All About Uniform Civil Code in India

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The deadline for public comments on the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India, was recently extended by the 22nd Law Commission, led by former Karnataka HC Chief Justice Rituraj Awasthi. Seeking feedback from the public on the UCC, the Law Commission had invited views until July 14, but due to an overwhelming response and requests for an extension, the deadline was extended by two weeks.

The Law Commission in a statement said that it values the inputs of all stakeholders and aims to foster an inclusive environment. They also encouraged interested parties to utilise this extended time-frame to contribute their valuable ideas and expertise.

What is the Uniform Civil Code?

The Uniform Civil Code, also known as UCC, is an essential aspect of a progressive society. It entails the establishment of a common set of laws that apply to all residents of a country, irrespective of their religious or personal beliefs.

In India, the UCC aims to create a consistent legal structure for all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs, and replace the existing personal laws that differ among religious communities. Currently, India has various personal laws in effect, such as the Hindu Marriage Act, Indian Christian Marriages Act, Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, and the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act. These laws lack alignment, necessitating the need for a uniform legal framework.

Is the UCC part of the Indian Constitution?

The UCC is incorporated in Part IV of the Indian Constitution, specifically in Article 44 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP). Article 44 under DPSP emphasises the state’s efforts to establish a uniform civil code for all citizens within India’s territory.

Who brought Uniform Civil Code in India?

The origins of the UCC can be traced back to 1835 when the British government submitted a report which highlighted the importance of uniformity in codifying Indian law related to crimes, evidence, and contracts during the colonial era. However, it suggested that the personal laws of Hindus and Muslims remain separate from this codification process.

During the framing of the Indian Constitution after Independence, some members of the Constituent Assembly, including Dr. BR Ambedkar, recognized the need for a Uniform Civil Code in India to advance gender equality, secularism, and national integration. Dr. Ambedkar stated that a UCC was desirable but should remain voluntary at that moment. Article 44 was subsequently added to the Directive Principles of State Policy in the Constitution of India, indicating that the UCC would be implemented when the nation was ready to accept it.

However, there were dissenting voices, with some members, such as Nazirrudin Ahmad, opposing the idea, arguing that religious laws should not be tampered with without the consent of the respective communities.

What will happen if Uniform Civil Code is implemented?

If enacted, the UCC would simplify laws that are currently segregated based on religious beliefs, such as the Hindu code bill and Shariat law. It would streamline complex laws related to marriage ceremonies, inheritance, succession, and adoptions, making them uniform for all citizens. Consequently, the same civil law would be applicable to all individuals, irrespective of their faith.

Implementation of the Uniform Civil Code in India would establish a consistent legal framework for all citizens, minimizing the risk of discrimination or inconsistencies in matters concerning marriage, divorce, succession, and guardianship.

Which Indian state has UCC?

While several BJP-ruled states, including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Assam, have expressed willingness to follow the UCC, none have officially adopted it. 

Currently, Goa stands as the only state that has a uniform civil code in India applicable to all its residents, irrespective of religion, gender, or caste. Goa follows the Portuguese Civil Code of 1867, ensuring that people of all religions are subject to the same laws regarding marriage, divorce, and succession.

The Goa Daman and Diu Administration Act of 1962, which was passed after Goa joined the union as a territory in 1961, gave Goa permission to apply the Civil Code.

What are the challenges of Uniform Civil Code in India?

However, implementing the Uniform Civil Code in India presents challenges due to the country’s diversity, with various religious communities following their own personal laws. Differences in legal marriageable age, practices such as polygamy and polyandry, divorce grounds, and alimony provisions exist within different religious laws.

Challenges include:

Religious and Cultural Diversity: India’s rich religious and cultural diversity is a significant consideration. Critics argue that the UCC could undermine the cultural fabric of the country and impinge upon religious freedom by replacing individual religious laws with a uniform code applicable to all citizens.

Protection of Minority Rights: Opponents express concerns about the potential impact on minority communities. Personal laws are deeply intertwined with the religious identity and practices of these communities. Imposing a common civil code may dilute unique rights and protections enjoyed by minority groups, eroding cultural autonomy.

Political Considerations: The UCC has become a subject of political maneuvering. Political parties and leaders often exploit the issue for vote consolidation or appealing to specific constituencies. The sensitive nature of religious identity and potential impact on minorities often overshadow genuine discussions on the merits and drawbacks of a UCC.

Gender Equality and Women’s Rights: Supporters argue that a uniform code would promote gender equality and women’s rights by eliminating discriminatory practices found in some religious personal laws. Opponents contend that gender justice can be achieved within existing personal laws and a Uniform Civil Code in India could inadvertently infringe upon women’s rights protected under specific religious practices.

National Integration: While some believe a common civil code would foster national integration, others argue that considering the diversity of religious beliefs and customs, the UCC is a highly complex and sensitive issue.

Which other countries follow Uniform Civil Code?

Countries such as the US, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Turkey, Indonesia, Egypt, and Ireland follow the Uniform Civil Code. These countries have implemented one set of personal laws applicable to all religions, without separate laws for specific religious communities or individuals.

PS: The Uniform Civil Code in India is an ongoing discussion, and your valuable inputs are crucial in shaping the future of our legal landscape. The aim is to strike a balance between fostering unity, respecting diversity, and ensuring equality and justice for all citizens. Your thoughts, opinions, and insights matter, so don’t hesitate to contribute to this transforming dialogue!

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