Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

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    In Context

    • Recently, a parliamentary panel has reviewed Goa’s uniform civil code and highlighted some of the outdated provisions of Goa’s uniform civil code.

    About

    • Goa Civil Code:  A set of civil laws that governs all residents of Goa irrespective of their religion and ethnicity, has come under focus amid a call for the implementation of a uniform civil code (UCC) across the country. 
      • Goa is the only state in India that has a uniform civil code regardless of religion, gender and cast.
    • Goa, a former Portuguese colony, inherited the Portuguese Civil Code, 1867 that is still applicable in the state even after it joined the Indian Union in 1961 (statehood 1987).
    • Recently, Delhi HC asked the Union Govt. to take steps for implementing UCC.

    Uniform Civil Code (UCC) : Article 44

    • Article 44: 
      • Uniform civil code for the citizens under Article 44 (Part 4 of Constitution) of the Constitution states that the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.
    • Origin of Uniform Civil Code
      • The origin of the UCC dates back to colonial India when the British government submitted its report in 1835 stressing the need for uniformity in the codification of Indian law relating to crimes, evidence, and contracts, specifically recommending that personal laws of Hindus and Muslims be kept outside such codification. 
      • B N Rau Committee:
        • Increase in legislation dealing with personal issues in the far end of British rule forced the government to form the B N Rau Committee to codify Hindu law in 1941. 
        • The task of the Hindu Law Committee was to examine the question of the necessity of common Hindu laws. 
        • The committee, in accordance with scriptures, recommended a codified Hindu law, which would give equal rights to women. 
        • The 1937 Act was reviewed and the committee recommended a civil code of marriage and succession for Hindus.

    Significance

    • Uniform Principles: Common Code would enable uniform principles being applied in respect of aspects such as marriage, divorce, succession etc. so that settled principles, safeguards and procedures can be laid down and citizens are not made to struggle due to the conflicts and contradictions in various personal laws
    • Protection of Vulnerables: It will protect the vulnerable sections of the society.
    • Women’s Rights: they have been denied via personal laws in the name of socio-cultural religious traditions. Therefore, UCC could bring all communities together to ensure Women the Right to a dignified life and control over their life as well as body.
    • Administration: Easy to administer the huge population base of India.
    • Discord could be reduced: if and when the whole population will start following the same laws, chances are there that it would bring more peace in the living and reduce riots. Hence, Religious harmony will be created for peaceful living in the country
    • Justice in case of religion-based discrimination: Personal laws differentiate between people on  grounds of religion. Ex- under the Muslim personal law, Muslims are allowed to practice polygamy. However, a Hindu or a Christian will be prosecuted for doing the same. Thus, a unified law having the same provisions regarding marital affairs would provide justice to those who feel discriminated against.
    • Removal of unjust customs and traditions: A rational common and unified personal law will help  eradicate many evil, unjust and irrational customs and traditions prevalent across the communities. For example, Law against Manual scavenging. It might have been a custom in the past but in a mature democracy like India, this custom cannot be justified.
    • Promotion of secularism: One set of laws to govern personal matters of all citizens irrespective of religion is the cornerstone of true secularism. It would help end gender discrimination on religious  grounds and strengthen the secular fabric of the nation.

    Challenges

    • Different laws of Hindus as well:  We have the law of Mayukha applied in some parts of India; we have Mitakshara in others; and we have the law of Dayabhaga in Bengal. In this way even Hindus themselves have separate Hindu laws for themselves. 
    • Majority are also in question: It is, therefore, not merely a question for minorities but it also affects the majority.
    • Fundamental Rights violation: it would infringe the fundamental right to freedom of religion mentioned in Article 25 and
    • Communal politics: It would be a tyranny to the minority and when implemented could bring a lot of unrest in the country.
    • Lacking Political Will: more bigger issues have been resolved by the BJP Government like Ayodhya Dispute, repeal of Article 370, so with adequate will from political community, UCC could also be implemented
    • Reduce diversity: It would reduce the diversity of the nation by painting everyone in one colour. Tribals have their unique customs and traditions as per their culture. Replacing their customs and traditions with a unified law may lead to the identity crisis of the tribals. This may further lead to social tension.
    • Violation of fundamental right: Religious bodies oppose uniform civil code on the ground that it would be interference into the religious affairs which would violate fundamental right guaranteed under article 25 of the constitution.
    • Multiculturalism: Indian society has a unique identity in the form of its being multiculturalism, and unified law might do away with these unique characteristics of this nation.

    Way Forward

    • Codification of all personal laws, through which Universal laws can be taken.
    • Add only just elements of customs & traditions to UCC.
    • Protect customs and traditions.
    • The Law Commission also concluded that a UCC is neither feasible nor desirable.

    Source: IE