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Towards Equality: Analyzing the Prospects and Challenges of Implementing a Uniform Civil Code

Uniform Civil Code

A directive principle of state policy, Article 44 of the constitution specifies that the state shall work to ensure that citizens have access to a unified civil code across the entirety of India. The state must work to establish a consistent civil code across all of India's territory, according to Article 44 of the Constitution. It is included in the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), Part IV of the Constitution, and is meant to serve as a reminder to the state as it governs the nation.

India is a diverse nation with religious, cultural, and linguistic diversity like any other country. As per the report, India is home to 398 languages, out of which 357 are actively spoken and 11 are extinct. In a number of instances, the Supreme Court has brought up Article 44 and the idea of a unified civil code, mostly to draw attention to the legislature's and the executive's haphazard approach to carrying out the mandate.

Beginning Of The Uniform Civil Code

Mohammed Ahmed Khan V. Shah Bano Begum (1985)
During the Shah Bano case in 1985, the uniform civil code became a flashpoint in Indian politics. The Supreme Court ruled that Bano, a Muslim woman, should get alimony from her ex-husband. The court had said a uniform in the context of that decision. Personal laws were initially drafted during the British Raj, mostly for Hindu and Muslim inhabitants. The British feared criticism from community leaders and reframed their role in this internal conflict.

After investigating its definition, the court determined that mahr was an amount that a woman was entitled to in consideration of marriage and could not be regarded as a divorce payment. The fact that Mahr was occasionally paid at the moment of marriage breakup (by death or divorce) does not suggest that the payment was 'occasioned by the divorce.

By defining mahr as a marriage payment rather than a divorce payment, the court clarified that the amount of mahr did not preclude courts from also granting maintenance. The court used interpretive means to harmonise Muslim personal law with Section 125. In any case, the court noted that the CrPC would take precedence over Muslim personal law rules if there was a perceived contradiction between the two.

The operative part of the judgement was followed by deep dissatisfaction over the legislature's failure to establish a UCC for all citizens in accordance with Article 44 of the Constitution. It expressed anguish that Article 44 had remained a dead letter and stated that concrete steps were needed if the Constitution of India was to have any meaning. "The court seemed to have used the absence of a UCC to justify its interventionist approach in an issue of religious policy.

Diverse Personal Laws and Customary Practices:
  • India is a country of diverse religions, cultures, and traditions. Each community has its own set of personal laws and customs that govern their civil matters.
  • Personal laws are practised very widely across regions and groups.
  • Finding common ground among such diversity is very difficult and complex.
  • Moreover, there are many personal laws that are not codified and documented but are based on oral and written sources that are often ambiguous and contradictory.
Resistance From the Religion of Minority Groups:
  • Many religious and minority groups view the UCC as an infringement on their religious freedom and cultural autonomy.
  • They fear that the UCC would impose a majoritarian or homogeneous law that would disregard their identity as people of diversity.
  • They also argue that the UCC would violate their constitutional rights under Article 25.
  • Even Hinduism has several subcultures, each with its own unique identity, tradition, and customs.
Resistance From the Religion of Majority Groups:
  • Hinduism: There are several subcultures, each with its own unique identity, tradition, and customs. Personal laws of any religion will be a brute force to all religions, sub-sects, and denominations; it will destroy their uniqueness and diversity.
  • Christianity: They must practise marriage counselling before consecrating a marriage. A UCC will end this practise. The UCC will denigrate and desecrate a holy sacrament.
  • Muslim: Muslims are concerned that implementing the UCC may abolish certain Shariah-based personal laws. Muslims have their own set of divorce laws. Although divorce is frowned upon in Islam, it is permissible under certain conditions. According to Islamic law, a Muslim man can obtain a divorce in one of three ways. The UCC would limit their power to control personal concerns per Shariah principles, which are vital in Islam.
Lack Of Political Will and Consensus:
  • Lack of political will and consensus among the government, the legislative branch, the judiciary, and civil society to initiate or implement UCC.
  • There is also apprehension that UCC could provoke commercial tension or societal conflicts.
Political Difficulties and Complications:
  • UCC would require a massive exercise in drafting, codifying, harmonising, and rationalising the various personal laws and practices in India.
  • It would require a comprehensive consultation with the participation of various stakeholders, including religious leaders, legal experts, women's organisations, etc.
  • It would also require a modest mechanism of enforcement of awareness to ensure compliance and acceptance of UCC by the people.
Benefits of the Uniform Civil Code:
  • National integration and secularism:
  • The UCC would promote national integration and secularism by creating a common identity and sense of belonging among all citizens.
  • It would also reduce communal and sectarian conflicts due to different personal laws.
  • It would uphold the constitutional values of equality, fraternity, and dignity for all.
  • Legal clauses that overlap might be avoided.
  • The country would rise with new strength and might to confront any challenge, eventually conquering communal and divisional forces.
  • Gender Justice and Equality:
  • The UCC would ensure gender justice and equality by removing the discrimination and oppression women face under various personal laws.
  • It would grant equal rights and status to women in matters of marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption, maintenance, etc.
  • It would also empower women to challenge patriarchal, regressive practices that violate their fundamental rights.
  • Simplification and Rationalisation of The Legal System:
  • The UCC would simplify and rationalise the legal system by removing the complication and contradiction of multiple personal laws.
  • It would harmonise civil and criminal laws by removing the anomalies and loopholes that arise due to different personal laws.
  • It would make the law more accessible and understandable for ordinary people.
  • Modernization and Reforms Of Outdated And Regressive Practices:
  • The UCC would modernise and reform the outdated and regressive practices prevalent in some personal laws.
  • It would also accommodate the changing social relationships and aspirations of the people.
Drawbacks of the Uniform Civil Code:
  • The difficulties posed by India's diversity It is challenging to put the Uniform Civil Code into practice because of the intricacy of our nation's diversity. Cultural differences between states and communities make it difficult to have a single personal law
  • Invasion of private matters by the state According to the constitution, everyone has the right to practice their chosen religion. The creation of uniform laws and their enforcement will limit the scope of religious freedom.
  • Many different cultures lack the resolve to pass secular laws that are separate from personal laws. Therefore, imposing one group's customs on another group is unjust. The focus should be on other, less polarising issues that Indian society is facing.
  • The nation has established fundamental policies through general legislation in terms of the defence of human rights or social responsibility. One such universal rule, which supersedes all other personal laws, forbids child marriage.
  • Every religion will assert that it has the authority to rule on diverse matters according to its own unique law. This is not at all what we think. It must be accomplished by a court order.

UCC should be implemented in a country like India as there is more than one religion with different sets of personal laws. Implementing, it will improve the personal laws of all religions, as in Hinduism, they have act for maintenance under the Hindu Marriage Act and the CrPC, but in Islam, the laws are not codified; they are working with the entire procedure from the ancestors.

By this code, all religions would follow one act for the maintenance of women, as they are very contradictory. I strongly support this act. No confusion will arise among the people about which act they should have to follow.

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