The Uniform Civil Code has been one of the most hotly disputed subjects across the country, with arguments for and against its implementation. A Uniform Civil Code throughout a country would mean treating all sections of the society and every citizen, irrespective of their religion or caste, equally in every realm. The applicability of the Uniform Civil Code shall be equal throughout for everyone uniformly. The UCC will address topics and rules, including inheritance, divorce, marriage, adoption, and property succession.
The Uniform Civil Code works on the premise of there being no connection between religion and the laws of a country in modern civilization, especially in a democratic setup where the aim is to uplift and govern every citizen of the country.
Article 44 conforms to the Directive Principles of State Policy. It states that the State must seek to provide its inhabitants with a uniform civil code (UCC) throughout India’s territory.
In 1945, the Sapru Committee proposed two types of individual rights. The first right is justiciable, whereas the other is not. As we all know, justiciable rights are known as Fundamental rights, whereas non-justiciable rights are known as Directive Principles of State Policy.
DPSP are values that the state should keep in mind while developing policies and enacting legislation. Following are the definitions of Directive Principles of State that the State provides:
- The Government of India Act of 1935 defines DPSP as an ‘instrument of instructions’.
- They attempt to build economic and social democracy in the country.
- DPSPs are principles that, if violated, are not legally enforced by the courts.
What does Uniform Civil Code stand for?
- Protection to the Vulnerable Elements of Society:
As envisioned by Ambedkar, the UCC aims to protect vulnerable elements of society, including women and religious minorities, while also fostering nationalistic zeal via unity.
- Simplified Laws:
The code will make the complicated laws surrounding marriage ceremonies, inheritance, succession, and adoptions the same for everyone. So, the same civil law applies to all people, regardless of faith. When passed, the code will attempt to simplify laws that are now divided based on religious views, such as the Hindu code bill, Sharia law, and others.
- Following the Secularist Ideal:
Secularism is the Preamble’s goal. A secular republic requires common law for all people rather than different regulations based on religious traditions.
- Gender Equality:
Each religion in India has its own set of personal rules covering weddings, divorces, succession, adoption, and maintenance. However, religious legislation, Hindu or Muslim, restricts women’s rights. A famous example is the practice of triple talaq. A Uniform Civil Code abolishes all personal laws. It would eliminate gender inequalities in Muslim, Hindu, and Christian law, which women have frequently challenged as violating the right to equality.
Goa Civil Code
Goa is the only state in India with a UCC in the form of common family law. The Portuguese Civil Code, which is still in effect today, was implemented in Goa in the nineteenth century and was not changed following its emancipation. Significant features of the Civil Code are as follows:
- Goa’s Uniform Civil Code is a progressive statute. It provides for equitable distribution of income and property between husband and wife and amongst offspring (regardless of gender).
- It legally records every birth, marriage, and death. Furthermore, there are numerous provisions for divorce.
- Muslims who have registered their marriages in Goa are not permitted to conduct polygamy or divorce through triple talaq.
- During the course of a marriage, the couple commonly holds all the property and wealth owned or acquired by each.
- In the event of a divorce, each spouse gets half of the property, and in the event of death, half of the surviving member’s ownership.
- The parents cannot disinherit their children entirely. At least they should pass half of their property to the children. Children must share this inherited property equally among them.
Why do some oppose a Uniform Civil Code?
Given the enormous range of interests and feelings to be considered, the work of actually developing a set of laws that would govern all communities is a daunting and time-consuming one.
Misinformation about UCC is a significant obstacle. Because the content of UCC is unspecified, minorities may feel it is a method of forcing majority beliefs on them. Also, due to the issue’s complexity and sensitivity, there is a lack of political will. Moreover, personal laws differ according to the faith and community, resulting in the politics of the UCC debate.
According to opponents of UCC, personal laws come from religious beliefs. They maintain that it is prudent not to disturb them because doing so risks inciting animosity and tension between various religious communities. Furthermore, India guarantees its minorities the right to practice their religion, culture, and customs as a secular country under Articles 29 and 30. They claim that implementing UCC will violate these articles.
Suggestions to implement a Uniform Civil Code:
The following suggestions are significant to achieve the DPSP’s goals and maintain legal consistency:
- People should be encouraged to have a progressive and open mind to understand the spirit of the UCC. The Government should implement a programme of education, awareness, and sensitization.
- The Government should write the Uniform Civil Code with the best interests of all religions in mind.
- Form a committee of eminent jurists to ensure consistency and focus on not offending any particular community.
- Because the subject is so sensitive, it is always preferable if the initiative comes from the religious groups involved.
Arguments supporting a Uniform Civil Code
- It will integrate India-
India is a diverse country with numerous religions, customs, and practices. If India had a common civil code, it would be able to integrate more than it has since independence. It will help to bring all Indians under a single national civil code of conduct, regardless of caste, religion, or ethnicity.
- Will aid in the reduction of vote bank politics-
A UCC will also reduce vote bank politics, which most political parties engage in during every election.
- Personal laws are a stumbling block-
We have developed an alternative legal system by permitting personal laws. However, the basis of these laws is the ideals that extend back thousands of years. All of that would change if there were a unified civil code.
- Indicator of a modern progressive nation-
It demonstrates that the country has moved away from caste and religious politics. While our economic growth has been substantial, our social growth has lagged. A UCC will assist society in moving forward and help India achieve its goal of becoming an indeed developed nation.
- Women’s rights will be improved-
Religious personal laws are sexist in origin. We are sentencing all Indian women to subjugation and cruelty by permitting archaic religious regulations to control family life. A unified civil code will also aid in advancing women’s rights in India.
- All Indians should be treated equally-
All laws governing marriage, inheritance, family, and land should be the same for all Indians. UCC is the only method to guarantee equal treatment of all Indians.
- Promotes true secularism-
A uniform civil code does not limit people’s freedom to practise their religion. It simply means equal treatment, and all citizens of India must follow the same laws, regardless of religion.
- Change has been the law of nature-
A small group of individuals should not be able to choose whatever laws apply to them. Using these personal rules created in a certain spatio-temporal context is absurd in the 21st century because many provisions of specific personal laws violate human rights. Article 25 and Article 26 guarantee the freedom of religion, and UCC is not opposed to secularism. The codification and unification of the variegated personal laws will produce a more coherent legal system. This will clear up any existing ambiguity and make judicial administration of legislation easier and more efficient.
Way forward with the Uniform Civil Code
The personal laws of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Parsis are all codified in India. There is no unified family-related law for all Indians in a single statute book acceptable to all religious sects who coexist in India. However, most agree that UCC is unquestionably desirable and would contribute significantly to the building and consolidating of Indian nationhood. Differences of opinion exist on its timetable and mode of implementation.
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About the Author
Yashi is an aspiring journalist and also a passionate writer. She is doing her bachelor’s in journalism, public policy, and international relations. Yashi aims to integrate her writing skills with her passion for international relations by interning with “The International Prism”