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Uniform Civil code in India

In India all of the laws are applied the same. Suppose if I have done a murder or you have done a murder, the punishment will be the same. This is called uniformity. There are already a lot of uniform laws existing in India whose biggest example is the Constitution of India. Besides this contract act, IPC, CPC, there ar many laws. This uniformity's exception is Personal Law which varies from religion to religion. Currently in India there are Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Parsi all of them have different personal laws, which causes a lot of problems.

What Is the Uniform Civil Code?
The uniform civil code means a single set of laws that would apply to all citizens equally, regardless of religion or community.

Currently, India has separate sets of civil laws for people of different faiths in matters of marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption, etc. For example, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains follow the Hindu civil code, while Muslims follow Islamic laws or Sharia. Christians have their own civil code. The UCC is not currently in force in India, but it is one of the Directive Principles of State Policy, which are non-binding but aspirational goals for the government.

According to article 44 of Chapter IV, it states that "The State shall endeavor to secure the citizens a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) throughout the territory of India." Though Article 37 says that the DPSPs shall not be enforceable by any court.

The History and Origins of the Uniform Civil Code
The origins of the UCC date back to the colonial period. The British government attempted to codify personal laws to bring uniformity in the legal system. However, they avoided interfering in religious laws due to political expediency. After independence, the Constitution makers debated the idea of a UCC but dropped it, hoping that it would be adopted in the future.

British rule: There was a lack of uniformity in civil matters as personal laws based on customs, religion and traditions were acknowledged for different communities. The idea of a UCC emerged as a result of this fragmentation and as a means to promote a common civil identity.

Portuguese rule: Till 1961 When Goa was under Portuguese rule, a Uniform Civil Code based on the Portuguese Napoleonic code was implemented.

Nehruvian Vision:
Jawaharlal Nehru visualized a modern and progressive India and saw the UCC as an essential element of nation-building. He believed that a UCC would help abolish divisions based on religion and promote equality among citizens.

Hindu Code Bill:
The Hindu Code Bill sought to codify and modernize Hindu personal laws relating to marriage, adoption, divorce, and inheritance. It was seen as a step towards a UCC, as it focuses on bringing uniformity in personal laws within the Hindu community.

Shah Bano Case:
The Supreme Court judgment, in this case, trigger debates on the need for a UCC to ensure gender justice and equal rights for women across religious communities.

There is an ongoing debate about implementing a uniform civil code in India. Supporters argue that it will:

Promote national integrity by establishing a common set of laws for all citizens.

Discrimination against women will end in religious laws and protect their rights. For example, under Muslim personal laws, a man can divorce his wife by simply saying 'talaq' three times, but a woman does not have the same right.

Simplify and harmonize the maze of religious laws currently in place.

However, critics argue that a uniform civil code:
  • It is against the fundamental right to practice one's religion as guaranteed by the Constitution.
  • May be seen as a threat to minority communities who feel their cultural identities are in danger.
  • Is not feasible in a diverse country like India where religious beliefs and practices greatly vary.

The debate around a uniform civil code involves many complex issues. There are reasonable arguments on both sides, and a balanced solution needs to be found to address this sensitive topic. Overall, any changes must uphold the principles of justice, equality and secularism enshrined in the Constitution.

The Current Status of the Uniform Civil Code Debate
The debate around a uniform civil code has been ongoing in India for decades. Currently, India has separate laws for different religions on matters like marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption etc. Many argue India needs a uniform set of secular civil laws that apply to all citizens equally, regardless of religion.

Many people oppose UCC such as:
  1. Regional parties
    Bihar minister and senior JD(U) leader Vijaya kumar chaudhary alleged that by touching upon the UCC, PM Modi was aiming at communal polarization. RJD Leader Manoj Jha said that Hindu religion also has a lot of diversity and it cannot be painted with one brush.
  2. Northeast States
    Politicians in the north-eastern States often express views that the UCC or alike uniform law will pose a threat to their highly diverse society. Article 371(A) and 371(G) of the constitution, tribes from the northeast States are guaranteed special provisions that restrict the parliament from enacting any law which supersedes their family laws.
  3. Against Muslim?
    All Muslims in India are governed by the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1973. All India Muslim Personal Law Board opposed UCC, claiming that it would snatch away Muslims' rights and enriched the 'Muslim personal laws'.

People are in favor of UCC
The Law Commission of India has backed drafting a uniform civil code but says wider public discussions are needed. The Supreme Court has also urged the government to take steps in this direction. However, progress has been slow due to lack of political will and consensus. The debate around a uniform civil code is sure to shape India's legal and social landscape in the coming decades.

The major political parties in India have expressed varied views on the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code.
  1. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
    The BJP strongly supports the adoption of a Uniform Civil Code and considers it an important step towards achieving true secularism. The BJP believes that different personal laws based on religion are discriminatory and a common civil code will promote national integration.
  2. The Communist Party of India (Marxist)
    The CPI(M) supports the concept of a Uniform Civil Code and believes that it should not be imposed from above and that the specific provisions of such a code must be talked about and formulated through a democratic process. The CPI(M)has advised that the various personal laws should be reformed first before moving towards a common code.
The debate is complex with valid arguments on both sides. A balance needs to be found between equality and religious freedom. Consensus building and accommodation of diverse viewpoints are key to resolving this debate.
  • The Road Ahead: The Future of the Uniform Civil Code Debate in India
    The future of the Uniform Civil Code debate in India remains uncertain. While progress has been slow, there are signs the discussion is moving forward.
  • Growing Support
    More Indians are voicing support for a UCC. They believe it will strengthen national unity and gender equality. Several political parties also back a UCC, though they disagree on details. With wider approval, the government may eventually draft a code.
  • Complex Challenges
    However, implementing a UCC faces many challenges. It must balance equality and religious freedom. It requires reconciling diverse faiths' personal laws. It also needs approval from all states, which have authority over most civil issues.
  • Optional or Compulsory
    There is debate over whether a UCC should be mandatory or optional. A mandatory code may provoke a backlash over coerced assimilation. An optional code allows choice but risks perpetuating inequality. A compromise could make some provisions compulsory but allow communities to follow certain religious laws.
  • The Judicial Perspective
    Courts have urged parliament to enact a UCC and end discriminatory religious laws. Yet courts cannot draft a code themselves. They can only rule on the constitutionality of existing laws. Their decisions do highlight the legal complexities in reconciling religious freedom, equality, and minority rights.
  • A Gradual Process
    A UCC may emerge gradually rather than suddenly. India could first introduce optional civil law reforms, like allowing interfaith marriages or giving women equal inheritance rights. Communities would have time to adjust before further changes. Successive governments can build on these incremental steps toward establishing a broad UCC.
While a Uniform Civil Code for India faces a long and complex road ahead, many remain hopeful. With open discussion, empathy, and a commitment to equal justice for all citizens regardless of faith, India can craft a code that strengthens both unity and diversity. The future of this debate depends on the voices of all Indians.

Why do people want UCC?
As we all are seeing rising demand from all parts of the country for a Uniform Civil Code. The UCC has been in demand due to various observations done by the Supreme Court in different cases such as Sarla Mudgal & others. v. UOI, 1995, Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, 1985, and Ms. Jordan Diengdeh v. S.S. Chopra, 1985. People believe that UCC is the only option left out to filter all discriminatory practices in personal laws. The truth is all laws whether criminal or personal or financial are judicially reviewable and the judiciary can declare all of them potentially void if they encroach upon Fundamental Rights.

The implementation of the Uniform Civil Code will strengthen the enforcement of laws on the citizens and prohibits favoritism towards any gender or religion. The necessity for Uniform Civil Code can be traced to the independence era as put forward by The Father of the Constitution-BR Ambedkar. The plethora of cases like Triple Talaq, Adultery (section 497 of IPC), Shah Bano Begum and so on have been pointing towards the need of Uniform Civil Code in India.

Execution of Uniform Civil Code will allow the courts to deal with the cases related to religious discrimination or cases of similar nature more appropriately and with ease, since the provisions for all the religions will be in uniformity with one another. Uniform Civil Code will establish efficient law and order in the country as One Law for All irrespective of gender, religion and so on, it would put an end to the overlapping of provisions.

Recommendation of the Law commission
The Law Commission bearing in mind that Uniform Civil Code is "neither necessary nor desirable at this stage." It is considered that it is discrimination and not the difference that lies at the root of inequality. The Government of India 016 gave responsibility to the law commission to give its opinion on UCC and in its 185-page consultation paper maintained that to preserve the cultural and social fabric of the nation we need to protect and preserve diversity and plurality.

They argue that the legislature should first consider guaranteeing equality 'within communities' between men and women, rather than 'equality between' communities.

It indicates that in the absence of Harmony on UCC, the best way forward is to protect and preserve the diversity of personal laws. Together with this, they should balance all personal laws against the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

New consultation on UCC was initiated considering its importance: Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal

The Law Commission has started new consultations on the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) due to the "relevance and importance" of the subject matter, Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal informed the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

In a written response to a question, the Law Minister recorded that the 21st Law Commission had issued a consultation paper on "Reform of Family Law" on August 31, 2018, but did not submit any record on the subject.

Important issue
Is the UCC likely to be implemented in India?
It is unclear whether the UCC will ever be implemented in India. The government has not made any concrete plans to implement the UCC, and there is strong opposition from some religious groups. However, the UCC remains a topic of debate in India, and it is possible that it could be implemented in the future.

The Uniform Civil Code is a complex and controversial issue in India. There are strong arguments both for and against the UCC. Ultimately, it is up to the Indian government to decide whether or not to implement the UCC. The main focus of UCC is to put forward gender equality and put an end to all discriminatory practices within all personal laws.

So, those people who make laws should make sure that women from all communities are given equal rights in matters of inheritance, adoption of children, divorce etc. Social awareness with substantial legislative amendments in laws along with exercising the ghost of Narasu Appa Mali should be done. These measures will stronger the impact and reach of Uniform Civil Code in India.

Written By: Hera Aiman LLB Hons 3rd year

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