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Uniform Civil Code

It is an idea to formulate and implement personal laws of citizens which apply on all citizens regardless of their religion, gender and sexual orientation. The main motive behind this code is to address the gender disparity produced by specific religious laws, to address personal laws that constitute a loophole in the legal system, to aid in the integration of the country, to ensure that all citizens have an equal status and also to promote secularism.

The origin of the UCC dates back to colonial India when the British government submitted its report in 1835 stressing the need for uniformity in the codification of the Indian law relating to crimes, evidence, and contracts, specifically recommending that personal laws of Hindu and Muslims be kept outside such codification. Increase in the legislation dealing with personal issues in the far end of the British rule forced the government to form the B N Rau Committee to codify Hindu law in 1941.

The task of the Hindu Law Committee was to examine the question of the necessity of common Hindu laws. The committee, in accordance with scriptures, recommended a codified Hindu law, which would give equal rights to women. The 1937 Act was reviewed and the committee recommended a civil code of marriage and succession for Hindus and in the same year 1937 the Muslim personal law was passed.

UCC has became a relevant topic in India because the courts of India have been prodding successive governments to bring in a uniform civil code (UCC) as enshrined in "Article 44".They raised this issue prominently in 1985(Shah Bano case),1995(Sarla Mudgal case),2003 (John Vallamathom case) and also in 2015 where Supreme Court asserted that: "This cannot be accepted, otherwise every religion will say it has a right to decide various issues as a matter of its personal law and to maintain the decorum of the court it can't be allowed".

After the judgement in the triple talaq case and the introduction of UCC in BJP's manifesto in 2019 election this topic came into heated debate that now the time has came for a uniform civil code in the country. One of the drawback which we saw of the unavailability of UCC was in Shah Bano case where Supreme Court decided that Shah Bano Begum has the right to get maintenance from her husband under "section125" and this decision led nationwide discussions, meetings, and agitation.

The then Rajiv Gandhi led Government overturned the Shah Bano case decision by way of Muslim Women (Right to Protection on Divorce) Act, 1986 which curtailed the right of a Muslim woman for maintenance under "Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure". The explanation given for implementing this Act was that the Supreme Court had merely made an observation for enacting the UCC, not binding on the government or the Parliament and that there should be no interference with the personal laws unless the demand comes from within.

UCC has its legal existence in "Article 44" as a part of DPSP of Indian constitution which says that "The state shall endeavour to secure for citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India". After the failure of government to form laws on UCC various petition were filled in the Supreme Court around 2018-2019 then Pointing to the constitutional significance of the matter, the center informed the SC that it has already referred the matter to the 22nd law commission that has already been constituted but waiting for the appointments of chairman and other members. It has requested the law commission to "undertake examination of various issues relating to Uniform Civil Code and to make recommendations thereof."

The term of the 21st law commission got over on August 31, 2018. During its period, the center said, it conducted a long research and interacted with different stakeholders leading to the uploading of report titled Reform of family law for 'wider deliberations/discussions'. The center categorically informed the top court that it is a legislative matter "for the elected representatives of the people to decide" and sought the dismissal of the petition that asked for the intervention of the SC.

Till now only Goa has Uniform Civil Code implemented but many states are preparing for the implementation of UCC in their region. With this statement of Government it seems that legal provision regarding UCC will soon be in existence.

Codification of laws dates back to the Colonial Period. The Colonial Masters played an instrumental role in shaping the legislative matters of our country. The Lex Loci Report of October 1840 emphasized on the necessity for the codification of Indian law relating to crimes, evidence, contract etc., but it recommended that personal law of Hindus and Muslims should be kept outside such codification.

A formal declaration of the policy was made by Warren Hastings in the Administration of Justice Regulation, 1780, where it was pronounced that while dealing with disputes of marriage, divorce or inheritance, people would be governed by their personal laws. The British codified the law of crimes and made a secular law to deal with the crimes. In the realm of personal laws, very few attempts were made.

The attempt for a Codified Hindu law has also failed. Post-colonial period, the framers of the Indian Constitution and Mr. Nehru, were convinced that a certain amount of modernization is required before a uniform civil code is imposed on citizens belonging to different religions including Muslims. Since partition had taken place and implementation of UCC would create chaos and a feeling of hatred towards the newly formed government.

The issue was sensitive and a Uniform Civil Code could be seen by the citizens as an invasion on their culture and religion again bringing an issue regarding religious laws would not have been a wise decision. Though Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was an extensive supporter of the uniform civil code, he couldn't get it through more than a status of Directive Principle due to opposition from the members.

This Directive Principle is aimed to achieve, gradually, rather than at once, more far reaching equality for all the citizens. Now the Central Government has been assigned the duty to come with the laws on UCC. However, over 75 years later as well, the dream of a Uniform Civil Code remains unrealized. Till now only Goa has Uniform Civil Code implemented but many states are on their way to form and implement UCC.

The landmark judgement on behalf of UCC are Mohd.Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum decision of Supreme Court in this case is regarded as a milestone in highlighting the need/importance of UCC. This case was about a women seeking maintenance after getting divorced from her husband under triple talaq.

Women won the case in every lower courts so the husband appealed in the Supreme Court but his appeal was rejected by the honorable court and the decision was in the favour of women as per the all India criminal code's "maintenance of wives, children and parents" provision (section 125).

The 2nd case is Sarla Mudgal vs Union of India this case is about a Hindu spouse solemnizing another marriage after getting converted himself to Islam here the court said that Hindu marriage solemnized in accordance with Hindu law may be dissolved only on the reason listed in the Hindu marriage act 1955 and conversion to Islam would not dissolve the marriage under Hindu marriage act.

So another marriage would attract an offence under section 494 of the Indian penal code (IPC).3rd case is John Vallamattom & Anr vs Union of India in this case section 118 of the Indian succession act was declared unconstitutional after John challenged it on the grounds that it discriminated against Christians by imposing unreasonable restrictions on their willed gifts for religious or charitable purposes. This showed the level of inconsistency in religious laws.

Then comes the Daniel Latifi & Anr vs union of India this case was about how universally applicable law should prevail over unjust religious laws. Here Muslim women's act was challenged for violation of articles14,15 &21 of the constitution. This case is important in the context of ucc because for the first time it was established that a Muslim husband's liability to provide maintenance to his divorced wife extends beyond the iddat period and it also striked the balance between Muslim personal law and the CPC, 1973.

Main reason for delay in the formation and implementation of Uniform Civil Code could be the resistance by people and the vote bank politics related to it. So If UCC is to be implemented in India few hindrance is to be crossed and they are (practical difficulties due to diversity in India) as India has various religion and every religion has different beliefs on different issues, (perception of UCC as encroachment on religious freedom) people think of UCC as an evil law which will restrict them to follow their different religious beliefs, interference of state in personal matters, sensitivity and toughness of the issue.

Time is not yet suitable for this reform because to implement it a stable environment is required and now that stability is not in the country .but it has its own pros of implementation. they are it will create unity among citizens (promote secularism), promote gender equality, will bypass the contentious issue of reforms of existing personal laws, will work as a tool for national integration, it is a sign of a modern progressive nation, it would cover the loophole of personal laws.

UCC has been one of the most trending topics now a days because of its necessity for the society but the situation in country and less willingness of our political leaders are not making it possible for the government to make laws on Uniform Civil Code. As every thing has two faces so implementation of UCC has but the negative effects of it will be overlapped by its positive effects.

UCC will make society better off and bring equality among citizens and also increase the essence of secularism. The discrimination which personal laws make for woman will be eradicated and they will surely get benefitted with the implementation of UCC in the country formulation of UCC will definitely lead to the simplification of the Indian legal system and simplification of laws as there are many personal laws like Hindu code bill, Shariat law, etc so if UCC comes into play it will provide much simplicity and less confusion with speedy and fair justice.

I would suggest that as India is as "Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic". Diversity is the essence of India, but diversity in law is unfair and UCC would establish several laws to regulate individual situations affecting everyone regardless of their faith, this is both necessary and the basic foundation of genuine secularism.

This dynamic shift would not only assist in ending gender-based oppression but would also strengthen the nation's mainstream thinking and will advance unity. There is a urgent need to change our social framework because it is filled with inequalities, divisions, and other factors that has a direct conflict with our Fundamental Rights.

With the passage of time, the necessity for a UCC for all citizens, regardless of religion, is arising, ensuring the protection of their critical and constitutional rights. Finally, the lack of a standard civil code is creating uncertainty to reach the aim of achieving true democracy, and this must change by the implementation of UCC in India.

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