The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a highly debated issue in India since
independence. It proposes to replace the personal laws based on religion with a
common set of laws applicable to all citizens, irrespective of their religion,
gender, or other identities. While proponents argue that the UCC would promote
gender justice, secularism, and national integration, opponents contend that it
would violate the right to religious freedom and cultural diversity. This paper
examines the history, legal framework, and socio-political implications of the
UCC in India.
India is a secular democracy where the Constitution guarantees the right to
equality, freedom of religion, and cultural diversity. However, personal laws
based on religion continue to govern matters related to marriage, divorce,
inheritance, and adoption, among others. These laws differ for Hindus, Muslims,
Christians, Parsis, and Jews, and are often discriminatory towards women and
minorities. The UCC proposes to replace these personal laws with a common set of
laws applicable to all citizens, irrespective of their religion, gender, or
The idea of a UCC was first proposed by the Constituent Assembly in 1947, but it
was not included in the Constitution due to opposition from religious groups. In
the following decades, several committees and commissions, such as the Law
Commission of India, the National Commission for Women, and the Justice Verma
Committee, recommended the implementation of the UCC. However, successive
governments have failed to enact it, citing political and religious
The Constitution of India provides for the UCC in Article 44, which states that
"The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code
throughout the territory of India." However, this is a Directive Principle of
State Policy, which is non-justiciable and subject to limitations. The Supreme
Court of India has also endorsed the UCC in several landmark judgments, such as
the Shah Bano case (1985), which held that Muslim women are entitled to
maintenance under the Indian law and not just under the Muslim Personal Law.
The UCC has been a contentious issue in India, with various socio-political
implications. Proponents argue that the UCC would promote gender justice,
secularism, and national integration. It would eliminate the discriminatory
provisions of personal laws and ensure equal rights to women and minorities. It
would also strengthen the secular fabric of the nation by removing the religious
divide in civil matters. Moreover, it would enhance the ease of doing business
and simplify the legal system by providing a common framework for all citizens.
However, opponents contend that the UCC would violate the right to religious
freedom and cultural diversity. They argue that personal laws are based on the
religious beliefs and practices of different communities, and any attempt to
impose a uniform code would be a threat to their identity and autonomy. They
also fear that the UCC would be used to impose the dominant Hindu culture on
minority communities and create social tensions. Moreover, they argue that the
UCC is not necessary, as various reforms have already been made in personal
laws, and any further changes should be made through dialogue and
Words from DR. Ambedkar about u.c.c:
The father of Indian constitution Dr. Ambedkar speaking about Article.44 and
it's calls uniform civil code, observed it is perfectly possible that the
future parliament to implement may make a provision by way of making a beginning
that the code shall apply only to those who make a declaration that they are
prepared to bound by it, so that in the initial stage the application of the
code may be purely voluntary DR. Ambedkar was clear in his feeling that the
state had the power to legislate over the personal law but he also cautioned no
govt can exercise it's power in such a manner as to provoke the Muslim community
to rise in rebellion.
Cases related to UCC:
The Supreme court directed for the first time in parliament in the year 1985 to
frame UCC. In the case of Mohammad Ahmed khan v. Shah Bano Begum  popularly
known as the Shah Bano case.
- In this case, Shah Bano claimed for maintenance from her husband under
Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure after she was given triple
talaq by him.
- However, government overturned the Shah Bano case decision by way of
Muslim Women ( Right to Protection on Divorce ) Act, 1986 which curtailed
the right of a Muslim woman for maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of
- The Supreme Court in Shayara Bano case (2017) had declared the practice
of Triple Talaq (talaq -e-bidat) as unconstitutional.
Sarla Mudgal case.
One case law related to Uniform Civil Code is the "Sarla Mudgal v. Union of
India" case, which was heard by the Supreme Court of India in 1995. In this
case, the petitioner Sarla Mudgal filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL)
seeking a direction to the government to implement a uniform civil code for all
citizens of India.
The main issue in this case was whether the absence of a uniform civil code
violates the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India,
particularly with respect to the right to equality before law and the right to
practice one's religion.
The Supreme Court, in its judgment, held that the Constitution of India provides
for a uniform civil code and that it is the duty of the state to secure its
implementation. The court also observed that the absence of a uniform civil code
leads to discrimination against women, particularly in matters of marriage,
divorce, and inheritance.
The court directed the central government to take necessary steps towards
implementing a uniform civil code, but the government has not yet taken any
concrete steps in this regard. The case is significant as it highlights the need
for a uniform civil code to promote gender equality and protect the fundamental
rights of citizens.
John Vallamattom vs Union of India (2003): In this case, the Supreme
Court held that Christian couples can seek divorce under the Indian Divorce Act,
1869, instead of the customary law that is followed by the Christian community.
The Court observed that the concept of UCC has been debated for several years,
but no action has been taken by the government.
Triple Talaq Case (2017): In this case, the Supreme Court declared the
practice of instant triple talaq, whereby a Muslim man could divorce his wife by
uttering the word "talaq" thrice, as unconstitutional. The Court held that the
practice was against the principles of gender justice and equality. The case
sparked a nationwide debate on the need for a Uniform Civil Code.
These cases reflect the ongoing debate in India on the need for a Uniform Civil
Code. While some argue that the UCC will promote gender justice and equality,
others contend that it will infringe on the rights of minority communities to
practice their religion freely.
Debate related to Uniform Civil Code:
The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a proposed set of laws that would replace
personal laws governing issues such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and
adoption in India. The aim of the UCC is to provide a uniform set of laws for
all citizens, irrespective of their religion, and to promote gender equality and
In recent years, there has been a renewed debate on the implementation of the
UCC in India. One of the key voices in this debate is Ashwini Upadhyay, a lawyer
and politician who has filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India seeking
the implementation of the UCC.
Upadhyay argues that the UCC is necessary to ensure equal rights and
opportunities for all citizens, and to promote national integration and communal
harmony. He contends that the existence of separate personal laws based on
religion has perpetuated inequalities and discriminations, particularly against
However, the implementation of the UCC is a contentious issue in India, with
some arguing that it would be a threat to minority rights and cultural
diversity. Others argue that the UCC should be implemented gradually, and in
consultation with all stakeholders, to ensure that it does not infringe on
The UCC is a complex issue that requires careful consideration of legal, social,
and political factors. While it has the potential to promote gender justice,
secularism, and national integration, it also poses challenges to religious
freedom and cultural diversity. Therefore, any attempt to implement the UCC
should involve extensive consultation with all stakeholders, including religious
groups, women's organizations, and legal experts.
Moreover, it should be implemented in a phased manner, with appropriate
safeguards and provisions for transitional arrangements. The UCC should be seen
as a means to strengthen the constitutional values of equality, freedom, and
diversity, rather than a threat to them.
Written By: Aditya Raj
- Amity University Patna