uniform-civil-code

CONTEXT

The Centre Government has sought dismissal of petition for drafting a Uniform Civil Code in Delhi High Court saying that it is the matter of policy for elected representatives of people that is the legislature to decide and the court cannot issue any directions in this regard

UNIFORM CIVIL CODE

What is Uniform Civil Code?

  • It is the proposal of displacement of personal laws based on scriptures and custom of each of the major religions with the common set of laws governing every citizens
  • Article 44 of DPSPs: constitution under article 44 declares that state shall endeavour to secure the citizens a Uniform Civil Code
  • Origin of the idea of uniform Civil Code: it was influenced by the similar quotes drafted in European countries during 19th and early 20th century
    • During the colonial times, it was an attempt on a larger level to civilize the nation as a part of larger colonial project following the west
    • However, the revolt of 1857 in India send the strong signal of not altering the social fabric of India to the British colonial rulers
  • Development of UCC post independence: the communal disharmony and resistance of removal of personal laws resulted in accommodation of UCC as a directive principle under Part IV of the constitution
    • The importance of directive principles has been recognised by the Supreme Court in Minerva Mills Case, where the apex court held that fundamental rights and directive principles are the two wheels of same cart and that harmonization between them is one of the basic features of the constitution

What are personal laws? 

  • Laws that apply to a certain group of people based on their religion, caste, faith, and belief made after due consideration of customs and religious texts. 
  • The personal laws of Hindus and Muslims find their source and authority in their religious ancient texts.
  • In Hinduism, personal laws are applicable to legal issues related to inheritance, succession, marriage, adoption, co-parenting, obligations of sons to pay their father’s debts, the partition of family property, maintenance, guardianship, and charitable donations.
  • In Islam, personal laws apply to matters relating to inheritance, wills, succession, legacies, marriage, wakfs, dowry, guardianship, divorce, gifts, and pre-emption taking roots from Quran.

MERITS OF HAVING A UNIFORM CIVIL CODE

  • National unity:Article 44 divests religion from social relations and personal law. Citizens belonging to different religious and denominations follow different property and matrimonial laws which is an affront to the nation’s unity
    • The objective of Article 44 of the Directive Principles in the Indian Constitution is to address the discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise diverse cultural groups across the country
  • Promotion of fraternity: Diversity in personal matters along with religious differentiation leads to sentimental tension between different communities and that the object of Article 44 is to introduce a common civil code for all which is essential to promote fraternity, unity and national integration
  • Progressive youth of the country:The youth of India belonging to various communities, tribes, castes or religions who solemnise their marriages should not be forced to struggle with issues arising due to conflicts in various personal laws, especially in relation to marriage and divorce.
  • Simplification of the laws: The code would help in simplification of the complex laws around marriage ceremonies, inheritance, succession, adoptions making them one for all as the  same civil law would then be applicable to all citizens irrespective of their faith.

Achieving gender justice through Uniform Civil Code

  • Inbuilt gender injustice within personal laws: It has been known that personal laws of various communities have inbuilt gender injustice due to social economic conditions under which the laws have been evolved
  • Granting socio-economic rights: Indian women have only been granted equality in a formal way by  providing them with an equality in political rights through the Indian constitution . Position of women within their family is still pitiable due to the unequal rights.
  • Addressing the social evils:A uniform civil code if implemented shall lay the grounds for women to overcome various social evils that exist in the society such as the bigamy system ,the dowry system, control of men etc which make women feel inferior and degraded.

COURT'S VIEW

  • Shah Bano Case (1985): Supreme Court dealt with issue of maintenance under Section 125 of code of criminal procedure after diverse of Shah Bano with her husband
    • The court observe that parliament should outline the contours of a common Civil Code because it is an instrument for facilitating equality before law and national harmony
  • Sarla Mudgal vs. Union of India (1995): Supreme Court directed the government to secure a Uniform Civil Code based on the model of Hindu cold for the protection of abused and achievement of national solidarity
  • Delhi High Court (2021): The court has said a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) should not remain a mere hope in the Constitution, expressing regret over conflicts in society due to differences in various personal laws.
    • A single-judge bench of court observed that there is a requirement for such a code that would be “common to all” and enable uniform principles being applied in respect of aspects such as marriage, divorce, succession, etc

SECULARISM AND UNIFORM CIVIL CODE

  • Preamble of Constitution: the preamble states that India is a secular and democratic republic
  • Secular state: secular state does not discriminate against anyone on the basis of religion, which means that there is no state religion at all
    • Religion is concerned only with the relationship between humans and God and state shall not intervene with the individual's life
    • However the Uniform Civil Code seeks to interfere with personal laws of various religions
  • R.S Bommai vs. Union of India: Court held that religion is a matter of individual faith and cannot be mixed up with secular practice and can be regulated by the government through enactment of law
    • There is a principle of positive secularism throughout India, which is distinct from the theory of secularism adopted by the US and other European states under which there is a wall of separation between religion and state

WAY FORWARD

  • In modern Indian society, which is gradually becoming homogenous, the traditional barriers of religion, community and caste are slowly dissipating, the progressive steps like Uniform Civil Code are the need of the hour 
  • Having a Uniform Civil Code is not just a matter of justice but it also reflect how a country accommodates the diverse population residing within it 

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