Uniform Civil Code

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    In News

    • Recently, the Law Minister said that the States can enact laws on uniform civil code too. 

    More about the news

    • States are empowered to enact personal laws that decide issues such as succession, marriage and divorce.
    • Uttarakhand was the first state to set up a panel to explore the possibility of a common civil code in the State.

    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 based on 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.

    Arguments For UCC

    • Uniformity and reduced discord:
      • Common Code would enable uniform civil principles to be applied to the entire Nation.
      • When the whole population will start following the same laws, chances are there that it would bring more peace to the living and reduce riots. 
    • Secularism and Women’s Rights
      • UCC would help end gender discrimination and overall discrimination on religious grounds and strengthen the secular fabric of the nation.
      • 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.
    • 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.
    • Ease of Administration: 
      • UCC would make it easy to administer the huge population base of India.
    • Historically, not all Muslim communities were demanding separate laws: 
      • Few the Muslim communities like the Khojas and Cutchi Memons did not want to submit to separate Muslim Personal Law.
    • Global Scenario:
      • The personal laws of minorities were not recognised in any of the advanced Muslim countries. 
      • E.g., in Turkey and Egypt, no minority in these countries were permitted to have their own personal laws.
      • Many countries have common civil codes.

    Arguments Against UCC

    • Hampering diversity and multiculturalism:
      • Indian society has a unique identity in the form of its being diverse and multicultural, and unified law might do away with these unique characteristics of this nation.
    • Violation of fundamental rights: 
      • Religious bodies oppose a uniform civil code on the ground that it would be interference in religious affairs which would violate fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 25 of the constitution.
    • May lead to communal unrest: 
      • It would be a tyranny to the minority and when implemented could bring a lot of unrest in the country.
    • The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board stated that the laws pertaining to marriage and inheritance were part of religious injunctions for ages.

    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.

    Constitutional Provisions dealing with Civil Code in India: 

    • Schedule Seven:
      • Many of the matters pertaining to the UCC are present in item five of the Concurrent List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
      • This part demarcates the legislative powers of the Union government and the states.
    • Under the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937: 
      • Issues such as marriage, maintenance, dower, divorce and inheritance come within its purview. 
      • Many of these also find a place in item five of the Concurrent List.
    • The Hindu Succession Act, 1956:
      • It originally did not give daughters inheritance rights in ancestral property. They could only ask for a right to sustenance from a joint Hindu family. 
      • This disparity was removed by an amendment to the Act in 2005.
    • Hindu Code Bill: 
      • The purpose of the bill was to reform Hindu laws, which legalised divorce, opposed polygamy and gave rights of inheritance to daughters. 
      • Amidst intense opposition to the code, a diluted version was passed via four different laws.
      • Dr. B R Ambedkar drafted the Hindu Code Bill.

    Source: TH