Uniform Civil Code (UCC)


123Uniform civil code in India is the proposal to replace the personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in the country with a common set governing every citizen. These laws are distinguished from public law and cover marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance.

The issue has come into limelight as the Union law Minister has stated that NDA govt will start consultation to evolve a uniform civil code. The reason being that BJP in it’s manifesto had pledged for Uniform civil code.

In general, whenever the discussion to implement it comes up it should be about having a uniform set of laws for all the citizens but the discussion usually deviates from its original course because of two issues.

  1. Majority population in India is Hindu , therefore the dilemma that whether a Uniform Civil Code would mean imposing Hindu code on everybody or amending the personal code of all religions.
  2. India is a country of diverse cultures and religions. But it is seen more as Hindu Muslim issue (these two being most dominated communities) . All other religions are usually ignored. for eg. Certain laws like Hindu marriage act does not govern Hindu-Jain or Sikh-Hindu marriage issues. Therefore Uniform Civil Code shall a go long way in addressing all the other religions.

Historically, In 1946 it was discussed in length and the house of the day rejected it and decided to put it under the DPSPs. No serious attempt has been made so far to make a Uniform Civil Code for the country. Shah Bano case had the door opened and then closed. Shah Bano case sidelined personal law over common good .
On one hand there is a need of Uniform Civil Code for the country whereas on the other it cannot be denied that since independence we have been living with diverse cultures and different legal set-ups for different religions. There are various issues in every personal law. For example Christian laws are the legacy of the British i.e. Portuguese colonial civil code. Therefore every personal law including Hindu law needs internal reforms.
One more important paradigm is that; it would be a women’s dominated case as the various acts and laws (e.g. Hindu act, Muslim act, Parsi marriage act) ; suffer gender related issues . From divorce to separation to inheritance, there should not be any discrimination i.e. Uniform civil code should include article 14, 15 (laws related to equality)  . Hence broad based approach has to be adopted while designing the draft of the code.
Therefore it should be a Consensual civil code adopted by Consulting all stakeholders. Since as per article 44 it is the responsibility of the state; it requires a parliamentary discussion as Parliament represents collective will of the country.
But there are certain issues on global level that have to be dealt with. For eg. Muslim marriage laws abide Holy kuran world over. Therefore it would be absurd to get it under Hindu marriage act. Hence such decisions will have to be rhetoric and acceptable categorically.
Finally there could be two approaches to the whole issue:

  1. It could be dealt with in a way, that it is the Internal matter of all the communities. Since there are different personal laws to different religions; every law as per the respective religion could be reformed internally; or
  2. We should have a contemporary approach that as the country moves on, so does the constitution. As it is open to amendments and not closed, we should have a “Non partisan all religion committee” which should come up with the code . But since Article 44 of the Directive Principles in India sets its implementation as duty of the State. Therefore a broad consultative mechanism has to be developed by the state. Also the motives have to be social and not political.

Finally there is a thin line between Uniform civil code being divisive and not unifying; therefore all India needs now is a concrete code (blue print) depending on the rhetoric consensus of all.

To know more on this listen to the debate on Uniform Civil Code below :

This is a news article from The Indian Express which talks a bit more on the topic of UCC : There’s total confusion, why can’t it be done, SC asks govt

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