Uniform Civil Code

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    In News

    Recently, Delhi HC called for Uniform Civil Code and asked the Central Government to take action.

    About Judgment

    • Underlining the need for a Uniform Civil Code, the Delhi High Court has said that youth belonging to different communities, tribes, castes or religions who solemnise their marriage “ought not to be forced to struggle with issues” arising due to conflicts in various personal laws, especially in relation to marriage and divorce.
    • The High Court directed that its judgment be communicated to the Secretary of Ministry of Law & Justice “for necessary action as deemed appropriate”.

    Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

    • Article 44: 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.
      • But it specifically recommended that personal laws of Hindus and Muslims should be kept outside such codification. 

    Significance of UCC

    • Uniform Principles: Common Code would enable uniform principles to be 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.
    • Promotion of secularism: One set of laws to govern the personal matters of all citizens irrespective of religion is the cornerstone of true secularism. It would help end gender discrimination on religious grounds and strengthens the secular fabric of the nation.
    • Protection of Vulnerable & Women’s Rights: It will protect the vulnerable sections of society. Women 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.
    • Reduced Discord: 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
    • Prevents religion-based discrimination: Personal laws differentiate between people on grounds of religion. A unified law having the same provisions regarding marital affairs would provide justice to those who feel discriminated against.
    • Ending 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.
    • Eases Administration: UCC would make it easy to administer the huge population base of India.

    Challenges

    • Violation of fundamental rights: Religious bodies oppose uniform civil code on the ground that it would be interference into religious affairs which would violate fundamental rights guaranteed under article 25 of the constitution.
    • Reduces 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.
    • Communal politics: It would be a tyranny to the minority and when implemented could bring a lot of unrest in the country.
    • Threat to 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.
    • Affects Majority as well: For example,  even Hindus themselves have separate Hindu laws for themselves. Thus, it is not merely a question for minorities but it also affects the majority.
    • Lacking Political Will: Bigger issues have been resolved by the BJP Government like Ayodhya Dispute, repeal of Article 370, so with adequate will from the political community, UCC could also be implemented

    Conclusion

    • The guiding principles of the Constitution itself visualize diversity and have tried to promote uniformity among peoples of different denominations. 
    • A uniform law, although highly desirable but may be counterproductive to the unity and integrity of the nation. 
    • Hence, only those elements of customs and traditions should be brought into a unified law that causes injustice to individuals. 
    • There are some good and equitable provisions in personal laws, which are worth incorporating in the unified law. 
    • At the same time, good customs and traditions should be protected to preserve the indigenous culture associated with it. It will help India protect its strength i.e. unity in diversity.
    • In a democracy and rule of law, a gradual progressive change and order must be brought about. 

    Various Committees/Judgments

    • BN Rau Committee:
      • An 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.
    • Delhi High Court:
      • HC iterated that it shall not remain mere hope for the citizens.
      • If members of a tribe voluntarily choose to follow Hindu customs, traditions and rites, they cannot be kept out of the purview of the provisions of the HMA, 1955. 
      • Codified statutes and laws provide for various protections to parties against any unregulated practices from being adopted. 
      • In this day and age, relegating parties to customary Courts when they themselves admit that they are following Hindu customs and traditions would be antithetical to the purpose behind enacting a statute like the HMA, 1955
    • Ms Jordan Diengdeh case: 
      • The Supreme Court had in 1985 directed that the judgment in Ms Jordan Diengdeh be placed before the Ministry of Law to take appropriate steps. 
      • However, more than three decades have passed since then and it is unclear as to what steps have been taken in this regard to date.
      • The remarks on the UCC came on a petition questioning the applicability of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 in respect of a couple belonging to the Meena community.
      • Even though the parties admitted that the marriage was solemnised by them as per Hindu rites, the wife, in response to a divorce petition filed by her husband, said the Act did not apply to them because they were members of a notified Scheduled Tribe in Rajasthan and were thus covered by an exclusion under Section 2 (2) of the Act.

    Best Practice

    • While delivering a judgment legitimising the Portuguese Civil Code of 1867, the Supreme Court reportedly described Goa as a “shining example” with a Uniform Civil Code
    • The founders of the Constitution had “hoped and expected” a UCC for India but the government had made no attempt yet.

    Sources: IE