Uniform Civil Code (UCC) – Need, Merit, Demerit and India

Recently, the 22nd Law Commission of India has sought a consultation process regarding the feasibility of a uniform civil code (UCC) in India. Hence, The window for public opinion is open for 30 days. The general public can also enlist their opinion regarding the same.

In this article, we will focus on the overall and comprehensive know-how of the UCC in India and its related aspects. Also, The article includes merits, demerits, needs, challenges, and way ahead for implementation of UCC in India.

What is Uniform Civil Code (UCC)?

There are two types of codes in any country which possesses the rule of law like India:

1. Criminal Code -The criminal code includes the cases and petitions which are resolved according to criminal law like Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, Indian Evidence Act etc. Moreover, in criminal cases, the state is always a party as all the crimes are against the state.

Hence, a country like India follows a Uniform Criminal Code all over the country. This helps in protecting the Rule of law, the Right to Equality, the Right to Justice and Fair Trail.

2. Civil Code –  These codes govern the civil aspect of an individual’s life like marriage, divorce, adoption, inheritance etc. The thing to be noted should be the fact that the state is not necessarily a party in civil petitions.

However, there is no uniform civil code in India. The Hindu civil cases are governed by Hindu Code Bills like Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act, Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, and Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act. Moreover, the word Hindu also includes Jains and Buddhists according to the definition of Article 25 of the Indian Constitution.

similarly, Muslim Civil cases are governed by the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937 etc. Christian civil cases are governed by Christian personal law and Parsi civil cases by Parsi Marriage and divorce act 1936 etc.

Need for Uniform Civil Code (UCC)?

Part IV of the Indian Constitution talks about Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs). These are the directives that the state must keep in mind while formulating laws for the country. Hence, they are the vital elements of the legislation in India.

However, DPSPs are not legally enforceable in a court of law because of the incapacity of the state to enforce them with immediate effect. This could be due to various reasons like lack of resources, public opinion etc.

Article 44 of Part IV of the Indian Constitution states that “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.” As the resources and the recent have not permitted the erstwhile governments to implement this DPSP, the NDA government aims to target the same.

Politics around UCC?

The NDA government has completed the task of abrogation of article 370, Ram Mandir Judgement. The next thing in line with BJP’s election manifesto is the Uniform civil code. This is the much-awaited legislation that the NDA government is keen to implement. Already, the Uttarakhand government ruled by BJP has stated its willingness for the UCC legislation.

Hence, It is the turn of the centre to heat the issue as the General Loksabha elections are approaching nearby. It will be a win-win situation for the BJP. If BJP legislate upon the UCC, they would get a huge majority of Hindu as well as Muslim women votes. Thus, penetrating the votes share of other parties. And if BJP only ignites the issue the BJP can use it as an election promise for 2024 elections.

However, INC and other major opposition parties including AAP have opposed the move by the BJP government and are against the implementation of the UCC. Moreover, the orthodox religious community especially Muslims is against the move because it would lead to changes in their law which would undermine the authority of the texts and the interpretation by the priestly class.

INC covers a strong hold over Muslims and Scheduled classes. The BJP has already weakened the hold of Congress over Muslim women through the triple talaq legislation. Hence, BJP aims to target the same Muslim women so that they can break into the vote bank of Congress on one hand and strengthen their hold over the Hindu vote bank on another.

Merits of UCC?

Equality before law – AV Dicey’s principle of the rule of law contains equality before the law which states that everyone is equal before the law and no one is above the law. However, certain provisions in the civil code of religion violate this principle.

for example, the minimum marrigable age for a girl is 18 years but according to Shariat law, it is 16 years. This not only undermines equality before the law but also the right to education, dignified life for a Muslim woman. Also, this might lead to a high maternal mortality ratio, high fertility ratio and high child malnourishment in Muslim families.

Harmony in Statutory provisions – Due to different civil laws, there is often a class between various laws. For example, the age of an adult in Muslim law and the POSCO Act. This leads to argumentative differences in the application of law and interpretation in the court. Thus, causing many difficulties in the execution of a law.

Single citizenship – Indian Constitution borrowed the idea of single citizenship from the British constitution. In India, we have single citizenship only for India. We do not possess citizenship for race, state, religion, caste etc. Hence, the applicability of the law should also be the same. India cannot have one country with many system forms of governance.

Women Empowerment – Women have under subjugation in nearly all religions of the world. Personal laws showing affinity towards religion have always undermined the dignity of women. Therefore, A new Uniform Civil Code based on modern and rational principles would aid the development of women in India.

Demerits of UCC?

The application to central family law has many exceptions ranging from Jammu and Kashmir (erstwhile), Nagaland, Mizoram, Goa, and Daman Diu. Thus, this would either need changes in the central family law or it will lead to a conflict of interest between both of them.

article 25 of the Indian constitution Article 25 guarantees the freedom of conscience, the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion to all citizens. As the civil aspect of life is determined by religion in many ways, a uniform civil code may lead to an infringement upon the right issued under Article 25.

However, rights under Article 25 are subjected to any other provisions in part III of the Indian constitution relating to Fundamental Rights. Thus, Article 14 of the Indian Constitution stating the right to equality lies ahead of Art 25.

There has been extensive communal politics under the banner of the Uniform Civil Code. The critics see UCC as an extension of Hindutva ideology. Moreover, they claim that it is an attempt to infuse the way of living of another religion and discard them as a minority.

India is a country with various diverse features ranging from physical features to social like religions. Hence, There are majorly 6 religious minorities in India. Therefore, to address the need and demands of minorities, their culture has to be respected and no uniform law can be applied.

Evaluation

With the above discussion, it can be inferred that there is a need for such legislation. However, due to various reasons like communal politics, and personal laws, it getting difficult to implement this DPSP. The previous Law Commission also stated that the time is not right for the implementation of UCC.

First of all, GOI should plan an awareness campaign and educate citizens about UCC. Moreover, all the reservations of citizens regarding UCC should be negated such that it faces minimum barriers in its implementation. People should be aware as well as comfortable with the idea of UCC.

Then, probably a demand should come from the people’s side and all the communities should normalize the discussion on UCC. After that, the government can opt for all-inclusive legislation on UCC that would ensure Unity as well as diversity in the Indian Communities. This would be a holistic and comprehensive roadmap for civil legislation in India.

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