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Uniform Civil Code: A Detailed Analysis

This paper aims to provide an in-depth understanding of the Uniform Civil Code, also known as "One Nation-One Law" in India. It aims to replace the current set of personal laws based on the religious beliefs of each major community in the country with a single set of rules that are applicable to all citizens. The paper covers three main contextual issues related to the UCC in modern India: legitimacy, majority versus minority, and gender equality.

It also provides an overview of the history of the UCC, its current status, its advantages and disadvantages, and the role of the judicial system. The paper has been based on a variety of sources, including journals, books, and articles, as well as the internet. Hence, this paper is a result of Doctrinal Research Methodology.

UCC stands for "One Nation-One Law" and is defined in the Constitution of India under Article 44, which states that the State has the obligation to provide Uniform Civil Code to the people of all the regions of India. The main purpose of the Uniform Civil Code is to replace the personal laws which are based on the religious scriptures and traditions of the major religious communities in India with the usual arrangements of rules for each citizen. The personal laws are different from the public law and are mainly related to matters such as Marriage, Divorce, Inheritance, Adoption and Maintenance.

Why In News?
The Uniform Civil Code has long been a contentious news topic. Over the past few months, the Rajya Sabha has seen two private member bills introducing the Uniform Civil Code Bill; however, the opposition has requested the Chairman to reject it. It is currently anticipated that the government will present the Bill during the upcoming Legislative Session.

The 2nd Law Commission Report of 1835 recommended against codifying certain laws, such as the personal laws of Muslims and Hindus, which derive their authority from their respective religions, but it did emphasize the need for uniformity in the codification of Indian laws relating to crimes, evidence, and contracts.

In 1858, Queen Victoria in her proclamation promised the people of India for absolute non-interference in religious matters.

Contextual Issues In Modern India

There are mainly three contextual issues related to Uniform Civil Code in Modern India. They Are:
  1. Legitimacy
  2. Majority viz. Minority
  3. Gender Equality
One could argue that, in the sake of preserving peace overall, it was probably a good idea for a foreign colonial power to avoid areas connected to religion and custom in 1858. However, in an independent India where the people hold the ultimate say over their destiny, no outside force can stop the Indian government, which has been duly and repeatedly voted to power for seven decades on the basis of universal suffrage, from passing laws establishing a standard personal code.

Majority viz. Minority
Non-Hindus are not the only ones who might oppose strongly to the implementation of a law that will control their core religious beliefs, rituals, and practices. Due to the vast differences in customs across its numerous castes and communities, some Hindus have also expressed objection to the in question premise.

Gender Equality
It is also commonly known that Hindu law has historically discriminated against women by preventing them from inheriting, getting married again, or divorcing. Due to these and other prevailing conventions, their situation was bad, especially that of Hindu widows and daughters.

Events Before And After Independence

It is also commonly known that Hindu law has historically discriminated against women by preventing them from inheriting, getting married again, or divorcing. Due to these and other prevailing conventions, their situation was bad, especially that of Hindu widows and daughters.

B.N. Rau Committee Of 1941

The Hindu Law Committee, also known as the B.N. Rau Committee of 1941, was primarily charged with investigating the issue of whether common Hindu laws were required. A codified Hindu law that would grant women equal rights in line with contemporary societal trends was recommended by the Hindu Law Committee. The Hindu Code Bill was resubmitted in 1952, but it must be noted that its primary focus was on reforming Hindu law in accordance with the scriptures on this subject, which were endless. As a result, the bill lapsed.

Passage Of Hindu Code

The Hindu Marriage Bill was passed in May 1995, the Hindu Succession Act in June 1956, the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Bill in August 1956, and the Adoptions and Maintenance Bill in December 1956. These bills comprise the provisions of the Hindu Code.

In response, G.R. Rajagopal stated: "It was felt that an attempt should be made to codify the Hindu Law and if this succeeded, the time would not be far off when other communities might like to follow suit and ask for reconsideration of their own law in light of the changed situations." The measures produced as a result of this effort had intrinsic merits that commended them for universal application.

Uniform Civil Code In Political Narrative

The Hindu Code was criticized by the Fundamentalists on some grounds. First, it was argued that the sacred customs of the Hindu Shashtras ought to be preserved. Second, the fact that the Muslim Personal Laws were unaltered caused resentment.

Thirdly, policies were being rushed through without considering public opinion, and fourth, giving women equal property rights threatened the deeply ingrained economic rights of men in society. In addition, a section attempted to argue that the Hindu Code was essentially a communal measure and that the nation's secular ideals should have been implemented through the creation of a Uniform Civil Code.

Uniform Civil Code In Indian Constitution

Jawaharlal Nehru acknowledged the gaps in the Bill. He believed that the nation needed a Uniform Civil Code, but he was hesitant to impose it on any community, particularly one that wasn't prepared. It was decided to include the implementation of a uniform civil code as a Directive Principle in Article 44 as a sign that Parliament would be open to considering one at some point.

Progressive women members like Hansa Mehta and Rajkumari Amrit Kaur were against the decision to make the Uniform Civil Code a non-justiciable directive. The Indian State's failure to provide a Uniform Civil Code in line with its democratic secular and socialist declarations, Aparna Mehta remarked sharply in response. further illustrates the modern state's accommodation of the traditional interests of a patriarchal society".

Efforts Towards Uniform Civil Code

Many efforts were made towards the implementation of Uniform Civil Code.
  1. Special Marriage Act, 1954
    The Special Marriage Act of 1954 provides for civil marriage for any citizen irrespective of religion, thus, permitting any Indian to have their marriage outside the boundaries of any religious personal law.
  2. Shah Bano Case1 of 1985
    Shah Bano's request for maintenance was turned down in this instance. Under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which applied to all citizens, the Supreme Court decided in her favor regarding the maintenance orders for spouses, children, and parents. The Supreme Court also suggested that the long-awaited Uniform Civil Code be passed.

Supreme Court's Key Observations In Shah Bano Case

In the Shah Bano case, the Supreme Court noted with regret that Article 44 has remained a dead letter. The Uniform Civil Code will promote national integration by eliminating divergent allegiances to laws with diametrically opposed philosophies. It is unlikely that any community will win over anyone by making unjustified compromises on this matter.

The task of securing a Uniform Civil Code falls to the state, and it is without a doubt within its legislative purview to accomplish this. Getting people with varying beliefs and ideologies together on a common platform is not easy. But a beginning has to be made if the Constitution is to have any meaning. Piecemeal attempts of courts to bridge the gap between personal laws cannot take the plea of a common civil code. Thus, justice to all is a far more satisfactory way of dispensing justice than justice from case to case.

Aftermath Of Shah Bano Case

After the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots, most of the minorities in India, with Muslims being the largest, feared attacks on their identity and felt the need to safeguard their culture.

According to them:
The recommendation of the judiciary for the Uniform Civil Code was proof that all Indians would be forced to adhere to Hindu values. The Rajiv Gandhi Government's downfall was caused by the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights in Divorce) Act, 1986, which rendered Section 125 of the CrPC inapplicable to Muslim women. This act was the worst outcome of the case. The Hindu Right, the Hindu Left, Muslim Liberals, and Women's Organizations all vehemently denounced it at the time.

Contemporary Developments:
  1. Neither necessary nor desirable: 21st Law Commission:
    Most nations are currently moving towards acknowledgement of distinction, and the simple presence of contrast doesn't suggest discrimination however is characteristic of hearty majority rule government.
  2. Rise of the Right: BJP:
    Hindu nationalists argue that the Hindu Code is equal for both sexes and secular, which is how they interpret this issue. The nation's first political party to pledge to enact the Uniform Civil Code if elected to power was the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP).
  3. Gender Equality: Women's Movement:
    UCC's importance for gender equality cannot be denied and in a country like India, where women's rights are daily contested and often denied, this is of special significance.

Advantages Of Uniform Civil Code

  1. Provide Equal Status to all Citizens:
    A secular democratic republic in order to provide equal status to its citizens must have a common civil and personal law irrespective of their religion, class, caste, gender, etc.
  2. Promote Gender Parity:
    It is generally observed that in almost all religions men are granted top preferential status in the matters of succession and inheritance which results in discrimination towards women. Thus, the Uniform Civil Code will promote gender equality and will bring both men and woman at par.
  3. Accommodate the aspirations of the young population:
    The social attitude and aspiration of the young population is shaped by universal and global principles of equality, humanity and modernity. Thus, the enactment of Uniform Civil Code will help in utilizing their full potential towards nation building.
  4. Support National Integration:
    In a court of law, all citizens are afforded equal treatment, regardless of whether they are subject to criminal or civil laws (personal laws excluded). Therefore, the Uniform Civil Code's implementation will provide everyone with an equal set of personal laws, ending the politicization of issues pertaining to discrimination or concessions, or, conversely, exceptional benefits valued by a particular community based on their unique religious personal laws.
  5. Bypass the contentious issue of reform of existing Personal Laws:
    All religions currently in practice have personal laws based on the patriarchal ideas of the upper class. Therefore, the sanctity of the patriarchal orthodox people will either be destroyed or strongly opposed by the codification and application of the Uniform Civil Code.

Disadvantages Of Uniform Civil Code

  1. It is difficult to come up with a uniform set of rules for personal issues like marriage due to tremendous diverse culture in India across the religions, sects, castes, states, etc.
  2. Perception of Uniform Civil Code as encroachment on religious freedom: Many communities, especially the minority communities believe that the Uniform Civil Code is an encroachment on their right to religious freedom. According to them, the Uniform Civil Code will neglect their traditions and impose rules which will be mainly influenced by the majority religious communities.
  3. Interference of State in Personal Matter: Articles 25 to 28 of Indian Constitution provide the Right to Freedom of religion. But the scope of the freedom of religion will get reduced with the codification of Uniform Civil Code.
  4. Sensitive and Tough Task: Adopting expansive interpretations of marriage, maintenance, adoption, and succession with the idea that one community should ensure benefits from others, as well as issuing judicial pronouncements that ensure gender equality all of these changes make the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code a delicate and difficult task. The government must handle minority and majority communities with empathy and objectivity, as this is a difficult task that could result in even more devastating outcomes like riots and intercommunal violence.
  5. Time not yet suitable for this reform: In consideration to the major opposition from Muslim community in India, there are issues related to controversies over beef, saffronization of schools and colleges, love jihad, etc. Thus, a sufficient time should be given to instill confidence in the community; otherwise, they will become more insecure and vulnerable to get attracted towards extremist ideologies.

Role Of Judiciary

Without the father's permission, the court handled the guardianship of an unmarried Christian mother in ABC v. The State (NCT of Delhi 2). "It would be inverse for us to underscore that our Directive Principles imagine the presence of a Uniform Civil Code, but this remains an unaddressed constitutional expectation," the court said, finding in the woman's favor.

Similarly, the Supreme Court ruled in the recent case of Jose Paulo Coutinho v. Maria Luiza3 that "While the authors of the Constitution had trusted and expected that the State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout," Article 44, Part IV, managing with the Directive Principles of State Policy

Critical Analysis
There's a greater chance of it passing now with the judiciary's constant encouragement, a powerful women's movement, and a majoritarian government. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has made it clear that it will oppose any efforts to implement a Uniform Civil Code; however, clerics continue to voice their opposition to the recent Triple Talaq Act, which was approved in most places, including among Muslim women.

Thus, it is impossible to dispute the necessity of passing legislation creating a Uniform Civil Code in a time when citizens' rights are of the utmost importance and the acknowledged position is to move towards a society that respects human rights regardless of caste, religion, region, or gender.

Although it is a difficult process, implementing the Uniform Civil Code is not impossible. A middle path was proposed by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar's Council, which said that it is entirely possible that the future Parliament will make a provision stating that the Code will only apply to those who declare that they are willing to be bound by it at first, meaning that the Code's application may initially be entirely voluntary.

  1. 1835: 2nd Law Commission Report
  2. 1858: Queen Victoria's Proclamation
  3. AIR 1985 SC 945

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