22nd Law Commission and Uniform Civil Code

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    In Context

    • The Law Commission recently decided to solicit views from the public on the idea of a uniform civil code.

    About Uniform Civil Code(UCC)

    • What is UCC? 
      • The UCC refers to a common set of laws governing personal matters such as marriage, divorce, adoption, inheritance and succession for all citizens, irrespective of religion.
    • Constitutional provisions suggesting UCC: 
      • Article 44: 
        • This Article of the Constitution makes a reference to a UCC and says, “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.” 
        • This is in the chapter dealing with the Directive Principles of State Policy and is therefore presumed to be advisory in nature.
      • 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. 

    Arguments in favour of UCC

    • Uniformity and reduced discord:
      • Common Code would enable uniform civil principles to be applied to the entire Nation.
      • If and 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. 
    • 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 UCC

    • Hampering diversity and multiculturalism:
      • Indian society has a unique identity in the form of 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.

    Constitution of the 22nd Law Commission

    • Head:
      • The Commission is headed by former Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Rituraj Awasthi.
    • Function:
      • The Commission, among other things, shall “identify laws which are no longer needed or relevant and can be immediately repealed; examine the existing laws in the light of Directive Principles of State Policy and suggest ways of improvement and reform and also suggest such legislations as might be necessary to implement the Directive Principles and to attain the objectives set out in the Preamble of the Constitution”; and “revise the Central Acts of general importance so as to simplify them and remove anomalies, ambiguities and inequities”.
      • The Commission is also looking into several significant issues like 
        • Implementation of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC).
      • Holding of simultaneous elections.

    Issues and criticisms

    • Decision of 21st Law Commission:
      • The 21st Commission had released a consultation paper in 2018 that categorically said a uniform civil code was “neither necessary nor desirable” at that stage
      • Reasons cited:
        • In a well-reasoned document, it had then argued that the focus of initiatives to reform the various personal laws should be the elimination of all forms of discrimination rather than an attempt to bring about uniformity in the laws governing various religions. 
        • It emphasised non-discrimination over uniformity.
        • It also recognised that there could be diverse means of governing aspects of personal law such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption instead of imposing a single set of rules on society. 
          • This, according to the 21st commission, would entail the removal of discriminatory provisions, especially those that affect women, and adoption of some overarching norms rooted in equality.
    • The 22nd Commission:
      • The 22nd Commission has claimed that years have elapsed since similar views were sought by the previous panel on UCC, and that a fresh effort was needed to garner varied opinions.
    • Critics:
      • According to critics, the Law Commission’s decision to solicit views from the public on the idea of a uniform civil code appears to be a political initiative aimed at bringing the potentially divisive issue under focus.

    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] Analyse the applicability of the Uniform Civil Code(UCC) in India. What are the ways of adopting UCC without offending any religion & evoking fears?