Uniform Civil Code

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    Uniform Civil Code 

    Syllabus: GS2/ Indian Constitution, GS1/ Social Justice

    In Context

    • The Prime Minister’s recent remarks at a political rally has brought up the issue of Uniform Civil Code to the fore.

    About the Uniform Civil Code

    • What is the Uniform Civil Code?
      • The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) aims to enforce a uniform legal framework to all citizens, irrespective of their religion. 
      • Right now, matters including marriage, divorce and succession are governed by religion-based personal laws.
    • Constitutionality:
      • Article 44 – DPSP:
        • UCC is part of Part IV of the Constitution which includes the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP). 
        • Article 44 in DPSP states that “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”.
      • Article 37: 
        • States that the vision of a Uniform Civil Code (along with other directive principles) is enshrined in the Indian Constitution as a goal towards which the nation should strive, but it isn’t a fundamental right or a Constitutional guarantee. 
        • One can’t approach the court to demand a UCC. But that doesn’t mean courts can’t opine on the matter. 

    Enforcement of UCC in India

    • Historical background:
      • The UCC can be traced back to the debates during the framing of the Indian Constitution
        • Some members of the Constituent Assembly, including Dr BR Ambedkar believed that a UCC was necessary to promote gender equality, secularism, and national integration. 
      • Post independence, the demand to implement the UCC has come up many times, notably, in 1985, during the hearing of the Shah Bano case.
        • This also led to a backlash since this was against Muslim personal laws.
    • Position of states:
      • States like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Assam have expressed their willingness to follow the UCC, none have officially adopted it.
      • However, a version of the UCC is in place in Goa
        • It follows the Portuguese Civil Code of 1867, which means that people of all religions in Goa are subject to the same laws on marriage, divorce, and succession. 
        • The Goa Daman and Diu Administration Act of 1962, which was passed after Goa joined the union as a territory in 1961, gave Goa permission to apply the Civil Code.

    Arguments in favour of the UCC

    • National interest:
      • Many believe that UCC is important for national integrity and equality of genders and religions. 
    • Discriminatory & outdated laws:
      • The supporters argue that personal laws based on religion can sometimes lead to discriminatory practices, especially against women.
      • Legal experts also say that the implementation of the UCC will make legislation in terms of succession and divorce easier and will oust a lot of outdated religious personal laws.
    • Principles of secularism:
      • Another argument is that a common civil code would reinforce the principles of secularism in India. 
    • Ease of Administration: 
      • UCC would make it easy to administer the huge population base of India.
    • Historically, not all communities demanded separate laws: 
      • Few of 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. 
        • Eg., 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 the implementation of the UCC

    • Religious freedom:
      • People opposing it say that the UCC could infringe upon religious freedom and might clash with religious practices. 
      • Since India is a diverse nation with various cultures, there are arguments that different communities should have the right to maintain their distinct customs and practices and that a law should not be implemented on minority communities without their consent.
    • Issues with implementation:
      • The implementation of the code has been difficult because India is a diverse country with various religious communities following their own personal laws. 
        • For instance, the laws of succession for most religions are skewed towards the male children of an “interstate” person. 
        • The legal marriageable age for Muslim women is different from the others. 
        • While some religious and customary personal laws permit polygamy and polyandry, others do not.
        • Similarly, the grounds for divorce and alimony are different in various religious laws.
    • 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 ahead

    • It is possible that a uniform code may be adopted without offending any religion, but the concept evokes fear among sections of the minorities that their religious beliefs, seen as the source of their personal laws, may be undermined. 
    • What can be done?
      • Basic reforms can be given priority — such as having 18 as the marriageable age for all across communities and genders. 
        • Introducing a ‘no-fault’ divorce procedure and allowing dissolution of marriage on the ground of irretrievable breakdown, and having common norms for post-divorce division of assets
      • Within each community’s laws, it will be desirable to first incorporate universal principles of equality and non-discrimination and eliminate practices based on taboos and stereotypes.

     

    Daily Mains Question

     

    [Q] What is the Constitutionality of enforcement of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India? What are the issues with its implementation?