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Significance of Uniform Civil Code

This research paper will study the importance of the Uniform civil code in the Indian context. This paper will also analyse the history of the demand for a Uniform Civil Code in India from the British period. This research paper will analyse the condition of the Uniform Civil Code in other developed and developing countries.

This paper will also study Hindu personal laws, Muslim personal laws, Christian personal law, Parsi personal law and Jewish personal law. This paper has pointed out the pros and cons of the Uniform Civil Code in the Indian context. This paper will also analyze prominent case laws in the Uniform Civil Code.

The Uniform Civil Code can be defined as a law that applies to all citizens without differentiating them based on their religion on matters like marriage, inheritance of property, etc. The main reason behind the demand for a Uniform Civil Code is to promote the feeling of brotherhood, and unity and demote the feeling of disparity caused by personal laws.

The demand for a Uniform Civil Code is supported through directive principles of state policy under Article- 44. The idea was sometimes supported by the preamble of India which is Fraternity.

India is a country of religions that follows different cultures and traditions. India contains major 8 religions, those are Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism. This research paper will explore the history and current status of the UCC in India, its pros and cons, and the challenges in implementing it. Personal laws were first introduced the colonial rule in India, these personal laws were mainly aimed at Hindus, Muslims, and Christians.

The Uniform Civil Code is widely supported by many communities such as the LGBTQ community supported Uniform Civil Code as it will not differentiate any person based on their gender. This uniform law will replace all personal laws with a uniform civil code that will apply to all citizens. Personal laws are a lot more chaotic as they used to govern people based on their religion in many aspects such as divorce, marriage, adoption, and maintenance. This research paper will give an overview of the Uniform Civil Code. This paper will also discuss the historical context of UCC and its current status in other parts of the world.

The study focuses on several examples where the UCC problem has been brought up, highlighting the necessity of a UCC to guarantee gender equality and prevent conflicts between personal laws of various communities. The research underlines the significance of constructive discourse and works towards a solution that ensures justice and equality for all residents, regardless of religion or community affiliation.

UCC has emerged as a crucial topic in Indian Politics for a long period. Supreme Court and the Indian constitution mentioned about Uniform Civil Code in their judgments and Article 44[1] respectively. The need for UCC has been seen in many cases such as the Shah Bano case, and Joseph Shine v. Union of India. All religious groups must adopt the UCC, and the legal system must undergo a significant revision.

The main purpose behind the demand for a Uniform Civil Code is to replace the personal laws that differentiate people based on religion which sacrifices the unity of citizens. Some of those personal laws are- the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, Hindu Marriage Act[2], Hindu Succession Act, Indian Christian Marriages Act, Indian Divorce Act, etc.

On the other hand, Muslim personal law i.e., Sharia (comprised of Quran, Ijma, Qiyas, and Hadith.) is an uncodified law that creates confusion in the judicial system. This change will reduce the confusion and help strengthen the country with united citizens. The main draft of the Uniform Civil Code has provisions for single marriage, secular laws, guardianship, and distribution of property equally, for all citizens without any discrimination.

Historical Context:
The concept of a Uniform Civil Code is extremely old as the demand for UCC arose when India was under the control of the Britishers. The demand for a Uniform law in India first arises in The Lex Loci Report[3]. This report advised against including the personal laws of Hindus and Muslims in the codification of Indian law because of its importance and necessity for uniformity in matters of crimes, evidence, and contracts but it recommended that personal laws should be kept outside this codification.[4]

These personal laws sacrificed the unity among Hindus and Muslims which favoured the Britisher's policy "Divide and Rule Policy". Personal laws were not applied uniformly in lower courts due to the diversity of local cultures and practices in different parts of India. Articles 25 to 28 of the Indian Constitution deal with the concept of personal laws. These laws work as a rule book of rights and practices of every religion practised in India. The history of the Uniform Civil Code can be divided into 2 time periods � British India (1858�1947) and post-colonial (1947�1985).

The Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act, and the Indian Contract Act were introduced by Britishers in the years 1960 and 1972 respectively. All the above-mentioned acts are implemented uniformly to set up an effective legal system in the country whereas personal laws stayed untouched.

In the 19th century, the demand for a uniform civil code was raised by many social reformers such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidhya Sagar, etc who considered personal laws as outdated and discriminatory. These reformers contributed to modernizing some of the biggest flaws of the Hindu religion such as the abolition of Sati[5], the Hindu Widow Remarriage Act[6], and the Caste Disability Abolish Act[7].

The idea of a Uniform Civil Code again gained movement during the freedom struggle in India. Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru are some of the prominent leaders supporting the idea of UCC. The Uniform Civil Code receives a lot of debate and discussion while the constitution is framed by the constituent assembly, as Mr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar (the head of the drafting committee) believes in equality and abolishing the discrimination of the lower classes.

A uniform civil code was a hot topic that received a lot of debate in the Indian Constituent Assembly, which established the country's constitution. The Article 44 of the Constitution states that "the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code across the territory of India," however due to objections from conservative religious groups, the Constitution's authors decided to postpone action on the issue.

The Nehru government passed Hindu Code Bill in the years 1955 and 1956 facing a lot of resistance from the Hindu community. The code consists of single marriage provisions for Hindus, divorce, inheritance, and guardianship acts. Conservative groups were outraged by the Bill, believing it was an attack on Hindu customs and culture.

Yet, the Bill was eventually approved in 1956, marking an important stride toward gender equality and social transformation. In recent years the debate about the Uniform Civil Code has been fuelled because of the Supreme Court judgment on triple talaq or Talaq-e-bidet.

Condition Of Uniform Civil Codes In Other Countries:

UCC is a concept that exists in various countries across the world. The extent to which it is implemented varies greatly depending upon every country's political, economic, social, and legal situation. Now let's see some of the conditions of the Uniform Civil Code in some of the influencing nations of the world.
  1. United States of America:
    The United States has a federal legal system, and family law is governed by the states. As a result, the United States has no uniform civil code. However, the federal government has enacted laws related to marriage and divorce, such as the Defence of Marriage Act and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Several layers of legislation apply to the nation, the state, and the county, as well as agencies and cities. States are self-contained legal entities with their own Supreme Courts that adhere to their own practices and legal standards.[8]
  2. France:
    France is one of the few countries with a comprehensive civil code that is uniform. The French Civil Code, which was enacted in 1804, controls marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adoption for all French people. The French model is frequently mentioned as an example of the successful adoption of a uniform civil code.

    France's civil code is known as Code Napoleon. In France, a debate for a Uniform Civil Code has been started recently that can cover almost all family and religious laws. The France code recognizes both customs and legal rules as a law. The French code maintains a proper balance between equality, rules binding by law, and benefits given to specific members of society. France's code bill applied to many matters such as family, property, contract, etc.
  3. Turkey:
    Turkey has a secular legal system that was founded when the Ottoman Empire fell in the early twentieth century. Personal laws based on religion were abolished in the 1920s, and the Turkish civil code applies to all citizens. Nonetheless, religious influence remains in the Turkish legal system, and certain religious organizations have been exempted from the civil code in particular sectors. The code replaced Islamic law and established a uniform set of laws for all citizens. It covers many topics such as marriage, divorce, inheritance of property, etc. Some religious groups opposed the code because it was considered a drastic departure from conventional Islamic law. Yet, it was an important step in Turkey's development and contributed to enhancing the country's legal system. The legislation has subsequently been revised multiple times, but it remains an important aspect of Turkey's legal structure.[9]
  4. Tunisia:
    Tunisia is a Muslim-majority country that has enacted a civil code that applies to all citizens regardless of religion. The Tunisian Civil Code was enacted in 1956 and is considered to be one of the most progressive legal codes in the Arab world. It provides equal rights to women and prohibits discrimination based on religion. The UCC was created to replace the previous French legal system, which was viewed as discriminatory towards women and minorities. The code is influenced by Islamic law or sharia, but it also incorporates modernism, equality, and human rights. Women have equal rights with males in marriage and divorce, property ownership, and inheritance under the UCC. Tunisia has been a pioneer in Arab women's rights legislation.[10]
  5. Israel:
    Israel has a secular legal system that applies to all citizens, but there is no uniform civil code. Israel's laws have control over many matters such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance matters. These laws are governed by the religious courts of each community, which results in discrimination against women and minority groups.

    The lack of a unified civil code has resulted in ongoing arguments regarding individual rights, the role of religion in the state, and the fight for gender equality. Some Israelis have advocated for the implementation of a single civil code that would provide equal treatment to all people, regardless of religion. However, a universal civil code in Israel is a very contentious issue with major political and societal repercussions.[11]


Brief About Personal Laws In India:

Currently, India has Personal laws for most religions which sacrifice unity and a feeling of brotherhood among the citizens of India. These personal laws are timely amended by supreme court judgments or legislative orders making them modern.

Hindu Code Bill:
The Hindu code bill had been passed between the years 1955 and 1956 containing a set of rules and regulations regarding different civil matters. This code was introduced by the government of Mr. Jawahar Lal Nehru government. This process was started during British rule in India. The idea of the Hindu code bill was supported by Mr. B R Ambedkar (1st law minister and the head of the constituent assembly).

The Committee recommended that there be a requirement for a Hindu Code in 1941. Fundamental reforms that recognized gender equality were required to accomplish social growth and modernization. The code was to be formed with the help of orthodox, conservative, and reformist Hindus, as well as a thorough mixing of the best of current Hindu law schools and ancient literature.

Hindu code bills contain four separate acts that were introduced between 1955 to 1956:
  • The Hindu Marriage Act:
    The Hindu Marriage Act is made to regulate the marriage system in Hindu families. The Indian Parliament passed it in 1955, and it went into force on May 18, 1955. Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs are all covered by the Act. The Act controls Hindu marriage registration as well as divorce, child maintenance, and child custody.
  • The Hindu Succession Act:
    The Hindu Succession Act is an act that removes most of the discriminative part in the process of succession in Hinduism whereas the rest of the problems in the act were removed later. The statute was first enacted in 1956 and has been revised multiple times since then, most recently in 2005. Both the children got equal rights in inheriting property from their guardians under the Hindu Succession Act. Before the 2005 amendment, this right was reserved for men only. The statute also specifies the standards for distributing property when a person dies without leaving a will.
  • The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act:
    The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act defines the age of majority i.e., 18 years. This act determines the duty of the guardian towards the son and daughter from legal relation and illicit relation. This act was introduced in 1956. The act defines a minor as anyone under the age of 18 years old, and it applies to all Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs. The legislation establishes rules and regulations for the appointment and duties of guardians responsible for the care and management of minors' property. It also establishes criteria for the custody of minor children in circumstances of parental separation or divorce.
  • The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act:
    The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act is an act that allows Hindus to adopt a child with reasonable restrictions such as the age gap between the guardian and child must be equal to or more than 21 years. The statute was first enacted in 1956 and has been revised multiple times since then. It establishes the legal framework for adoption, guardianship, and support of dependent family members such as children, spouses, and elderly parents.

Muslim Personal Law:
Muslim personal law is a set of laws that are formed to govern all Muslims. This personal law has extensive jurisdiction over many aspects such as marriage, adoption, inheritance of property, etc. These rules are founded on Islamic principles and drawn from the Quran and Hadith.
Important characteristics of Muslim Personal Law are as follows:
  • Marriage is considered a sacred relation in Hinduism whereas Islam recognizes marriage as a contract between two individuals. Just like the normal contract, consent is the most important thing in a marriage. Islam allows Polygamy i.e., a man can have four wives at once but the only condition regarding polygamy is that they should be financially strong to support all of them equally. Islam is a patrilineal community that puts the whole burden in the hands of men. The husband is responsible for supporting his family and providing financial assistance to his wife and children.
  • Divorce:
    Islam is considered a progressive religion as it allows both men and women to have the right to divorce. Both partners can request a divorce independently or with mutual consent. There are many forms of divorce in Islam some of them are Talaq, Khula, Mubarat, Tafweez, Lian, etc. Talaq is also divided into Talaq-e-Biddat, Talaq-e-Hasan, and Talaq-e-Ahsan. Talaq-e-Biddat was declared void by the Supreme Court's landmark judgment in Shayara Bano v. Union of India. The wife rewarded Mehr at the time of Divorce.
  • Inheritance:
    Islamic law has a proper law for the inheritance of property after the death of the person following Islam. It follows 'Shufa' for the distribution of property among boys and girls. Under this system, the immovable property is divided among boys and girls with a ratio of 2:1. The family has the first right to buy the property. This also restricts the percentage of the property to 1/3rd that can be written off as 'wasiyyat', which means that a person can make a will containing information regarding the allocation of the property after his/her death.
  • Adoption:
    Adoption is not recognized in Islam in the conventional sense. Instead, the notion of "kafala" is employed, which entails caring for an orphan or a needy child without changing their legal status or family name. The youngster is still regarded as a member of their birth family.
Christian Personal Laws:
  • Marriage: The Indian Christian Marriage Act of 1872 governs Christian marriage. The Act specifies the requirements for legitimate Christian marriage, such as both spouses being Christians, the attendance of witnesses, and the registration of the marriage.
  • Divorce: The Indian Divorce Act, of 1869 governs divorce among Christians in India. This Act permits both parties to seek a divorce for particular reasons, such as adultery, cruelty, desertion, or conversion to another religion.
  • Adoption: The Guardians and Wards Act of 1890 governs adoption among Christians. This Act establishes the appointment of a guardian for a minor child and the adoption procedures.
  • Succession: Christians follow the Indian Succession Act for the distribution of property after the death of a person following the Christian religion. This act is certainly accepted by most religions as it provides equal benefits to both genders.

Parsi Personal Laws:
Parsi Personal Laws in India are a set of rules that govern the personal affairs of members of the Parsi community in India. These rules are founded on Parsi religious customs and practices and are recognized by the Indian legal system. Marriage, divorce, adoption, and succession are the key subjects of Parsi Personal Law in India.
  • Marriage: The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act of 1936 governs Parsi marriage. The Act specifies the requirements for a legitimate Parsi marriage, including the requirement that both spouses be Parsi and that certain religious ceremonies be performed.
  • Divorce: The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 governs divorce among Parsis in India. This Act allows both parties to seek a divorce for particular reasons, such as adultery, cruelty, or abandonment.
  • Adoption: Adoption is controlled by the Guardians and Wards Act of 1890, which is akin to Christian Personal Laws. This Act establishes the appointment of a guardian for a minor child and the adoption procedures. Adoption, on the other hand, is not regarded as a frequent practice under Parsi Personal Laws and is only permitted under limited conditions.
  • Succession: Similar to Christian Personal Laws, the Indian Succession Act of 1925 governs Parsi succession. Yet, other elements in this Act are unique to Parsis, such as the right of an adopted child to inherit property from their adoptive parents.

Jewish Personal Laws
In India, the Jewish community is one of the smallest minor groups that govern its laws through religious and social institutions. These laws largely address marriage, divorce, inheritance, and succession. The philosophy of Hindus regarding marriage is also followed in the Jewish community. Marriage is regarded as a sacred bond between a man and a woman in Jewish law, and it needs a solemn ceremony in the presence of witnesses. Divorce is not considered a common habit in the Jewish community but it is permitted under special circumstances.

When it comes to inheritance and succession, Jewish law adheres to a rigorous hierarchy based on blood connections and gender. Boys often take precedence over girls, while close relatives take precedence over distant relatives.

  1. Gender Equality:
    Gender inequality is considered one of the biggest problems in India, with women encountering discrimination in many areas of life, including the judicial system. One of the major contributors to this imbalance is the existence of personal laws governing topics such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance, which differ by religion and frequently discriminate against women. Implementing a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India, on the other hand, might be a game changer in terms of fostering gender equality. A UCC will establish the principle of equality mentioned under the preamble of India that would eliminate discrimination based on gender.
  2. Social Cohesion:
    Promoting social cohesion is critical in a varied country like India. A Universal Civil Code (UCC) could be a major step in fostering a sense of unity and commonality among citizens of various religious backgrounds. Personal rules that differ by religion might currently create a sense of divide and alienation among communities. A UCC, on the other hand, would establish a common set of laws that apply to all citizens, regardless of religion, which might assist in fostering a sense of shared values and identity. A UCC might also help to alleviate inter-religious tensions and foster community harmony.
  3. Modernization:
    The legal system in India desperately needs modernization, and a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) could be the solution. The UCC would consolidate all personal laws into a single code, resulting in a more uniform legal structure across the country. This will help bring India into line with worldwide legal standards, making it more appealing to foreign investors. The existing legal system in India is largely fragmented, with several personal laws governing distinct communities.

Cons Of Uniform Civil Code:

  1. Religious sentiment:
    India is a country with many religions such as Hinduism, Islam, Jews, Parsi, etc. Each religion has its laws that rule many aspects such as marriage, adoption, guardian, inheritance, etc. The debate on the Uniform Civil Code is a debate continuing for a long period. The main reason behind the delay in the passing of a Uniform Civil Code is protests from conservative religious groups. Many conservative groups backlashed the code as they consider it a threat to their religion and it will destroy their divine religion which must not be changed.
  2. Political Opposition:
    India is a country of diversity. It is commonly said that in India language changes every 5 Kilometres. India's legal system reflects this diversity too. The adoption of a Unified Civil Code is one of the most difficult problems in Indian law (UCC). A Universal Civil Code would replace different religions' laws with a uniform set of rules controlling marriage, divorce, inheritance, and other civil concerns. While the establishment of a UCC has been a matter of discussion in India for decades, political opposition remains a key impediment to its implementation.
  3. Implementation challenges:
    In India, implementing a UCC would be a huge challenge, and there could be practical challenges with enforcing new laws, teaching citizens about their rights and obligations, and guaranteeing compliance. Yet, the UCC has the potential to increase gender equality and social justice, and it is critical to continue the debate about its implementation. It is critical to address logistical issues while also ensuring that the unique religious and cultural values of different communities are honoured throughout the process.

Cases that sparked the debate of UCC:
  1. Shah Bano V. Mohammad Ahmed Khan, Air 1985 Sc 945:
    This case was regarding the maintenance of Muslim women after divorce. Shah Bano married Ahmed Khan (lawyer) in the year 1932. She had 5 kids with her marriage. After the second marriage of Mr Ahmed Khan, Shah Bano started living separately without getting divorced. She used to get maintenance of 200 rupees till 1978. When the amount of maintenance was revoked, she filed a suit against her husband.

    The Supreme Court of India awarded her the maintenance of 179.2 rupees per month. This judgment was criticized by a conservative group of Muslims as they consider it an interference with their laws. As a result, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 was passed which nullified the judgment of the Supreme Court. This case sparked the debate on the need for a Uniform Civil Code in India.
  2. Shayara Bano V. Union Of India (2017):
    This case sets one of the landmark precedents that declared Triple talaq or Talaq-e-bidet void. The lady Shayra Bano lives in Uttarakhand. She married Rizvan Ahmed in Ilhabad. He sends him triple talaq through Speed Post in the year 2015. The Supreme Court passed the judgment with a ratio of 3:2 in favour of Shayra Bano and criminalized talaq-e-bidet. Many other cases and PILs sparked the debate for a Uniform Civil Code by taking the support of Article 44 of the Indian Constitution.
The Universal Civil Code (UCC) is a proposal for a single set of rules governing personal concerns including marriage, divorce, and inheritance for all Indian citizens, regardless of faith. This plan has been the subject of heated debate in the country for several decades.

Proponents of the UCC claim that it would guarantee equal rights to all people, regardless of faith or gender, and would prohibit gender discrimination. They say that under the current legal system, different religions have different sets of laws, which are frequently discriminatory against women.

For example, Muslim women do not have the same rights to divorce and inheritance as Hindu women. Similarly, Christian women do not have the same property and succession rights as Hindu women. Opponents of the UCC believe that it would undermine religious freedom and cultural diversity.

They contend that India is a diverse country with various religions and civilizations and that each community has its own set of beliefs and traditions that must be respected. They say that enforcing a common set of rules on all citizens, regardless of religion, violates their fundamental rights.

A UCC's implementation would necessitate a careful balancing of these competing interests. It would be vital to ensure that the UCC supports religious freedom and cultural diversity while also eliminating gender discrimination and ensuring equal rights for all citizens. On the other hand, the current system of personal laws is discriminatory and infringes on human rights.

Women of many faiths are frequently denied basic rights such as divorce, inheritance, and property rights. As a result, there has been widespread prejudice and injustice, notably against women.

As a result, reform is required, and debate among all stakeholders is required to develop a solution that respects both religious freedom and human rights. The government should take the initiative in starting a discourse with all communities, including religious leaders, activists, and legal experts, to find a solution that is acceptable to everyone.

To summarise, the UCC is a hotly discussed issue in India, with valid reasons both for and against it. On the other hand, the current system of personal laws is discriminatory and infringes on human rights. As a result, reform is required, and debate among all stakeholders is required to develop a solution that respects both religious freedom and human rights.

  1. Article 44 of the Indian Constitution states the need of a Uniform Civil Code as a directive principle of the state.
  2. The Hindu Marriage Act, of 1955 applies to all Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains.
  3. The 1st Law Commission, 1835 under the charter act of 1833 one of some significance is the Lex Loci Report (1837).
  4. Banerjee, Anil Chandra (1984). English Law in India. Abhinav Publications. p. 134. ISBN 978-81-7017-183-6. Archived from the original on 17 February 2017. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  5. The Abolition of Sati Act of 1813 was a law passed by the British East India Company.
  6. Hindu Widow Remarriage Act - July 16, 1856.
  7. The Caste Disabilities Removal Act, 1850, a law passed in British India under East India Company rule.
  8. Stated in Legal Service India E-Journal.
  9. From the book "The French Civil Code and the Common Law World" by Roderick Munday.
  10. "Tunisia: Legal System and Research" by George Sadik.
  11. From the book "Israel: The Status of Religious Courts and Their Jurisdiction" produced by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Written By: Atharv, B.A. LL.B (2022-27)

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