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Uniform Civil Code

Uniform Civil Code-Relevance for UPSC Exam

General Studies II- Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

Uniform Civil Code_40.1

What is Uniform Civil Code?

  • A generic set of governing laws for entire country without taking into consideration the religion even in personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption etc.
  • Article 44 of the Constitutionsays that there should be a Uniform Civil Code. According to this article, “The State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”. Since the Directive Principles are only guidelines, it is not mandatory to use them.
    • Article 44 is one of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) and as per Article 37, are not justiciable (not enforceable by any court) but the principles laid down therein are fundamental in governance.

Need in India

  • secular democratic republic needs a common law for all citizens rather than differentiated rules based on religious practices.
  • Gender justice: The rights of women are usually limited under religious law, be it Hindu or Muslim. Many practices governed by religious tradition are at odds with the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Indian Constitution.
  • Courts have also often said in their judgements that the government should move towards a uniform civil code including the judgement in the Shah Bano case.
  • Another case was the Sarla Mudgal Case (1995), which dealt with issue of bigamy and conflict between the personal laws existing on matters of marriage.

Historical Background

  • The British government submitted its report in 1835 stressing the need for uniformity in the codification of Indian law relating to crimes, evidence, and contracts, specifically recommending that personal laws of Hindus and Muslims be kept outside such codification.
  • Government formed B N Rau Committee to codify Hindu law in 1941 and based on the committee report, a bill was then adopted in 1956 as the Hindu Succession Act to amend and codify the law relating to intestate or unwilled succession, among Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs though there were separate personal laws for muslim, Christian and Parsis.

Implications of Uniform Civil Code on Personal Laws

  • The UCC aims to provide protection to vulnerable sections including women and religious minorities.
  • The code will simplify the complex laws around marriage ceremonies, inheritance, succession, adoptions making them one for all and same civil law will be applicable to all citizens irrespective of their religion.
    • A secular republic needs a common law for all citizens rather than a set of rules based on religious practices.
    • All personal laws will cease to exist with enactment of Uniform Civil Code and will do away with gender biases in existing laws.

Challenges

  • Exceptions that exist in Central Family Laws that have been enacted since independence such as Article 371A and 371G and many more creates a diverging line for the implementation of UCC.
  • Communal politics surrounding the UCC which sees it as majoritarianism.
  • A constitutional hurdle is Article 25 of Indian constitution, that seeks to preserve the freedom to practice and propagate any religion gets into conflict with the concepts of equality enshrined under Article 14 of Indian Constitution.

What can be done?

  • The government and society should work hard to build trust and make common cause with social reformers rather than religious conservatives.
  • Government can consider implementing UCC in stages and bring issues such as marriage, adoption etc. in a phase-wise manner.
  • Codification of the personal laws to reduce stereotypes and prejudices and test each one of them on the basis of Fundamental rights for legality should be done.

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