Everyone is equal in the eyes of law, however, there are some laws that treat
citizens differently based on their religion and faith. They are called personal
laws. Every area of life demands and prefers consistency, thus rules are enacted
to maintain it. However, laws are not as coherent as we think they are.
The Uniform Civil Code calls for the formulation of one law to be made
applicable to all religious communities in matters such as marriage, divorce,
inheritance, and adoption. Uniform Civil Code is a proposal in India to
formulate and implement personal laws of citizens which apply on all citizens
equally regardless of their religion, sex, gender and sexual orientation.
Currently, personal laws of various communities are governed by the personal
laws of each community enacted by the government.
The idea of a Uniform Civil Code comes from Article 44 (one of the Directive
Principles of State Policy) of the Constitution, which provides that the State
shall endeavour to secure for all citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the
territory of India. It states that- the State shall endeavour to secure for the
citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.
The objective of Article 44 of the Directive Principles in the Indian
Constitution was to address the discrimination against vulnerable groups and
harmonise diverse cultural groups across the country. Dr. B R Ambedkar, while
formulating the Constitution had said that a UCC is desirable but for the moment
it should remain voluntary.
And thus the Article 35 of the draft Constitution was added as a part of the
Directive Principles of the State Policy in part IV of the Constitution of India
as Article 44. It was incorporated in the Constitution as an aspect that would
be fulfilled when the nation would be ready to accept it and the social
acceptance to the UCC could be made.
Ambedkar in his speech in the Constituent Assembly had said, "No one need be
apprehensive that if the State has the power, the State will immediately proceed
to execute�that power in a manner may be found to be objectionable by the
Muslims or by the Christians or by any other community. I think it would be a
mad government if it did so."
Criminal laws are applicable uniformly all over India no matter what the
religious beliefs are. Civil laws are also more or less uniform in India apart
from the personal laws of different religions that are mostly of domestic nature
which mainly covers succession, marriages, adoption, guardianship, etc.
Need Of UCC
Simplification of laws:
If enacted, the code will aim to simplify laws that are currently divided based
on religious practices , such as the Hindu Marriages Act, 1955, , Shariat law,
and others. The code will make the complicated regulations of marriage
ceremonies, inheritance, succession, and adoptions easier to understand and
apply to every citizen uniformly.
Regardless of faith, all personal laws discriminate against women in some way. A
Christian woman, for example, could not get a divorce because her husband had
indulged in adultery. Cruelty, bestiality, and sodomy were all required.
Christian husbands, on the other hand, could simply declare their wife to be an
adulteress and they are divorced.
Similarly, according to Mitakshara, a school of Hindu law that governs
inheritance, the girls were denied joint heirship in the paternal property.
Hindu girls were only awarded equal rights in the family property after the Lata
Mittal case (filed in 1985).
Individual women from various communities have challenged the law's
constitutionality. In the courts, there are discriminatory features of personal
legislation. Their main concern is the prospect of forced marriage, as well as
homicidal attacks in circumstances of inter-caste, inter-class, and
inter-generational conflicts. Even as they deal with issues like adultery,
bigamy, and property conflicts, they have to deal with inter-religious weddings
and property disputes.
Various judicial decisions back this up:
The Supreme Court stated in the Shah Bano case
(1985) that the
Parliament should define the parameters of a single civil code since it is an
instrument that promotes national peace and equality before the law. In this
case a Muslim lady Shah Bano filed a case in Supreme Court of India. She stayed
with her husband for forty years but she was only provided with 3 months of
alimony according to the Muslim personal law.
Court ruled in her favour resulting in serious backlashes from Muslim community
which in turn forced the government to pass Muslim Women Protection Act (1986)
which overturned the Supreme Court's verdict.
The Supreme Court, in the Sarla Mudgal case
of 1995, reaffirmed the
need for Congress to enact a Uniform Civil Code, which would aid national
unification by removing ideological conflicts.
Others: Rather than differentiating rules based on religious practices, a
secular republic requires a common law that applies to all citizens.
Many religious practices are incompatible with the fundamental rights granted by
the Indian Constitution. In India, the lack of a UCC is jeopardising the
country's chances of general development.
UCC in Indian States
UCC in Goa:
Goa is the only state in India which follows Uniform Civil Code. Goa Civil Code
or Goa Family Law was authorised by the parliament according to the Portuguese
Civil Code of 1867 after the Goa Daman and Diu administration act 1962.
The law provides for compulsory registration of marriages before a civil
authority, ensuring that the wife is an equal inheritor and is entitled to half
of the "common assets" including those inherited by her husband in the case of a
divorce (in the absence of a prenuptial agreement stating otherwise) and that
the parents must compulsorily share at least half of the property with their
children including daughters.
Registration of marriage is necessary so that disputes can be solved by process
of law. Property shall be divided equally among male and female members without
In Goa, the Special Marriage Act (1954) applies differently. Muslim men whose
marriages are registered do not have the right to polygamy in Goa. The property
and wealth owned by each spouse are equally divided amongst the spouses during
the course of the marriage. In the case of divorce, each spouse is entitled to
half of the property and in the case of death of both the spouses, the property
is equally divided amongst the surviving members.
Status of UCC in Uttarakhand
Pushkar Singh Dhami, the Chief Minister of Uttrakhand, has stated unequivocally
that he intends to implement the Uniform Civil Code as stated in his manifesto,
igniting heated debates as other states such as Assam have backed UCC and stated
that they will soon implement it in their respective states.
CM Pushkar Dhami also chaired a state cabinet meeting to draft Uniform Civil
Code of Uttrakhand He assured that UCC would be unbiased and free from the
influence of any religion. An Uttarakhand Uniform Civil Code Committee has been
set up to draft UCC for Uttarakhand state and remove personal laws headed by
Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai.
The committee will examine laws pertaining to personal civil matters of
residents and will draft new laws as well as suggest some changes in the
existing statues. Committee will also prepare a report on implementation of UCC.
A website had been launched by the committee to seek public opinion on the issue
and Committee appealed to the residents of Uttarakhand and Uttarakhand based
organizations including government agencies, non-government organizations,
social groups & communities, religious bodies and political parties, to forward
their opinions, views, suggestions and representations on this matter.
Central Government v. State Government
Are State Government empowered to legislate upon Uniform Civil Code?
It has been a matter of debate in recent times whether states are empowered to
legislate on Uniform Civil Code. Various experts have divided opinion on this
matter. India is a union of states where there is division of powers among the
central and the state government. Schedule VII of the constitution of India
provides three lists viz: Union List, State List and Concurrent List.
Central government makes laws on matters listed in the union list, the state
government makes laws on matters listed in the state list and both central and
state governments can make laws on the matters listed in the concurrent list. In
regard to the Uniform Civil Code, it refers to a common set of laws governing
personal matters such as marriage, divorce, maintenance, inheritance and more.
These matters have been enumerated in the Concurrent List (Entry No. 5) which
means the power to legislate rests both with the parliament and state
legislature. State governments can make laws for the communities living in the
state. However, it is unclear whether the same be stretched to include the UCC
for a particular state under its ambit.
Some experts such as PDT Achary opined that both central and state governments
are empowered to legislate on UCC as matters such as divorce, marriages and
inheritance are a part of the concurrent list of the constitution. States can
make laws for the communities living in that particular state. "That means local
variations can be recognized through a law made by the state government,"
Former Union Law Secretary, PK Malhotra is of the opinion that only the central
government is empowered to make laws on UCC as Article 44 of the Constitution
clearly refers to all the citizens of India. In the case of Goa, it must be
noted that it was in existence before it became an integral part of India.
Ashwini Upadhyay, a BJP leader filed a PIL in 2019 before Delhi High Court to
formulate UCC. After more than two years, the Ministry of Law and Justice filed
a 12-page affidavit, as per which only Parliament can draft legislation on UCC.
The Central government further stated that it will consult various stakeholders
involved in the matter, after receiving a report from the Law Commission of
In 2019, the Supreme Court also expressed its disappointment over lack of
implementation of UCC throughout the country. "Whereas the founders of the
Constitution in Article 44 in Part IV dealing with the Directive Principles of
State Policy had hoped and expected that the State shall endeavour to secure for
the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territories of India, till date
no action has been taken in this regard.
Though Hindu laws were codified in the year 1956, there has been no attempt to
frame a Uniform Civil Code applicable to all citizens of the country despite
exhortations of this Court in the case of Mohd. Ahmed Khan vs. Shah Bano and
Sarla Mudgal & Ors. vs. Union of India &Ors.
Despite being the subject matter of parliament, the Supreme Court continues to
entertain various PILs regarding key issues of UCC. The supreme court has issued
notice to the government on the need for uniform laws for all citizens across
religious faiths on matters of divorce, maintenance, alimony, adoption,
guardianship, succession and inheritance.
In July 2021, Justice Pratibha M. Singh of Delhi High Court observed:
"The need for a Uniform Civil Code as envisioned under Article 44, has been
reiterated from time to time by the Supreme Court.
Cases like the present one repeatedly highlight the need for such a Code -
'common to all', which would enable uniform principles being applied in respect
of aspects such as marriage, divorce, succession etc., so that settled
principles, safeguards and procedures can be laid down and citizens are not made
to struggle due to the conflicts and contradictions in various personal laws."
As these arguments show, it is clear that it is Parliament that needs to take up
Uniform Civil Code, and not the state legislature. Any claim to the contrary is
a mere illusion and not a credible effort towards fulfilling the goals of the
To conclude, reading into Article 44 of the constitution, it is the duty of the
state to implement the UCC throughout India keeping in mind the best interest of
the country and its citizens. It should not be randomly implemented and applied
as it will cause prejudice to the integrity and unified diversity of the country
amounting to breach of fundamental rights.
Framers of the Constitution had cleverly kept the concept of UCC within the
ambit of DPSP giving importance to the diversified society. It can also be
concluded that Article 44 of the constitution even if implemented, enforcement
should be made only a after thorough analysis of the social, economic and
culture of the states and not as a whole, like raising the marriageable age of
girl child to 21 from 18 may not cause jeopardy to the citizens or societies.
Last but not the least, the legislature and the judiciary needs to keep in mind
all the above challenges while enacting, implementing, and interpreting the UCC
as the success of the UCC lies in the decisions of the parliament and judiciary.
- India Constitution Article 44.
- Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, (1985) 2 SCC 556.
- Sarla Mudgal v. Union of India, (1995) 3 SCC 635.
- Gerard de Souza,Explained: The Goa civil code, the new model for a
uniform civil code,The Hindustan Times,6th December 2022, https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/explained-the-goa-civil-code-the-new-model-for-a-uniform-civil-code-101652304333768.html.
- Jose Paulo Coutinho v. Maria Luiza Valentina Pereira, (2019) 20 SCC 85.
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