The Uniform Civil Code


    In News

    • The Gujarat government had decided to form a committee for the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the state.
      • Gujarat is the state after Uttarakhand to constitute a committee of experts on the UCC. 

    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.
    • 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 1937 Act was reviewed and the committee recommended a civil code of marriage and succession for Hindus. 
    • Debate in constituent assembly
      • The clause on UCC generated substantial debate in the Constituent Assembly about whether it should be included as a fundamental right or a directive principle. 
      • The matter had to be settled by vote; with a majority of 5:4, wherein the sub-committee on fundamental rights headed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel decided that securing a UCC was not within the scope of fundamental rights.  
        • Some also felt that India was too diverse a country for the UCC.
        • UCC would be against the freedom of religion as the Constitution allowed the government to make laws covering secular activities related to religious practices if they were intended for social reform. 

    What Is Uniform Civil Code?


    • Meaning
      • The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) calls for the formulation of one law for India, which would be applicable to all religious communities in matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption.
    • Article 44 of the Constitution
      • The code comes under Article 44 of the Constitution, which states that the state shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India.
      • The objective of Article 44 of the Directive Principles in the Indian Constitution was to address the discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise diverse cultural groups across the country. 
      • Part IV (Articles 36-51) covers a wide range of principles, including apart from the UCC:
        • The securing of equal justice and free legal aid to citizens (Art 39A)
        • Participation of workers in the management of industries (Art 43A)
        • Organisation of agriculture and animal husbandry (Art 48)
        • Protection and improvement of the environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife (Art 48A)
        • Promotion of international peace and security (Art 51)
    • What will Uniform Civil Code do?
      • When enacted the code will work to simplify laws that are segregated at present on the basis of religious beliefs like the Hindu code bill, Sharia law, and others.
      • The code will simplify the complex laws around marriage ceremonies, inheritance, succession, adoptions making them one for all.

    Difference between civil laws and criminal laws

    • While the criminal laws in India are uniform and applicable equally on all, no matter what their religious beliefs are, the civil laws are influenced by faith. 
    • Swayed by religious texts, the personal laws which come into effect in civil cases have always been implemented according to constitutional norms.

    Merits of uniform civil code

    • If there is plurality in already codified civil and criminal laws, how can the concept of one nation, one law be applied to diverse personal laws of various communities.
    • It helps and accelerates national integration.
    • Overlapping provisions of law could be avoided.
    • Litigation due to personal law would decrease.
    • Sense of oneness and the national spirit would be roused.
    • The country would emerge with new force and power to face any odds finally defeating the communal and the divisionist forces.

    What is the relationship between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles?

    • The Fundamental Rights lie at the heart of the Constitution, and are justiciable that is, they are legally enforceable in a court of law.
    • In its landmark Minerva Mills’s judgment (1980), the Supreme Court held: the Indian Constitution is founded on the bed-rock of the balance between Parts III (Fundamental Rights) and IV (Directive Principles).
      • To give absolute primacy to one over the other is to disturb the harmony of the Constitution.
    • Article 31C says that if a law is made to implement any of the Directive Principles, it cannot be challenged on the ground of being violative of the Fundamental Rights under Articles 14 and 19. 

    Way forward 

    • The Supreme Court in 2019 hailed Goa as a shining example of an Indian State which has a functioning UCC. 
    • The Supreme Court in various judgments has called for the implementation of the UCC.
      • In its Mohd. Ahmed Khan vs Shah Bano Begum judgement of 1985, where a divorced Muslim woman demanded maintenance from her former husband, the apex court while deciding whether to give prevalence to the CrPc or the Muslim personal law, called for the implementation of the UCC.
      • The Court also called on the government to implement the UCC in the 1995 Sarla Mudgal judgement as well as in the Paulo Coutinho vs Maria Luiza Valentina Pereira case (2019).
    • The Law Commission said that a unified nation did not necessarily need uniformity, adding that secularism could not contradict the plurality prevalent in the country.
    • Israel, Japan, France and Russia are strong today because of their sense of oneness which we have yet to develop and propagate. 

    Source: TH