Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

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    Context

    • Recently, the Central government has pitched for Uniform Civil Code (UCC) to the Supreme Court arguing different laws as an affront to the nation’s unity.

    About

    • The Centre responded to petitions filed in the apex court seeking uniformity in laws governing matters of divorce, succession and inheritance and adoption and guardianship for all, irrespective of gender and religion.
    • However, the government has not issued any direction to the Legislature to enact a particular legislation on UCC. 
    • It is a matter of policy for the elected representatives of the people (legislature) to decide whether to enact a legislation or not.

    Arguments in favor of UCC

    • Constitutional Provisions: Article 44 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) under Part IV of the Constitution of India creates an obligation upon the State to endeavor to secure for citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the country.
    • National Unity: Centre argued that people belonging to different religions and denominations following different property and matrimonial laws creates an “affront to the nation’s unity”. 
    • Uniform Civil Code Umbrella: UCC denotes the field of personal law relating to marriage, divorce, maintenance, custody and guardianship of children. inheritance and succession and adoption. 
    • Uttarakhand has also formed an expert committee to study the personal laws and report on amendments to those laws, for the effective implementation of the Uniform Civil Code in the state.
    • Objective of UCC: Article 44 underlines the purpose of-
    • strengthening the preambular objectives of Secular Democratic Republic
    • ensuring integration of India by bringing communities on the common platform on matters being governed by diverse personal laws. 
    • divesting religion from social relations and personal law.
    • Positive Secularism and gender justice: UCC would help in ending socio-religious and gender discrimination and strengthen the secular fabric of the nation. For example, the ban on triple talaq.
    • Eradication of unjust customs and traditions: A unified personal law will eradicate many prevalent evil and unjust customs and traditions across various communities. 
    • For example, Manual scavenging Act.
    • Administration Convenience: India is on a way to surpass China as a country with the largest population in the world. UCC would facilitate administering the huge population base of India.

    Arguments against UCC

    • A sensitive matter
    • UCC is an important subject matter with inherent sensitivity of the involved communities regarding traditional personal laws, religious tenets, cultural ethos and practices. 
    • For example, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board views the laws pertaining to marriage and inheritance have been part of religion since ages.
    • Need for wider deliberation/discussions
    • Any efforts to bring change and uniformity in personal laws governing different communities should be driven by dialogue and consensus. 
    • The 21st Law Commission of India gave a consultation paper titled ‘Reform of family law’ in 2018 suggesting the need for wider deliberation/discussions.
    • Hampering syncretic culture: India is known for a unique identity of a diverse, multicultural, multi-religious society. A unified law might hamper such a syncretic cultural identity. 
    • Violation of fundamental rights: UCC is opposed by the religious denominations on the ground that State interference in religious affairs would violate fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 25 of the constitution.
    • Possibility of communal unrest: UCC might be perceived as a tyranny of the majority over the minority and its implementation could attract a pervasive culture of communal unrest in India.

    Other Provisions w.r.t. Uniform Civil Code: 

    • Seventh Schedule to the Constitution: Many matters pertaining to the UCC are present in item five of the Concurrent List (legislative jurisdiction of both the Union and the States) in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
    • Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 covers matters of marriage, maintenance, dowry, divorce and inheritance.
    • The Hindu Succession Act, 1956: It was amended in 2005 to give daughters inheritance rights in ancestral property.
    • Hindu Code Bill: 
    • Drafted by Dr. B R Ambedkar, it was aimed at reforming Hindu laws legalising divorce, opposing polygamy and giving inheritance rights to daughters. 
    • Due to heavy criticism and intense opposition to the code, its diluted version was passed via four different laws.

    Way Forward

    • The subject matter of ‘Reform of family law’ in 2018 will be placed before the 22nd Law Commission for its consideration when chairman and members of the Commission are appointed.
    • The government should examine the Commission submitted report in consultation with the stakeholders of various communities, religions and denominations.
    • The possibility of codification of all personal laws as suggested by the Law Commission should be considered to arrive at some principles prioritizing equity over imposition of UCC.

    Source: TH