Uniform Civil Code

Uniform Civil Code

News: The idea of a Uniform Civil Code has been debated in India for decades, and it has been a longstanding demand of some political and social reform movements. 
• Recently, SC dismissed PIL challenging UCC committees in Gujarat, Uttrakhand.

What is Uniform Civil Code?
• The UCC calls for formulation of one law to be made applicable to all religious communities in matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adoption. 
• The code comes under Article 44 of the Constitution, which lays down that the state shall endeavor to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India.
• It is a divisive issue in India, with proponents arguing that it would promote equality and secularism, and opponents arguing that it would interfere with religious freedoms and cultural practices. 

Evolution of UCC in India:
• The idea of UCC was influenced by similar codes drafted in European countries during the 19th century and early 20th century.
• The BN Rau Committee (1941) was formed to codify Hindu law recommended a codified Hindu law, which would give equal rights to women. 
• The Special Marriage Act, 1954, provides a form of civil marriage to any citizen irrespective of religion, thus permitting any Indian to have their marriage outside the realm of any specific religious personal law. 
• In the Shah Bano Case (1985) the Supreme Court said that Parliament should outline the contours of a common civil code and MS Jordan Diengdeh v. SS Chopra (1985) the Supreme Court emphasized the urgency of implementing a uniform civil code. 
• In the Sarla Mudgal Case (1995) the SC reiterated the need for Parliament to frame a Uniform Civil Code. 

What are the arguments in favor of UCC in India?
• Simplicity of Laws - The code will simplify the complex laws around marriage ceremonies, inheritance, succession, adoptions making them one for all. 
• Promote Gender Equality – All personal laws, regardless of religion, discriminate against women in one way or the other. For example, Christian women could not obtain divorce on grounds of Adultery committed by husband whereas Christian husbands could simply declare their wife’s adulteresses and divorce them. 
• Uniformity and Consistency – A UCC will ensure consistency in the application of the law, as it would apply equally to everyone. This would reduce the risk of discrimination or inconsistency in the application of the law. 
• Cater to aspirations of Youth – As the world moves towards digital age, the social attitude and aspirations of the youth are being influenced by universal and global principles of equality, humanity, and modernity. The enactment of UCC will help maximize their potential in nation building.
• Supported by different judicial pronouncements - In Shah Bano case (1985), Supreme Court observed that the Parliament should outline the contours of a common civil code as it is an instrument that facilitates national harmony and equality before law. In the 1995 Sarla Mudgal Case, apex court reiterated the need for Parliament to frame a Uniform Civil Code, which would help the cause of national integration by removing ideological contradictions. 
• Uniform Civil Code is likely to allow for the modernization and reform of India’s legal system as it will provide an opportunity to update the laws with contemporary values and principles. 

What are the arguments against UCC?
• Politically sensitive issue - The issue of UCC has been politicized in the light of continuous communalization of the issue. Political parties have used the issue for political gains which has prevented the issue from being discussed in a constructive manner. 
• Religious and Cultural Diversity - India is a diverse country with a rich tapestry of religions, cultures, and traditions. A uniform civil code could be seen as a threat to this diversity, as it would require the abandonment of personal laws that are specific to particular religious or cultural communities.
• Lack of uniformity even in civil laws relating to non-religious matters - Indian laws do follow a uniform code in most civil matters – Indian Contract Act, Civil Procedure Code, Sale of Goods Act, Transfer of Property Act, Partnership Act, Evidence Act etc. States, however, have made hundreds of amendments and therefore in certain matters, there is diversity even under these civil laws. 
• Against Right to Freedom of Religion -  The right to freedom of religion is protected under the Indian Constitution (Article 25-28). Some argue that a uniform civil code would infringe on this right, as it would require individuals to follow laws that may not be in accordance with their religious beliefs and practices. 
• Law Commission Report (2018) in a consultation paper held that UCC is neither necessary nor desirable at present. It suggested for the codification of all personal laws so that prejudices and stereotypes in every one of them would come to light and could be tested on the anvil of fundamental rights of the Constitution. 

What should be the way forward?
• As there was no consensus on UCC, the Law commission (2018) had specifically underlined the need to eradicate discrimination. They stressed that adopting this approach some of the differences within personal laws which are meaningful can be preserved and inequality can be weeded out to the greatest extent possible without absolute uniformity. 
• Given that enactment of a UCC in one go may be counter-productive to unity and integrity of the nation, the goal of a UCC should ideally be reached in piecemeal manner, like the recent amendment on the age of marriage. This could also pave the way for internal reform and change within the religious dispensation. 
• Since caste and religious believes are inseparable from the minds of the citizens, educating the individuals regarding the true nature and positive effects of UCC through media support and social media awareness is first step towards making consensus. 

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