sense and if they have to follow the same laws as Hindus do, then they will be deprived of their religious freedom
- The fourth disadvantage is that there have been some extreme cases where women have been given divorce by their husbands without any reason, which means they have come out penniless from the marriage.
Origins of UCC and demand for it in India
The first call for UCC goes back to colonial India when the British government in 1835 submitted a report stressing the need for uniformity in Indian laws.
In 1985, the demand for UCC came to the fore in the judgment pronounced in the Shah Bano Case. Shah Bano had moved to the apex court seeking maintenance after her husband divorced her after 40 years of marriage by giving triple talaq and denying her regular maintenance.
The Supreme Court had noted then: “It is a matter of regret that Article 44 has remained a dead letter… The common civil code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to laws, which have conflicting ideologies. No community is likely to bell the cat by making gratuitous concessions on this issue. It is for the State, which is charged with the duty of securing a uniform civil code and it has legislative competence to do so.”