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Uniform Civil Code

Meaning of uniform civil code

Uniform Civil Code is the ongoing point of debate within Indian mandate to replace personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in India with a common set of rules governing every citizen. In India the purpose of Uniform Civil code is to replace the personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in the country with a common set governing every citizen.

A uniform civil code will mean a set of common personal laws for all citizens. Currently, for example, there are different personal laws for Hindus and Muslims. Personal law covers property, marriage and divorce, inheritance and succession.

Beginning of uniform civil code

The uniform civil code became a flashpoint in Indian politics in 1985 during the Shah Bano case. The Supreme Court had held that Bano, a Muslim woman, should get alimony from her ex-spouse. In the context of that judgment the court had said an uniform.Personal laws were first framed during the British Raj, mainly for Hindu and Muslim citizens. The British feared opposition from community leaders and refrained from further interfering within this domestic .

The demand for a uniform civil code was first put forward by women activists in the beginning of the twentieth century, with the objective of women's rights, equality and secularism. Till Independence in 1947, a few law reforms were passed to improve the condition of women, especially Hindu widows. In 1956, the Indian Parliament passed Hindu Code Bill amidst significant opposition. Though a demand for a uniform civil code was made by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, his supporters and women activists, they had to finally accept the compromise of it being added to the Directive Principles because of heavy opposition.

Indian constitution on uniform civil code

The constitution has a provision for Uniform Civil Code in Article 44 as a Directive Principle of State Policy which states that The State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.

There are a number of cases where the Supreme Court has referred to Article 44 and the concept of uniform civil code, mainly to highlight the lacklustre attitude of the executive and the legislature in the implementation of the directive.

Article 44 of the Constitution calls upon the State to endeavour towards securing a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India. It falls within Part IV of the Constitution titled as Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) and understood as exhortations to the State to be kept in mind while governing the country.

Need of uniform civil code

1. It Promotes Real Secularism

What we have right now in India is selective secularism which means that in some areas we are secular and in others we aren’t. A uniform civil code means that all citizens of India have to follow the same laws whether they are Hindus or Muslims or Christians or Sikhs. This sounds fair and secular to me. A uniform civil code doesn’t mean it will limit the freedom of people to follow their religion, it just means that every person will be treated the same. That’s real secularism.

2. All Indians should be Treated Same

Right now we have personal laws based on particular religions, which means that while Muslims can marry multiple times in India, a Hindu or a Christian will be prosecuted for doing the same. This doesn’t seem like equality to me. All the laws related to marriage, inheritance, family, land etc. should be equal for all Indians. This is the only way to ensure that all Indians are treated same.

3. It will provide More Rights to the Women

A uniform civil code will also help in improving the condition of women in India. Our society is extremely patriarchal and misogynistic and by allowing old religious rules to continue to govern the family life we are condemning all Indian women to subjugation and mistreatment. A uniform civil code will help in changing these age old traditions that have no place in today’s society where we do understand that women should be treated fairly and given equal rights.

4. Every Modern Nation has it

A uniform civil code is the sign of modern progressive nation. It is a sign that the nation has moved away from caste and religious politics.In fact it might be right to say that socially and culturally we have degraded to a point where we are neither modern nor traditional. A uniform civil code will help the society move forward and take India towards its goal of becoming a developed nation.

A uniform civil code is of an absolute necessity for individuals belonging to different religions and denominations and it is imperative for the promotion of national unity and solidarity. Thus, divergent religious ideologies must merge and culminate in to common and unified principles and objectives, adhering to the true spirit of secularism. However, after more than 60 years of independence the aspiration of a Uniform Civil Code remains unrealized.

The idea and principle of having a uniform civil code, governing personal laws is to treat every person equally and also so that just, fair and predictable laws protect everyone. Moreover, a uniform civil code would put in place a set of laws that would govern personal matters of all citizens irrespective of religion, which is the cornerstone of secularism. It would enable to put an end to gender discrimination on religious grounds, strengthen the secular fabric and also promote unity.

India has set before itself the ideal of a secular society and in that context achievement of a uniform civil code becomes all the more desirable such a code will do away with diversity in matrimonial laws, simplify the Indian legal system and make Indian society more homogeneous. It will create a national identity and will help in containing fissiparous tendencies in the country .The uniform civil code will contain uniform provisions applicable to every one and based on social justice and gender equality in family matters.

Merits of uniform civil code

# If a Common Civil Code is enacted and enforced:
# It world help and accelerate national integration;
# Overlapping provisions of law could be avoided;
# Litigation due to personal law world decrease;
# Sense of oneness and the national spirit would be roused, and
# The country would emerge with new force and power to face any odds finally defeating the communal and the divisionist forces

International scenario on uniform civil code

Israel, Japan, France and Russia are strong today because of their sense of oneness which we have yet to develop and propagate. Virtually all countries have uniform civil code or for that matter uniform law- civil or criminal. The European nations and US have a secular law that applies equally and uniformly to all citizens irrespective of their religion. The Islamic countries have a uniform law based on shariah which applies to all individuals irrespective of their religion.

Drawback for Uniform Civil Code

# Who is the government to decide about my religion?
# We are governed by the Constitution of India.
# The Constitution has given me the independence to follow my religion.

1. Difficulties due to India’s diversity
The implementation of Uniform Civil Code is a cumbersome task due to wide diversity of our nation. Cultural differences from state to state and community to community is yet another hindrance for a unified personal law.

2. Interference of state in personal matters
The constitution provides for the right to freedom of religion of one’s choice. With codification of uniform rules and its compulsion, the scope of the freedom of religion will be reduced.

3. The people from different communities are not willing to adopt the secular laws separated from personal laws. So, it is not fair to impose the traditions of one group upon other groups. The focus should be on other less contentious issues that the Indian society is facing.
4. As far as the protection of human rights or social obligations is concerned, the nation has laid bottom line policies through general laws. For instance, there is general law that prohibits child marriage and reigns over all personal laws.
5.Every religion will say it has a right to decide various issues as a matter of its personal law. We don’t agree with this at all. It has to be done through a decree of a court"

At last, I would like to conclude that citizens belonging to different religions and denominations follow different property and matrimonial laws which is not only an affront to the nation’s unity, but also makes one wonder whether we are a sovereign, secular, republic or a loose confederation of federal state, where people live at the whims and fancies of mullahs, bishops and pandits.

I strongly support the crusade for the implementation of the UCC and homogenizing the personal laws. I support it, not because of any bias, but because it is a need of the hour. It is the high time that India must have a uniform law dealing with marriage, divorce, succession, inheritance, and maintenance. Uniform Civil Code is a must for a country where secularism is given great prestige in resolving outrageous problems of the nation.

Written by: By Krati Sachdev

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