UNIFORM CIVIL CODE: A STEP TOWARDS EQUALITY

Reading time : 8 minutes

Abstract:

This article talks about Uniform Civil Code that says about making and implementing equal     personal laws to all the citizens of this country. Recently, the talks about how the Uniform Civil Code can be passed in the upcoming monsoon session, how the government will tackle the criticism etc. Personal laws are about marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance. India, a country, has always been secular when it comes to the practice of religion and cultures. In Part IV of our Indian Constitution, Article 44 of the Directive Principles of the State Policy (DPSP) instructs the state to make a Uniform Civil Code for all the citizens. As we go further with the article, this article discusses the History of the Uniform Civil Code, Implementation, Problems with UCC, Suggestions etc.

  1. Introduction:

India, a secular nation, believes that all religions should be treated equally with respect. It also says that the government will not ask any particular religion about any decision made. All religions peacefully live in our country and that is the biggest thing which makes our country democratic. We, as a country, are one of the fastest growing nations of the world and we are progressing towards becoming a superpower like the USA. Our culture is being seen as the world’s largest culture and is being respected.

Religion has always been a hot topic when it comes to Indian Politics2. All the political parties try to please the religions for their vote bank. But, in reality no one talks about development, equal protection of all citizens etc. Uniform Civil Code is a Code which makes all the personal laws of our country equal for all. All the citizens of our country will have the same marriage, divorce, succession, adoption rights irrespective of religion, caste, gender etc3. There has been a debate about Uniform Civil Code for a long time. Some say it will be helpful for India to have equal civil laws and some say that equal personal laws will disturb their cultural practices. Various Supreme Court Judgments have asked the Centre for formulating UCC but still it has not been implemented. Goa, is the only Indian State to have Uniform Civil Code. Still, Uniform Civil Code is a debatable topic on whether this will disturb the Secular fabric or not. Uniform Civil Code has been in talks since the British Period where the Viceroys wanted that an equal law should be there but they didn’t bring it because it could lead to unrest. Uniform Civil Code has several aspects which confuse the public whether this law will really bring equality among citizens or it will disturb the practices.

  1. History of Uniform Civil Code:

The movement for Uniform Civil Code started from the 19th Century when some people had asked for equal laws among all the citizens of the country. But, since our country has so many cultures, specific personal laws were created in the British Raj so that every religion is satisfied. The British Raj tried not to interfere in their religious matters. In the 19th Century, the British codified these laws so that it doesn’t become hap-hazard. The British Government in 1835 said in a report that there is a need for uniform laws and regulations regarding civil and criminal laws4. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Our first Prime Minister of India while supporting the Hindu Code Bill instead of UCC in Parliament said that in 1954, said “I don’t think at the present moment the time is ripe in India for me to try to push.5When article 44 was drafted, major protests took place saying that the Government is trying to interfere in their religious practices for political purposes. They said that their Right to Religion in Article 25 is being violated. But, even after so many years, still India is not accepting a common law for all the citizens. The Supreme Court had said in a Judgment in Mohd. Ahmed Khan Vs Shah Bano Begum6 that “Article 44 of our constitution has remained a dead letter. There is no official activity for framing a common civil code for the country. A common Civil Code will help the cause of National Integration by removing disparate loyalties to laws which have conflicting ideologies. It is the state in charge with the duty of securing a uniform civil code for the citizens of the country and, unquestionably, it has the legislative competence to do so. A beginning has to be made if the constitution is to have any meaning. Justice for all is far better than Justice from case to case7.”This piece from the Observation by the Judges shows how justice can be done by bringing Uniform Civil Code to all the citizens rather than giving justice to the cases. Several times, the government had tried to bring UCC but due to unrest, they didn’t bring. Many eminent scholars say that UCC will bring equality but it will create unrest in religious institutions because in every religion, culture comes first.      

  • Implementation of Uniform Civil Code:

The Government of India will have to do a lot of work while implementing Uniform Civil Code. They have to talk to various religious institutions and political parties. They need to explain about how Uniform Civil Code will help the citizens of India as well as the legal structure. Several Political Parties have denied implementing UCC because they think it is not secular and will hamper the cultures of the religious institutions. The Government needs to explain to the people about how this code will simplify the complex laws governing marriage, divorce, succession and adoption and will make them one. The Government also need to look about how Goa where UCC is in force is working and take ideas so that it will help in enforcing the Uniform Civil Code nationwide. Religious institutions should also come up and explain to their people at large about the Code after due consultation with the Government so that the Code is being passed. Courts should also come up and try to support the people who wants Uniform Civil Code. Many Judgments have shown that how The Indian Judiciary is so concerned with the different personal laws enforced in this country and how they want Uniform Civil Code. Recently, the Former Chief Justice of India, Sharad Arvind Bobde had appreciated the UCC in Goa and said “Goa has what Constitutional framers envisaged for India – a Uniform Civil Code. And I have had the great privilege of administering justice under that Code. It applies in marriage and succession, governing all Goans irrespective of religious affiliation. I have heard a lot of academic talk about the Uniform Civil Code. I would request all those intellectuals to simply come here and learn the administration of justice to know what it turns out to be”8. This clearly shows the opinion of the Judiciary on the implementation of Uniform Civil Code. This act’s main objective should be establishing a homogenous society where division of caste and religion is not there.

Everybody needs to understand that Uniform Civil Code is huge exercise and will take time to settle it with people. The main objective of this law is to make a homogenous society where people are not seen on the basis of caste, religion, gender or any race etc. We must agree to the fact that our country has many religions and cultures. But as we are in the 21st Century and as we are progressing towards a developed India, it is important to have equal and neutral laws for every citizen of this country to ensure that nobody is being discriminated.

  • Criticism and Problems with Uniform Civil Code

Our country is known for its cultures and religions. India has one of the largest numbers of religions in the world. Tolerance in religion is both recognized by law as well as custom. In the 42nd amendment of the Constitution in 1976, Our Preamble recognized India as a secular nation9. In India, people take their religion and custom more seriously than anything else. For example, dowry was a custom which was practiced blindly by the people that they didn’t cared about the bride about how she suffered through it. Similarly, All the religions have their own Personal Laws and they are very much possessive about it. The family laws are so much taken seriously that a small change might ignite anger and insecurity in a particular religious community. Here are some the codified Family Laws which are still being practiced today:

  1. Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
  2. Muslim Personal Law, 1937
  3. Christian Marriage Act, 1872
  4. The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1937
  5. Anand Marriage Act, 1909 (Sikhs)

The conflict arises when one religious community feels endangered that their freedom to practice their religion is not taken seriously. This leads to insecurity among people of a specific religion or community. The problem of the people is that they keep their faith above all, even above our constitution which lead to these problems. In Hindu, people have no problem in accepting UCC except some of them who says that UCC will disturb their age-old practices. In Muslims, there are 2 opinions which have been seen. First, Muslim Scholars says that Muslim Personal Law needs reforms. They are ready to reform the Muslim Personal Law but deny having UCC. Perhaps, they know that UCC is right but if they support the Code, they might face consequences. Secondly, some Muslim religious leaders have even threatened the Government to not to bring UCC. They say that Islam doesn’t permit them to change or abandon practices. It is to be seen that no comments have been received from Christian and Parsi Community. Perhaps, they are waiting the Bill to come so that they can see whether it is good for them or not. People demanding for UCC is a complex problem. It is the duty of the Government to fully explain the Bill to all religious leaders before presenting them in the House. The Government should make a feedback box to know about the people’s opinion about UCC and about how they can do changes and make UCC ‘People Friendly’.

  • Suggestions for UCC

The debate over UCC has came back and speculations are there that the present NDA Government can bring this law in the Parliament. But, effective implementation and necessary knowledge about the bill to the people is very important. Here are some of the points which I feel the Government should follow before enforcing Uniform Civil Code.

  • A committee should be formed by the government in which various religious leaders, scholars etc. are members. The Govt. should discuss the bill with them and take feedback from them so that it will be easy for the Govt. to understand the needs of the people and what is the opinion of the people towards Uniform Civil Code.
  • The Govt. should introduce a portal for the public so that they get to know their grievances. Recently, the UP Law Commission had introduced the Population Control Bill to the public and asked for opinions and feedback from the public10. The Centre can use this method.
  • The Government should also discuss with the Opposition Parties about this matter. Many political parties have expressed their opinion on this matter and it is very important for the Government to hold talks with Political Parties.
  • The Government should also make an advisory board to discuss about the UCC and to give ideas about how better this Code can be implemented.
  • Courts should also back Centre in the case of UCC. Supreme Court must intervene and co-ordinate with Centre to ensure timely implementation.
  • State Governments must be consulted and Centre should direct states to keep a vigil on law and order situation.
  • Lawyers, academicians should also come forward and write articles, papers on UCC in newspapers etc. so that it goes to public at large.
  • Media should come forward as one and should give correct facts about the law so that people doesn’t get confused.

It is true that even after these steps, some people will still criticize. But it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that this Code is made Neutral on every religion and to be made gender-neutral so that this code will be beneficial for the people of this country. It is also to be seen about how the existing legislations like The Hindu Code, Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act and Dowry Prohibition Act is ineffective and it should be investigated. Hence, all these tasks will help in easy implementation of the Uniform Civil Code.

  • Conclusion

It is very unfortunate that even after so many years of independence, UCC hasn’t being brought by the Government. So many judgments of the Supreme Court and other High Courts were delivered, ordering the government to make a law about UCC, still it is not being done. It is the High time that the central government should work out and bring this law so that it will be helpful for this generation as well the future generations. But before that, the Centre should take steps, as mentioned in Point 5 of this Article so that the implementation of UCC is done peacefully and with everybody’s support.  The Government also needs to see whether the religious minority’s problems are being taken seriously or not and to take steps to solve them. The Main Aim of the Uniform Civil Code should be a society where everybody has equal rights for men and women and ensuring unity and integrity of the Nation without disturbing the secular fabric of the Nation. UCC shouldn’t be politicized but it must be supported by all the political parties, regardless of their ideology. Uniform Civil Code will only work perfectly when all the groups of the society support it and agree to it. Our Nation is one of the most democratic nations of the world. We are proud of our fore-fathers who have fought for India’s independence without even seeing religion, gender, caste etc. We are proud of those who have made the Constitution of India which gave the citizens of India fundamental rights. I wish that in the coming years, Uniform Civil Code will come and the People of India will be highly benefitted with the Bill. It is very important for the people of this country to understand that equal rights to all is one of the most important movement which the citizens have to fight in order to have Equality in our country, which our fore-fathers have dreamt of.

2 Krishna K. Tummala (1993) Religion and politics in India, Asian Journal of Political Science, available at https://doi.org/10.1080/02185379308434025

3 Debidatta Mahapatra (2021)Uniform Civil Code is the imperative now, Times of India, available at https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/periscope/uniform-civil-code-is-the-imperative-now/

4  Ahmed, S., & Ahmed, S. (2006). UNIFORM CIVIL CODE (ARTICLE 44 OF THE CONSTITUTION) A DEAD LETTER. The Indian Journal of Political Science, 67(3), 545-552. Retrieved July 10, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41856241

5   Som, R. (1994). Jawaharlal Nehru and the Hindu Code: A Victory of Symbol over Substance? Modern Asian Studies, 28(1), 165-194. Retrieved July 10, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/312925

Mohd. Ahmed Khan vs Shah Bano Begum and Ors. (AIR 1985 SC 844)

7 Mohd. Ahmed Khan vs Shah Bano Begum and Ors. (AIR 1985 SC 844) and Sarla Mudgal & Ors. Vs Union of India (AIR 1995 SC 1531)

 Express News Service (2021) Chief Justice of India S A Bobde lauds Uniform Civil Code in Goa, available at https://indianexpress.com/elections/chief-justice-of-india-s-a-bobde-lauds-uniform-civil-code-in-goa-7248631/

9   Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Secularism in India, available at    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secularism_in_India

10 Times Now Bureau (July 2021) Uttar Pradesh Law Commission releases population control draft, invites public opinion, available at https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/uttar-pradesh-law-commission-releases-population-control-draft-invites-public-opinion-all-you-need-to-know/782941

Author: Siddhant Dutta, MIT WPU Pune, India

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.

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