By virtue of being Indian, we have multiple specialties to be
proud of but our biggest asset has always been the rich religious and cultural
diversity that India possess, however, ever since the question of uniform civil
code for every citizen has once again come into spotlight.
There has been
multitude of doubts that whether our cultural or religious autonomy can remain
intact under a common law applicable to all faiths or whether this diverse
nature of our country can be maintained after implantation of Uniform Civil
To answer these questions, firstly, it is important to understand the true
meaning and true object behind incorporation of Article 44 in our constitution
and it is even more important to scrutinize this whole issue in a detailed way
as uniform civil code is not a piece of legislation that has been formulated
just on whims and fancies of anyone but a constitutional directive given to
state by same framers of constitution who have blessed us with so many
incredible rights including right to religious freedom.
What is Uniform Civil Code?
We all know that ours is a diverse country with multiple religions and religious
laws so consequently we also end up having different personal laws for different
religious communities, however, Uniform civil code( UCC) is a proposed set of
common laws which seeks to replace personal law of every religious community in
India with a uniform code that would be equally applicable to every citizen in
matters such as marriage, divorce, maintenance, inheritance, adoption,
irrespective of their gender, sexual orientation or religious affiliations.
other words, after implantation of one nation one law or UCC personal laws of
various communities such as Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act, Muslim
Personal (Shariat) Application Act of 1937, Christian Divorce Law, Parsi
Marriage and Divorce Act of 1936 etc would stand dissolved and an unified civil
code would come into play which will deal with all these matters regardless of
Pre-independence scenario; The origin of UCC dates back to colonial India when
in 1835 a report from British government stressed the need of uniform
codification of Indian law but due to complexity and potential conflict arising
out of codification of personal laws, laws such as law of crime, evidence,
contracts were only codified at that time and personal laws of both Hindus and
Muslims were kept outside of purview of codification, however, in 1941, due to
heavy increase in legislations dealing with personal issues, government was
forced to constitute Hindu Law Committee under chairmanship of Mr. B.N. Rau to
investigate the necessity of common Hindu laws which recommended codified Hindu
laws covering matters such as inheritance, marriage and other aspects.
Post-independence scenario; During debates in constituent assembly, there was
significant discussion regarding inclusion of UCC in our constitution as
prominent leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar , Sardar Vallabhbhai
Patel and Dr. Rajendra Prasad etc. had supported uniform civil code but later
due to protest from religious fundamentalists and lack of awareness amongst
masses, eventually, UCC was placed in part fourth of our constitution which
contains directive principles of state policy.
This period witnessed beginning
of reforms by codification of civil laws as Hindu Code Bill had been introduced.
It was drafted by Dr. BR Ambedkar to reform Hindu laws, it legalized divorced,
opposed polygamy, gave rights of inheritance to daughters but due to intense
opposition a diluted version of this code could only be passed through four
different laws such as Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act, Minority and
guardianship Act and Adoption and maintenance Act. Since then these Acts have
been uniformly applicable to any person who is a Hindu, Jain, Buddhist or Sikh.
Legal status of Uniform Civil Code:
Uniform Civil Code is one of the directive principles of state policy mentioned
in Article 44 of Indian constitution which clearly directs the state to endeavor
to secure a uniform civil code for all citizens throughout the territory of
India. Though directive principles are not enforceable in court of law but
these are constitutional guidelines which are fundamental in governance of
country and it has to be considered by state while formulating new laws.
Moreover, our judiciary has time and again recommended the implementation of UCC,
some of such instances are mentioned below:
- Mohammad Ahmad Khan V. Shah Bano Begum:
In 1985 itself the Supreme Court of India had directed parliament to set up uniform civil code in this case.
- Sarla Mudgal V. Union of India:
Government was once again directed to implement Article 44 of our constitution by upholding that second marriage solemnized after converting to Islam would be an offence under section 494(5) of IPC.
- John Vallamattom & Anr. V. Union of India:
In this case, the then Chief Justice Khare opined that it is a matter of great regret that Artice 44 has not been given effect to. He also stated that a common civil code will help the cause of national integration by removing contradictions based on ideologies.
Thus it is clear that our apex court has on several occasions directed
government to realize Article 44 of our constitution so the exigency to
implement the UCC can be inferred from the same.
Why UCC should be implemented?
- Secularism in true sense:
The founding fathers of constitution always wanted to establish India as a secular state and accordingly incorporated right to freedom of religion in our constitution. Secularism apart from being a basic feature of Indian constitution, is also one of our prime objectives enshrined in preamble and it is a well known fact that a secular republic cannot thrive on differentiated rules for different religion based on their religious practices so a common law that will treat all citizen in same manner regardless of religion is a symbol of a flourished secular state.
- Gender Justice:
Personal laws often discriminate against women, particularly in matters like marriage, divorce, inheritance etc, in such a scenario a uniform civil code would certainly be of great help by removing discriminatory and oppressive practices against women present in personal laws by guaranteeing them equal right and status in terms of marriage, divorce, adoption and maintenance etc. Implementation of same law for everyone regardless of gender will certainly be a watershed moment in attainment of goal of gender equality.
- Streamlined civil laws:
By removing the complexities and contradictions of multiple personal laws, UCC would definitely simplify and rationalize the existing civil laws, it would also harmonize civil and criminal laws by removing anomalies and inconsistency that arise due to different personal laws and consolidating , additionally, If there will be only one law for a matter then it will be easily understandable to common people.
- Elimination of Regressive Practices:
Implementation of UCC would be instrumental in eliminating the practices that violate human rights and which are against the values enshrined in our constitution, it would also bring Indian legal system in sync with modern democracies by reforming outdated practices such as child marriage, polygamy etc. as that has been increasingly demanded by changing social realities.
Does Uniform Civil Code really endanger freedom of religion?
When it comes to religious freedom then we already have fundamental rights
protecting our freedom of religion which are enforceable in court of law.
Article 25 gives us right to freedom of conscience and free profession,
practice and propagation of religion.
While Article 26 gives us right to
manage religious affairs so the idea of its infringement by a unified civil code
is a misconceived idea as UCC will neither direct Hindus to worship in a certain
way nor will it come in the way of religious services of Islam, every community
will be free to profess their religious practices as their religion and
But imagine what would have been the scenario today if we had
continued with "Sati Pratha" on the name of a religious practice or where would
our country stand in terms of equality if Supreme Court had not upheld the
centuries year old Hindu religious practice as illegal that prevented women and
girl between age of ten and fifty from entering the Sabrimala temple.
on similar lines practices such as polygamy, child marriage, unequal inheritance
to daughters are also egregious to such extent that they cannot be justified on
the name of religion, there has to be a balance between religious freedom and
other constitutionally guaranteed rights such as equality before law or equal
protection of law, right against discrimination on ground of religion, race,
caste, sex or place of birth and most importantly the right to live with
What are the Complications in the implementation of UCC:
- Politicization of UCC:
UCC has always been a sensitive issue due to its association with religious identity and its potential impact on minority communities. Political parties have often politicized and used this issue to consolidate their vote banks, consequently making it difficult to address the merits and demerits of UCC in a constructive and non-divisive manner.
- Huge religious and cultural diversity:
Due to tremendous cultural diversity in our country, bringing uniformity amongst personal law of all citizens and formulation and implementation of such a single code which does not bring a feeling of alienation or marginalization amongst minorities is indeed a humungous task.
- Misconceptions surrounding UCC:
There has always been a lack of constructive debates about UCC which leads to spreading various misinformation about the same. For instance, it is a common misconception that UCC will erode cultural diversity and religious autonomy. However, the fact is that the implementation of UCC aims to consolidate personal laws into a set of codified laws while respecting and preserving diverse cultural practices and customs of different communities.
The Road Ahead- Implementation of UCC is indeed not an easy task; however, here
are some ways which can make the process less complicated.
To establish a uniform legal framework, it is necessary to conduct a comparative analysis of all different personal laws and find commonalities amongst them so that we can be able to enact a code that incorporates principles shared by different personal laws.
Discussion, deliberation and consultation:
opinion of all concerned stakeholders including views of religious leaders, legal experts, community representative etc. must be taken into account while formulating and implementing UCC as it is essential to ensure that UCC considers the needs of different communities, moreover, this entire process has to be fair and legitimate to its citizen and every community must have a sense of inclusion throughout the formulation and implementation.
In order to succeed in transforming our age-old diverse civil code into uniform, a gradual approach has to be adopted. Government can check the viability and acceptability of UCC by bringing separate aspects such as marriage, divorce, inheritance etc in pieces because implementation of a new pattern of civil laws, all at once, is neither practicable nor effective.
In my view, Uniform Civil Code is in complete consonance with our
constitutional basic features like secularism and rule of law at the same time
also being competent enough to fulfill our constitutional goals of justice,
equality, and non-discrimination. On no account, UCC intends to infringe upon
right to practice one's religion or eroding one's cultural traditions.
aims is to refine our social framework in such manner that any practice which is
against the spirit of fundamental rights does not exist in our country just for
the sake of being an age old religious practice, therefore, we the people of
India should collectively be a leading figure towards our valued goal of one
nation, one law so that we can add another feather in cap of world's largest
Written By: Mridulika Pandey
- The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 44.
- 1985 SCR(3) 844
- AIR 1995 SC 1531
- (2003) 6 SCC 611
- The constitution of India, 1950, Art. 25.
- The constitution of India, Art. 26.
- Devansh Dixit(6 July 2023.)Busting myth around Uniform Civil Code(UCC), https://blog.finology.in/Legal-news/ucc-myths
, 4th year student of B.A.LL.B at University