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Uniform Civil Code for Uniformity

Uniform civil code, as enshrined in article 44 of Indian constitution as a Directive Principal of State Policy has now become an absolute necessity for the country of India. Given the situation of the country as we are living in, and given the rise in conflict in interest of various religions and their religious rituals, has totally changed the agenda of the country. Every now and then, there have been debates over the rule of Law over the ritualistic culture of different religions.

There have been talks as we have same criminal, contractual and other laws applied uniformly to the people across the nation without any discrimination, why there should be different law for each religion and have conflict of interests, when they could be just regulated by a single law altogether. As it resolves various issues of conflict, split between other uniform civil and criminal laws and these personal laws which are different for every religion, as well as increases the unity of the people of the nation altogether as it unites all the people with the same set of laws, and bars any such undesirable difference.

India is a secular country implying it has no religion and prefers no religion over any other and treats every religion as same, then why not bring all the personal laws into one so as to remove all such aberrations and hindrances that such laws pose to the delivering of justice and providing equal rights. Hindus governed by Hindu Marriage Act (1955) and Christian by Christians Marriage Act(1872), Muslims by Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act(1937).

Such different laws create a sense of prejudice and discrimination in between the communities governed by them, and such communalism stops them from thinking that they are the same and represent the country as a whole. Criminal and contractual laws apply equally, the problem arises when it comes to personal laws, the growing differences which are led by religious texts, personal beliefs of various religions.

Discrimination happens on basis of religious texts, another problem with such personal laws being that they discriminate on the basis of gender to the mankind and prefer men over another, giving a severe blow to the feminist movement which show that women too have a tough mettle.

Take the example of Triple Talaq and polygamy, such practices secured under Muslim personal law are adversely affecting the women of this age and are playing a very discriminatory game with their humanistic and basic rights. Such personal laws also come in conflict with the fundamental rights as enshrined in the constitution.

The most clich´┐Ż and repetitive counter-argument that comes to the front when proposing the uniform civil code is that:
Freedom of religion as enshrined in article 25-28  are fundamental rights too, and cannot be violated.

(which is not even a issue and why so will be addressed later in this article) nevertheless taking this argument as true, we still can say that social evils such as child marriage, Triple Talaq, polygamy, gender discrimination within community cannot be saved and preserved just because they come under the pretext of freedom of religion. What is an evil, must be rectified and must be replaced with a better facilitated and regulated law.

Personal laws, which comprise of marriage, divorce, adoption and transfer/inheritance of property, come in conflict with the other equally applicable laws and create a block in administering justice on time and also came at loggerheads with the evolving justice and judiciary at the same time. The most notable incident being the Shah Bano case, which stated that a muslim women is entitled to compensation even after the Iddat period, which was in contrast with the personal laws of the Muslim community.

The supreme court ruled s.125 of Cr.P.C. over the personal laws stating that:
Such provisions that are essentially of prophylactic nature cut across the barriers of religion. The liability imposed by section 125 to maintain close relatives who are indigent is founded upon the individual's obligation to the society to prevent vagrancy and destitution. That is the moral edict of the law and morality which cannot be clubbed with religion.

Similarly there have been different adoption/inheritance laws, which come in contrast with the fundamental and human rights of a person.  Take another example of Lata Mittal  , who after a long battle of 20-years won a right to have share in the ancestral property which was earlier prohibited according to Hindu personal law till then.

Such instances show us the urgent need to extirpate such practices and laws related to it and formulate a singular law that governs the entire nation with same set of rules. What is been proposed that, all such good practices from the personal laws be kept in the uniform civil code, only removing such hindering and evil practices.

India is a diverse country with endless cultural differences and practices, one practice contrasting other one, practices going over the top, violating the constitution, thus unifying them in one single law will increase the unity in people, efficiency of the court in delivering justice and harmonized and synchronized religious & personal law.

Dr. Ambedkar in constituent assembly while framing article 44, famously said that there is a need for uniform civil code, but we have to put it in a cold bag as of now and for some time to come , implying when people will be socially aware and will be more prudentially making informed religious choices, the UCC can be applied.

There have been various discrimination with women, in almost all the religions, giving preferential treatment to men, which goes against the idea of equality, and various practices that are inherently discriminatory, since India has a very long list of such culture and personal laws, it is practically impossible to check and reform properly all those laws. The better solution be a all new uniform civil code for all the religion considered equal and be treated equal in the eyes of law in the nation which calls itself a secular one. Only with the introduction of uniform civil code, the India can become truly Secular.

Uniform Civil Code is a one stop solution for all the existing conflicts of the personal laws and discrimination in the community that has been going on since generations.
It helps in three major folds:
  1. It promotes the idea of equality, justice and unity among the citizens of the country as they will be under the same law and will have same procedures to follow. They will also be given legal rights, which long have been neglected in the personal laws due to the fact that these personal laws are authorized by centuries-old books and beliefs which are not relevant in contemporary scenario. Women will get their rights which have long been neglected in personal laws. And such legal rights as well many more will be in consonance with the evolving society.
  2. It reduces the load of various different personal laws in existence within our country. And will decrease the delay in getting justice as the judges won't have to delve deeper into each religion's personal laws and decisions will be made in accordance with the UCC, it will also save a lot of time in proceeding and will be same for dispute of every religion and equal justice be provided to everyone irrespective of his/her religion.
  3. The secularity of India is not achieved until it treats all the religion as same, and that can only be done by UCC. Article 44 will also in some length will not violate article 25 & 26 as the matters governed by UCC are also the matter that are considered secular and can also be regulated by the state, hence if the state rectifies any problem from these practices or altogether makes a new law comprising/combining such things it simply comes under the purview of the legitimate action of the government.

Coming to the issue of practicality, we already know, there is a law pertaining to marriage i.e. Special Marriage Act,1954, which is applicable to everyone irrespective of the religion of the person, and it has been a success, so why cannot be a UCC for the entire nation.

We have to think of the issue more clearly and understand the necessity that this code poses for the current state of India. We have to make people more socially aware about the benefits of the code and make them intelligent enough to understand and accept this idea of a uniform code as a necessity. Only then with gradually applying this code, we can eventually apply it on the whole country with people happily accepting it.

Written By: Somendra Bajpai - 2nd year student at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University

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