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Uniform Civil Code

We all are living in a secular country. People from different caste/class/ religion etc live here together. It seems a small thing but in reality, to run such a country is a very difficult task. Here maintenance of law and order is also very difficult to manage. Courts have to take care of every single thing so that they can maintain peace in society.

We can take an example of our own country; here we have so many laws for marriage like Hindu marriage act for Hindus, Muslim marriage act for Muslims, and special marriage act. This is because of personal laws of different religion are different and these laws are as per their laws so that they does not hurt the sentiments of any citizen.

But sometimes it becomes hard to maintain this harmony in society. This is the reason many times in history the Supreme Court itself demanded a uniform civil code for the whole of India. At present Goa is the only state which has a uniform civil code. As per our Indian constitution's article-44, the state shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India. This article comes under part 4 of our constitution, which is talking about the Directive Principle of State policy. Means it is a DPSP.

But it will be implemented only when it is accepted voluntarily. Secondly, there is one more article which is the article- 35. It says that the power to make the laws, to give effect to the certain specified fundamental rights shall vest only in the parliament, not in the state legislature. This may be a reason due to which a uniform civil code is not in the whole of India. BJP was the first party to promise the implementation of a uniform civil code if it comes to power and the issue was part of the 2019 Lok Sabha manifesto.

What Is A Uniform Civil Code?

A Uniform civil code means one law that is the same for all religious communities and above personal laws. Personal laws mean laws that are according to the religious books of different communities or as per their faiths and they vary from religion to religion. Personal laws of Hindus cover family property, maintenance, guardianship, charitable donations, inheritance, succession, marriage, adoption, a co-operating obligation of sons to pay father's dept, partition of family property, etc and Muslims cover legacies, wakfs, dowry, divorce, gifts, pre-emption, marriage, guardianship, succession, etc., in short, we can say, one country one rule. Criminal laws are already the same for all the citizens of India but when it comes to civil laws situation is different.

Origin Of Uniform Civil Code

In 1840, the British government submitted a report lex locus to frame the uniform laws for contract/ evidence/ crime and intentionally left Hindu/Muslim personal laws. The constituent assembly was set up in 1946 to frame the constitution for independent India. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar who was in favor of uniformity of laws put article 44 in the constitution which was talking about uniform civil code. Some people are in favor of this article and some are opposing it that is the reason this article is not implemented in India. This can be implemented only voluntarily. There were many cases in history when the supreme court asked the Indian parliament to implement a uniform civil code in India.

Some of them are given below
  1. Mohammad Ahmed khan v/s Shah Bano Begam:
    This case is famously known as Shah Bano Case. In 1985 this woman went to court asked for maintenance under section 125 of the code of criminal procedure. This was a Muslim woman who got divorced after 40 years of her marriage by triple talaq. In the end, judgment was in her favor.

    Triple talaq comes under Muslim personal law while she gets maintenance under the code of criminal procedure. Her marriage came under Muslim personal law therefore to get maintenance under the code of criminal procedure may not be right according to law.

    That's why Justice Chandrachud (who was one of the judges in this case) observed that a common civil code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to the law and court directed first time to the parliament to frame such law. But Rajiv Gandhi government was not satisfied with the court decision and enacted the Muslim women (protection of rights on divorce ) act in 1886 to nullify the supreme court's decision. This led Muslim personal law to prevail in a divorce matter.
  2. Sarla Mudgal case:
    This case is the second instance when Supreme Court again directed parliament to frame uniform law. In this case, a man who was married wants to marry again by converting himself to Islam. But Supreme Court said adopting Islam for second marriage is an abuse of personal laws and said such marriage is an offense under section 494(5) of the Indian penal code.
  3. John vallamatton v/s union of India:
    In this case, a priest from Kerala, filed public interest litigation (PIL) in 1997 according to which section 118 of the Indian succession Act was discriminatory against Christians as it imposes unreasonable restrictions on the donation of property for religion or charitable purpose by will. Chief justice VV Khare, justice S.B. Sinha, A.R. Lakshmanan were the main judges in this case.

    Justice Khare said:
    Article 44 provides that the State shall endeavor to secure for all citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India. It is a matter of great regret that Article 44 of the Constitution has not been given effect to. Parliament is still to step in for framing a common civil code in the country. A Common Civil Code will help the cause of national integration by removing the contradictions based on ideologies.
  4. Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act:
    This act seems like an attempt onwards uniform civil code because it allowed the adoption of children by the Muslim community, even though not allowed in their laws. After this Supreme Court again asked the central government to form a uniform civil code. Above are some instances when the supreme court asked parliament to make laws related to article 44 but it was of no use because nothing is changed after this demand of the supreme court as well. Due to all this in 1941 B.N. Rau committee had been formed to codify the Hindu laws.

    This committee submitted the report to another committee led by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar that comes for discussion in 1951. While all this discussion is continued the Hindu code bill lapsed and was resubmitted in 1952. Then the bill was adopted in 1956 as the Hindu Succession Act. The Act reformed the Hindu personal laws and gave women greater property rights means equal rights as men. Now son and daughter became equally eligible to inherit the father's property. This act had abolished bigamy and polygamy as well. Hindu code bill applies to Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jain as well.

    This consists of the Hindu marriage act, Hindu succession act, etc. Relevance of uniform civil code with article 25- Article 44 and Article 25 are related to each other. Article 25 talks about freedom of religion which means anyone can profess, propagate or practice any religion as per their choice. That is the reason article 44 can not be imposed forcefully on the citizens.

    Otherwise, it will violate article 25. How Goa is different from other states:
    After independence state of Goa has adopted the Portuguese civil code which enforced a uniform civil code for all its citizens.

    Some differences are given below:
    1. Married couple holds joint ownership in all assets owned.
    2. Parents cannot disinherit their children entirely; at least half of the property must be passed on to them.
    3. Muslim people who have registered their marriage in Goa are not allowed to practice polygamy.

    As every single thing has its pros as well as cons, this article 44 also has its pros and cons. let us discuss them one by one.
  1. Equal rights for women with men
  2. Protection for the vulnerable section of society.
  3. Promote unity and nationalistic fervor among the citizens.
  4. Discrimination against women will decrease.
  5. It also helps in achieving gender equality.
  6. Its main aim is to consider all the citizens equal before the law

  1. It will decrease the scope of article 25 which is about freedom of religion.
  2. Minority's right to religion may hurt.
  3. May hurt the religious sentiments of so many people.
  4. In a secular country like India implementation of this law may increase various crimes like riots.
  5. Needs so many changes in the constitution of India.
  6. This may create chaos in society. Point to be noted about uniform civil code that is article 44 of the constitution of India.

Personal laws of different religions are different so as laws. If article 44 will implement these personal laws will not be as important as they are, which in my opinion is all right. We are a secular country that runs through the constitution. Therefore no religious text should be above this book.

The different religious text suggests different personal laws such as in Hindu's bigamy and polygamy is a crime while in Muslim law this is allowed. In Muslim, gift deeds are text free while in Hindus it's not. Sometimes people find it discriminatory which is. Therefore uniform laws are better than such laws.

Mahatma Gandhi: I do not expect India of my dreams to develop one religion, i.e. to be wholly Christian or wholly Mussalman, but I want it to be wholly tolerant, with its religious working side-by-side with one another.

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