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Uniform Civil Code In Uttarakhand: India's First, Post-Independence

With the Uniform Civil Code Bill passed in the state assembly, Uttarakhand has become the first state in India to adopt a UCC after independence. Consisting of seven schedules and 392 sections, the Bill gives weightage to four domains for the most part- marriage, divorce, inheritance and live-in relationships. The only other state to have a uniform civil code in force is Goa, which goes by the Portuguese Civil Code of 1869, with a few exceptions.

Last year, the 22nd Law Commission, headed by retired Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, had sought views of the public on this issue marked by extensive debates. Though India already follows a common penal and criminal law, a multiplicity of uncomfortable yet critical questions stand in the way of this decisive juncture of lawmaking, such as the following, which we must ask ourselves in order to truly understand the necessity of such a step:

  • Should personal laws override the constitution?
  • Is religious or personal freedom threatened by measures to secure equality and dignity in the society?
  • Are we willing to amend existing personal laws to make them fairer than their present state as an alternative to a UCC?
  • And, the most crucial of them being- Is India ready for a uniform civil law?
The idea of a Uniform Civil Code is enshrined in Article 44 of the Indian Constitution under the section of Directive Principles of State Policy, which makes it unenforceable by courts. It provides for a singular set of laws that would apply to all citizens, irrespective of religion.

Arguments in favour of the legislation include elimination of discriminatory practices particularly against women in matters of marriage, inheritance, maintenance and succession; alignment with the Constitution's concepts of secularism and equality; bringing about a sense of unity and national integration among different communities; simplification of the legal system and fulfilment of gender justice.

On the other hand, critics contend that such a law might be perceived by minorities as one which would lead to a loss of heterogeneity in terms of culture; cause public resistance due to misinterpretation and give rise to extremely complicated challenges during drafting and implementation, considering India's exceedingly diverse culture.

While these concerns are just as valid, it is to be noted that many unjust practices were put to an end for good by the Hindu Code Bill, 1953 which had stirred similar apprehensions in an era far less developed than today. Regardless to say, it is, undoubtedly, of paramount importance that such laws are structured finely, with utmost clarity of vision and impartial representation so that they uphold the principles of justice and strike a balance between citizens' rights and public policy.

The other possible alternative, and perhaps the most popular amongst critics, is amendment to personal laws. However, whether that would be an option more acceptable than a uniform civil code is, again, uncertain. It must be remembered, though, that at the root of both of these options lies a similar theme- social justice. To ensure real progress, it is vital that there be equality in terms of opportunities.

It is high time that practices inequitable to a specific segment of the population be discarded of, and the way for a reformed system be paved, all the while abiding by the Constitution. The Indian Constitution is a 'living' constitution- one that is dynamic and pragmatic in its interpretation and illustrative of new times.

It is only wise to treat the Constitution as the sacrosanct document it is because, as the incumbent CJI Justice D Y Chandrachud put in one of his speeches, the Constitution works even for those who do not believe in it. A uniform civil code is multifaceted, even more so in a country coloured with a myriad of traditions- which is a thought that has to be at the forefront of all productive discussions on this subject.

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Vasundhara Panwar
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