UNIFORM CIVIL CODE

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) calls for the formulation of one law for India, which would be applicable to all religious communities in matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption. The code comes under Article 44 of the Constitution, which lays down that the state shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India.The issue has been at the center of political narrative and debate for over a century and a priority agenda for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has been pushing for the legislation in Parliament. The saffron party was the first to promise the implementation of UCC if it comes to power and the issue was part of its 2019 Lok Sabha election manifesto.

Origin of Uniform Civil Code

The origin of the UCC dates back to colonial India when the British government submitted its report in 1835 stressing the need for uniformity in the codification of Indian law relating to crimes, evidence, and contracts, specifically recommending that personal laws of Hindus and Muslims be kept outside such codification.Increase in legislations dealing with personal issues in the far end of the British rule forced the government to form the B N Rau Committee to codify Hindu law in 1941. The task of the Hindu Law Committee was to examine the question of the necessity of common Hindu laws. The committee, in accordance with scriptures, recommended a codified Hindu law, which would give equal rights to women. The 1937 Act was reviewed and the committee recommended a civil code of marriage and succession for Hindus.

For a large part of India’s history post independence, due to existence of several religions, there was often reluctance to approach a common law for entire nation. However, when it came to matters for Hindu faith, laws which didn’t allow equal inheritance by sons and daughters, or matters of divorce (considered back then as taboo), a law was enacted called Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. This to a huge extent, settled all discrimination faced by Hindu women.

Now fast forward to days of 1985, there was this Shah Bano case, where a Muslim lady of 62 years was divorced by saying the word “talaq” (meaning: divorce) three times, a practice common in some muslim soceties. This matter went upto Supreme court, which declared this wrong and unjust. But then, there was a backlash from the Muslim community, led by All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) , who saw this as an “attack on their faith”, resulting in the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to pass an ordinance to overrule Supreme court’s judgement. This action was something seen by many as a clear case of appeasement politics in India, something which plagues Indian politics even to this date.

UCC and Implications
Protection to Vulnerable Section of Society: The UCC aims to provide protection to vulnerable sections as envisaged by Ambedkar including women and religious minorities, while also promoting nationalistic fervour through unity.
Simplification of Laws: The code will simplify the complex laws around marriage ceremonies, inheritance, succession, adoptions making them one for all. The same civil law will then be applicable to all citizens irrespective of their faith.
When enacted the code will work to simplify laws that are segregated at present on the basis of religious beliefs like the Hindu code bill, Sharia law, and others.
Adhering to Ideal of Secularism: Secularism is the objective enshrined in the Preamble, a secular republic needs a common law for all citizens rather than differentiated rules based on religious practices.
Gender Justice: India has separate sets of personal laws for each religion governing marriages, divorce, succession, adoption and maintenance.
However, the rights of women are usually limited under religious law, be it Hindu or Muslim. The practice of triple talaq is a classic example.
If a uniform civil code is enacted, all personal laws will cease to exist. It will do away with gender biases in Muslim law, Hindu law and Christian law that have been often challenged by women on the ground that they violate the right to equality.

Does India really need UCC

Yes, Uniform Civil Code (UCC) definitely the next step towards a secular India. Before I begin with my answer why UCC is necessary I would like to debunk that its unconstitutional .
As pointed out by User, Indian secularism means equal treatment of all religions by the state. Yes but his inference from this that a UCC violates constitution is absurd. This statement means that State will equally protect the constitutional liberties given to different religious groups (Article 25 to 30, Indian Constitution) but does not them confer upon them a right to have their own personal laws. Infact this issue was of much debate when Muslim leaders demanded a constitutional right of ‘right to have one’s own personal laws’ but this was outrightly rejected by the constituent assembly. More than what framers of Constitution had to say constitutionality of UCC is there in the constitution itself in the form of Article 44.” Uniform civil code for the citizens – The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”Thus, as far as the issue of constitutionality of UCC is there its pretty much decided that UCC is constitutional.

why UCC is required in this country:-

1) Multiple Laws create Confusion – Muslims have their own personal laws which are not codified and their interpretation is problematic. Hindu Code is codified into four acts but it accepts customs, and traditional practices as source of law again causing confusion in cases where custom and present law are in conflict. Then Christians have their own code, Goa has its own civil code, Parsis their own, Tribals have their own separate code. This multiplicity of laws is problematic and creates much problem in adjudication of issues. Further, some of these laws are not even codified (Muslim) or partially codified (Hindu – In the sense that they allow customs etc) causing even more problems.

2) Gender Bias – Most of these laws have bias against rights of women such as Triple Talaq in Muslim law, Restitution of Conjugal Rights (Forceful stay of one spouse with another by issuance of a court decree) issue in Hindu law and limited property rights of women.
This bias is not only against women but also operates against interest of men. For example, other than Hindu Marriage act no other personal law provides alimony to husband from wife, even the so called gender neutral acts such as Special Marriage Act and Foreign Marriage Act do not have provision for a husband to demand alimony from his wife.

3) Personal Laws Lead to Problems such as Polygamy, Inter-Religion Marriages etc. – Some time back a trend started in non-Muslims to convert to Islam and then contract multiple marriages so as to escape the punishment for polygamy. This, loophole has now been closed by Supreme Court itself in the case of Sarla Mudgal case (Smt. Sarla Mudgal, President, … vs Union Of India & Ors on 10 May, 1995) but there remains several similar multiple issues with regard to personal laws.
Similarly, no personal law (other than Muslims and Christians, having their own set of restrictions) allow for inter-religion marriages, this is divisive in a society such as ours which enjoys religious diversity. Had it not been for Special Marriage Act (A Secular law) inter-religious marriages would not have been possible.

4) Personal Laws confer unconstitutional benefits – Hindus get tax exemption under Hindu Undivided Family. Muslims need not register a gift deed thus saving stamp duty. These benefits in my opinion are entirely based on religion and hence unconstitutional.

5) Historical evidence shows UCC is feasible and will not restrict religiosity in India – During Mughal rules, and even under the British rules for a limited time we had separate court for Muslims and Hindus, not only for personal law matters but, even matters of criminal law. A Hindu court thereby could not have passed a death sentence to a Brahmin. At that time the idea of a uniform criminal law or a uniform property or tax or any uniform law was inconceivable.
But how many Indians today believe that the criminal law or property law discriminates against them on basis of religion. Or does this uniformity in law has any way affected religiosity in India? I doubt so and UCC thereby seems to be the logical next step in India having set of uniform religion blind laws.

So we have basically two factions of this matter around UCC:

For UCC:

The supporters of UCC believe that India as a secular nation can’t be ruled by laws made on basis of what religion says.The present government of India led by BJP: The agenda of BJP since days of Shah Bano case was bringing in an UCC for promotion of “national unity” and “real secularism” contray to “vote-bank secularism” practiced under Congress party. In addition, revoking laws like triple talaq will bolster image of BJP among a large section of Muslim women who have been victims of this unjust practice.
All India Shia Personal Law Board: Shias in India do not have representation in the AIMPLB. Yeah, you heard it right. Calling AIMPLB as Muslim personal law board will be absurd. Better to call it as “Sunni personal law board”. Shias believe in a more progressive Muslim society in India.
Progressive Muslim sections: Several Indian Muslim scholars, which includes both men and women, claim that triple talaq has no mention in Quran. Also, laws like triple talaq have no place even in Islamic nations like Pakistan or even Saudi Arabia.


Against UCC:

Opposers of UCC claim that bring it will be an attack on the right to freedom of religion. Some political parties are constantly opposing UCC to settle their vote-banks.Congress party, AIMIM, Samajwadi party, Trinamool Congress, Communists: Mostly opposing UCC because of cheap vote-bank politics. Samajwadi Party and Trinamool Congress have a huge Muslim voter base.
All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB): The self-proclaimed custodians of muslims call the UCC anti-secular, despite the fact that concepts like triple-talaq itself is banned in hardcore Islamic nations. Many claim that AIMPLB is just an opportunistic organisation catering more to themselves than Islam.
At the end of day, there is no denial that only UCC can usher in a truly secular India. Muslims of India must wake up and see the reality of narrow-minded religious zealots of their own faith and help in providing justice to the victimized women of their religion.

Aishwarya Says:

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