Recently, the Uttarakhand government extended the term of the panel headed by
retired Supreme Court Judge Ranjan Prakash Desai to study the implementation of
the Uniform Civil Code in the state. According to ANI news, the panel has
visited more than 30 places and has received more than 2 lakh suggestions, which
include the registration of live-in relationships, increasing the age of women
from 18 to 21, equal rights for daughters in ancestral property, legal rights
for the LGBTQ community, etc.
What is the Uniform Civil Code (UCC)?
The uniform civil code finds its mention under Part IV, Article 44, of the
Indian Constitution, which states: "Uniform civil code for the citizens The
state shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout
the territory of India."
The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) seeks to enact a single Indian law that would be
applicable to all people, irrespective of their religion, in matters like
marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adoption. It means that personal laws of
various communities, such as the Hindu Marriage Act, the Muslim Personal Law
Application Act, the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, and so on, would be
dissolved, and a common civil law would be in place to deal with the issue at
hand, regardless of the person's religion.
Indian laws are mostly uniform, like the Indian Penal Code and the Code of
Criminal Procedure. Even in civil matters, uniform laws exist, like the Indian
Contract Act, the Sale of Goods Act, the Code of Civil Procedure, etc. But the
personal laws of different communities are still not uniform, hence UCC is
needed for better governance and effective dispensation of justice.
A brief history of UCC
The history of UCC can be traced back to the 19th century when the rulers
stressed the need for uniformity in the codification of Indian law related to
crimes, evidence, and contracts but specifically recommended that personal laws
of Hindus and Muslims should be kept outside such codification. Because they
were monotheist Christians, it was a tedious task for them to understand the
complexities of the personal laws of the people of the land, and they also
didn't want to get into any conflict because they were only interested in
Following independence, there were differing views on the UCC. Some members felt
that the UCC would not be practical or preferable in a diverse country like
India with so many different religions and sects, while others felt that the UCC,
on the contrary, would bring harmony between the various communities.
Dr B.R Ambedkar was equivocal on the issue and felt that UCC was not an
imposition but merely a proposal. Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru said, "I do not think
that at the present moment the time is ripe in India for me to try to push it
The topic of whether UCC should be under Part III or Part IV of the constitution
was also vehemently debated in the assembly, and finally, it was settled by
vote, which resulted in it becoming one of the directive principles of state
policies, which are neither justiciable nor enforceable in the court of law.
The stance of the Supreme Court on UCC
The Supreme Court has called upon the government to implement UCC in various
landmark judgments, and from time to time the honorable court has asked the
central government to clarify its stance on the same.
In the landmark judgement of Mohd. Ahmed Khan vs Shah Bano Begum,
the apex court, while dealing with the maintenance plea of a divorced Muslim
woman, gave judgement in favor of the petitioner and gave prevalence to the CrPC
over personal laws of the community.
Also, in the judgment, it was observed that Article 44 of the Constitution has
remained a dead letter.
In another judgment, Smt. Sarla Mudgal, President, vs Union of India & Ors
the honorable Supreme Court again came down heavily on the government for not
even taking a step forward in the direction of implementation of the Uniform
Justice Kuldeep Singh opined that:
"it appears that even 41 years thereafter, the rulers of the day are not in a
mood to retrieve Article 44 from the cold storage where it is lying since 1949."
The Governments-which have come and gone, have so far failed to make any effort
towards "unified personal law for all Indians. "The reasons are too obvious to
In Ms. Jordan Diengdeh vs. S.S. Chopra
, AIR 1985, Chinnappa Reddy, J
again stressed the need to have a UCC and stated that "the present case is yet
another which focuses on the immediate and compulsive need for a uniform civil
Status of different states with respect to the UCC
Currently, Goa is the only state in India to have a uniform civil code. The code
finds its roots in the Portuguese civil code of 1867, which was implemented by
the Portuguese, and later they replaced it with a new version of it in the year
1966. Goa has uniform laws regarding marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc.,
irrespective of a person's religion.
The civil code of Goa has provisions like mandatory registration of birth,
death, and marriage, during the course of the marriage, the property obtained by
either spouse is owned jointly by them, the pronouncement of triple talaq is not
valid, and many more.
After Goa, Uttarakhand is next in line to implement the UCC, and the work
towards that has already started, apart from these two states, the home minister
of Gujarat has also recently announced the formation of a committee in the state
to implement the Uniform Civil Code.
To conclude, the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code in a diverse country
like India is the need of the hour, and it's high time to implement what has
been a dead letter for so many years. Of course, this will be a challenging task
for the government and every stakeholder, and most importantly, the people
should contribute and provide their valuable suggestions and inputs about the
The government should also clear the apprehensions of the people, especially the
minorities, and assure them that their rights will not be violated, and this
process would only make the dispensation of justice much easier and more
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