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Implementation Challenges for Uniform Civil Code mentioned under Article 44 of the Indian Constitution: A Contemporary Outlook

The legislation pertaining to the UCC (Uniform Civil Code) mentioned under Article 44 of the Indian Constitution gains traction again, rumblings of change can be heard in the legislative halls. Everyone ought to discover the possibility of a new landscape! Let's keep in mind the value of open communication, respect for one another, and group advancement in the midst of the clash of ideologies!

On June 14, 2023, the 22nd Law Commission invited views and suggestions of the public and religious organizations in concern of Uniform Civil Code implementation. It gave a time period of 30 days to present their views. After this notification for calling public views at large, there started lots of discussion with some hue and cry on social media platforms, where mostly have not even the basic knowledge of impacts of UCC and challenges of its implementation.

In India, the discussion surrounding the Uniform Civil Code is still one that is heavily debated. Comprehensive reforms in this area have not yet been implemented, despite repeated calls for their implementation. Any significant changes to personal laws are likely to require careful consideration, consultation, and consensus among various stakeholders because the issue is still politically sensitive.

Most people are unaware about its inevitability to get a consensus in its uniform codification among various communities, and obstacles within communities as well. However, because of the nation's varied religious and cultural landscape, implementing a UCC would be a difficult and ambivalent and difficult task.

Hereby, a contemporary outlook about Uniform Civil Code has been put from the best of information available in public domain.

Uniform Civil Code:

The concept of a uniform set of civil laws that apply to all citizens of a nation, regardless of their religious or cultural background, is known as the uniform civil code that will apply to all religious communities across the nation for matters pertaining to their private lives, such as adoption, inheritance, and marriage etc. A UCC seeks to advance gender equality, individual liberties, and social justice with a uniform legal framework.

According to Article 44 of the Constitution, the state is required to make every effort to provide Uniform Civil Code to all citizens throughout India. The objective of Article 44 which is one of the Directive Principles of State Policy, is to strengthen the "secular democratic republic" as stated in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution.

Historical context of Uniform Civil Code so far:

The British government's report from 1835, which emphasised the need for uniformity in the codification of Indian law relating to crimes, evidence, and contracts and specifically recommended that the personal laws of Hindus and Muslims be kept outside of such codification, is where the UCC first emerged. Following the end of British rule, there was an increase in legislation addressing private matters, which prompted the government to create the B. N. Rau Committee in 1941 to codify Hindu law.

Following the adoption of a bill in 1956 known as the Hindu Succession Act, which was based on these recommendations, the law governing intestate or unwilled succession among Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs to be amended and codified.

However, for Christians, Muslims and Parsis, there were different personal laws. The courts have frequently ruled that the government should adopt a UCC in order to bring uniformity. The Shah Bano case verdict from 1985 is well-known case. The Sarla Mudgal Case (1995), which dealt with the problem of bigamy and a conflict between the personal laws already in place regarding marriage, was another famous case in the same matter. Further, in this concern, the Centre has questioned whether the constitutional protection for religious practises should include those that violate fundamental rights by arguing that acts like triple talaq and polygamy have a negative impact on a woman's right to a life of dignity.

Current position of Uniform Codes in India:
Presently, Goa is the only state of the country with a uniform civil code.

In the majority of civil cases, Indian law does adhere to a uniform code, such as Indian CPC, Evidence Act 1872, Contract Act 1872, and Transfer of Property Act 1882 etc. Though states have made countless amendments, there is still diversity in some areas even under these secular civil laws.

In most recent instance during 2019 Uniform Motor Vehicles Act., we witnessed that several states refused to be governed by it.

Obstacles to enact Uniform Civil Code in India:
  1. Biggest challenge in implementation of UCC is different Personal Laws followed by various communities. And further, there doesn't exist a complete uniformity in personal laws within communities as Christians and Muslims. Hence, Uniformity of any kind is very challenging to achieve due to the vast diversity of personal laws and the fervour with which they are upheld. Finding a common ground between various communities is indeed a very hard task.
  2. Huge diversified customary practices exist among different communities is another big challenge in implementing UCC in the country. It's not limited to non-Hindu communities, but diverse customary practices exist within Hindus as well. For example, Hindu marriage among relatives doesn't encourage in northern parts, while this isn't prohibited by Hindus residing in other parts of the country. So, to bring Hindus in uniform law is the primary hurdle of UCC implementation.
  3. Other obstacle for implementation UCC is the Constitution itself that safeguards the local customs of few North East states as Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram.
  4. Different political parties will also attempt to bring the narrative of implementing of UCC in their favours by luring different communities of the society. Its urge would definitely be propagate in the context of communal politics as majoritarianism appeasement or minority appeasement aspects.
  5. Another challenge would be the scope of Article 25 of Indian constitution. This article strives to protect the freedom of practising and propagating any religion, which may get into conflict with the concepts of equality enshrined under Article14 of Indian Constitution.

UCC is designed to establish a single law that will apply to all religious communities across the nation for matters pertaining to their private lives, such as adoption, inheritance, and marriage etc. Discussions about enacting a Uniform Civil Code have been going on for a while in many nations, including India. Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and other religious communities all have different personal laws governing marriage, divorce, inheritance, and other family matters because these laws are based on religious practises. By incorporating these personal laws into a single common civil code, the UCC proposal seeks to ensure equality and uniformity in matters relating to personal laws.

Supporters of UCC contend that it would aid in the eradication of gender inequality, the promotion of gender equality, and the protection of people's basic rights. They think that, particularly in cases involving divorce, inheritance, and property rights, personal laws based on religion frequently serve to perpetuate inequality.

Opponents of the UCC contend that it impedes religious liberty and cultural independence. They contend that family and personal matters should be governed by personal laws because they are an essential component of religious and cultural practises.

At first instance, it seems to be ended up merely into a populist attempt in view of its vast complexities to get implemented in the biggest populated nation with most diverse population.

Written By: Isha Kajal, Advocate
District & Sessions Courts, Hisar (Haryana)

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