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Striving for Unity: The Pursuit of Uniformity in Legal Systems Amidst Diversity

UCC, which talks about the common civil code for every individual and that there should not be any personal civil law, for example, personal law of different religions governing marriage, inheritance, divorce, etc. Part IV, Article 44 of the Constitution states that "The State shall endeavor to secure the citizen a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India"

Constitutional assembly debate on the uniform civil code
The issue over the UCC is not new; even the drafter of the Indian constitution considered it for a long time and agreed that it could not be implemented since India as a country was not prepared, so they opted to include it in the DPSP so that future parliaments might adopt it when the suitable condition appears.

Though the drafters could not agree on the implementation at that time, they agreed that the UCC would be adopted when the country will be mature enough to properly handle it.

Even the drafters who opposed the UCC believed that common civil laws ought to be present, just not at this point "I have no doubt that a stage would come when the civil law would be uniform. But then that time has not yet come" Mr. Naziruddin Ahmad[1] said.

"Today, even without Article 35, there is nothing to prevent the future Parliament of India from passing such laws. Therefore, the idea is to have a uniform civil code" Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar[2]

This demonstrates that the drafters, whether in favor or opposition, were aware that the implementation of the UCC was inevitable, and that even if they were able to avert it today, the future parliament would implement the UCC.

However, the Drafters who were against UCC agreed that there should be gender equality and that women should be treated equally with males, but they still wanted their personal laws to prohibit women from inheriting property, as correctly pointed out by MR. K.M Munshi "They feel that the personal law of inheritance, succession, etc. is really a part of their religion. If that were so, you can never give, for instance, equality to women. But you have already passed a Fundamental Right to that effect and you have an article here which lays down that there should be no discrimination against sex".[3]

They embraced the premise that the right to equality should be a fundamental right but never truly accepted it, believing that equality should exist but not when it comes to amending personal laws. This hypocrisy is still demonstrated by those who oppose the UCC or refuse to acknowledge that women are equal, not just on paper but in reality.

Supreme Court's view on UCC
As the SC correctly noted in the case of Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum[4] the UCC was included in the DPSP with the intention that the future parliament would take cognizance of this. However, as the SC pointed out, the UCC is similar to a dead letter, and they asked the then government to implement it. They even asked the PM to take another look at the UCC and to develop a standard civil code for the country that will eliminate religious inconsistencies and foster national unity.

Even in the case of Kesvananda Bharti v State of Kerala[5], the Supreme Court made bservations and stressed that Fundamental Rights and Directives are complementary, they are the two wheels of the chariot and a means for bringing social and economic democracy to fruition. They are complementary to each other because they both are there to satisfy the preamble's goal of having a welfare state. As a result, fulfillment of the DPSP is required to construct the welfare state, and UCC is the DPSP that the parliament should legislate to achieve the preamble's goal. Directives ensure the better implementation of the fundamental right, hence, the execution of the UCC does not violate any fundamental right of an individual.

Even the Supreme Court is of the view that a uniform civil code should implement in India and has asked the legislature to do it as soon as possible. This suggestion was issued by the SC in 1985, and even though they have repeatedly requested that the parliament should examine the execution of UCC in numerous judgments, still even after 38 years of Shah Bano's case, we are still arguing whether the constitutional spirit is above the personal laws or not.

Present situation and way ahead
People are concerned that their religious values will be jeopardized, or that the government will enforce Hindu laws across India in the name of UCC to realize their ambition of a Hindu Rashtra. UCC is not a Hindu-Muslim debate it is simply a way to bring common civil laws of all religions, including Hindu laws, together. Under UCC, even different Hindu laws would be altered.

For example, in order for a marriage to be valid in Hindu law, a sacramental ceremony must be performed; under UCC, this law will be changed; the marriage will be treated as a contract, and its registration will make it valid. Hindu law shall not be used as the benchmark for implementing the UCC rather laws that are in accordance with the constitution and benefit all individuals will be implemented under the UCC.

To make everyone feel that the UCC is there for the good, the doctrine of severability should be used and immediately remove the laws that are not in accordance with the constitutional spirit, and for the rest, the consent of all the majority stakeholders of the various religions should be taken into consideration.

Whether or not the government is using the UCC as a vote bank, the Uniform Civil Code is a step in the right direction and will aid in the achievement of the Constitution's objective. So, instead of rejecting it solely for political reasons, the debate should focus on the merits of the proposal and how to implement it without neglecting any religion, and for that, all religious stakeholders must recognize its significance and how it will benefit the people, and they must meet halfway to make the UCC a success.

  4. 1985 AIR 945, 1985 SCR (3) 844
  5. (1973) 4 SCC 225; AIR 1973 SC 1461

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