Various personal laws vs single codified law?
When it comes to India, it is always believed that India is a unique country which respects all religions. At the same time, the demand for the application of UCC, i.e., the Uniform Civil Code, is increasing.
Parliamentary sessions have started, and one of the significant discussions is dealt this time, i.e., the application of the Uniform Civil Code. Dr B R Ambedkar favoured the UCC in various Parliamentary debates as it aims at equal treatment to every section of society. UCC has always been a debatable topic which has yet to be settled. Some people are unaware of the concept and its benefits, while others are busy criticising it.
What is UCC? What are its Pros and Cons? Why is it important? Let’s discuss all these questions in the article below.
What is UCC?
The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a set of laws which would apply to all citizens irrespective of their religion in matters including marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adoption. Uniform Civil Code is defined in the Constitution of India under Article 44 of the Directive Principles of the State Policy. According to Article 44 of the Constitution, the government must make every effort to provide UCCs for its residents across the entire country of India.
The UCC aims to protect the vulnerable section of society, including women and religious minorities, while promoting nationalistic fervour through unity. If the code is enacted, it will simplify the laws currently segregated based on religious beliefs.
Pros of Uniform Civil Code
- To provide gender equality
- To provide equal status to all the citizens
- To support the national integration
- To bypass the contentious issue of reform of existing personal laws
- To accommodate the aspirations of the young population
Cons of Uniform Civil Code
- Sensitive and tough task
- Practical difficulties due to diversity in India
- Interference of state in personal matters
- Time is not yet suitable for this reform.
- Perception of UCC as an encroachment on religious freedom
Landmark Case Laws
Discrimination occurs on two levels due to different personal laws: first, it occurs between people of different religions, and second between genders.
The Uniform Civil Code will give vulnerable sections such as women, regardless of their religious beliefs, the right to equality and fairness in legal proceedings involving marriage, divorce, maintenance, child custody, inheritance rights, adoption, etc.
In the Mohammad Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum case, also known as the Shah Bano case, which is famously known as the Shah Bano case, the Supreme Court for the first time ordered the Parliament to create a UCC in the year 1985.
Shah Bano sought support from her husband, in this case, pursuant to Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure after receiving triple talaq from him.
The Muslim Women (Right to Protection on Divorce) Act, 1986, which limited a Muslim woman's right to maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, overruled the Shah Bano case ruling.
In the Shayara Bano case from 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that Triple Talaq (talaq-e-bidat) was unconstitutional.
Uniform Civil Code in Goa
Goa is the only state in India that has successfully implemented the Uniform Civil Code. This was introduced in 1879 as Goa family law by the Portuguese, but after the liberation of Goa, this law was retained and later, it came to be known as the Special Marriage Act. This provides a civil marriage of two people of the opposite sex, irrespective of their religion. This is still followed in Goa as it punishes polygamy, that is, one cannot have more than one spouse at a given time. This Act also states that during divorce, the husband and wife will be treated equally in respect of the property.
How has the Supreme Court handled the issue regarding UCC?
From its judgement in the Shah Bano case in 1985, the supreme court has dealt with the issue of UCC in several of its judgement. In most of them, the court favoured the common law for citizens and reminded the Parliament of the spirit of Article 44. In the Shah Bano case, the court said it was a matter of regret that Article 44 has remained a dead letter- “No community is likely to bell the cat by making gratuitous concessions on this issue. It is for the State, which is charged with securing a uniform civil code, and it has legislative competence to do so.” But the court’s order in the Ahmedabad Women Action Group case (1997) and Lily Thomas case (2000) clarified that there was no direction issued to the government to enact the code.
In 2015 the court revived the debate over the subject of common law once again when it asked the Central Government if it was willing to bring UCC since there was total confusion over the stipulations about marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption among various religions.
Code common to all will enable uniform principles
If such a code common to all is enacted, it will enable the application of uniform principles in respect of aspects like marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption so that settled principles, safeguards and procedures can be laid down. Citizens are not subjected to struggle to die to the conflicts and contradictions in personal laws.
The Courts have been repeatedly confronted with conflicts arising from personal laws. The Centre informed the Parliament last year that it was committed to introducing a Uniform Civil Code but required wider consultations. The court also described Goa as a “shining example” with respect to the successful implementation of the Uniform Civil Code.
So, by reading this article, you got to know the concept of UCC. What do you think? Is it too late to implement UCC, or do we still have time? I think this tussle between Personal Laws and single codified law is a never-ending topic which is too sensitive for Indian citizens.