Uniform Civil Code (UCC)
Recently, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre on a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) for making gender and religion-neutral uniform grounds of succession and inheritance for all citizens in the country.
Recent observations by the Supreme Court have put the spotlight back on the debate over a Uniform Civil Code. Analyse what such a Code would seek to achieve, and what have been the arguments for and against it?
About Uniform Civil Code (UCC):
● The Uniform Civil Code refers to a single law, applicable to all citizens of India irrespective of their religion in matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption.
● It is intended to replace the system of fragmented personal laws, which largely focus on the following areas which include marriage, divorce, custody , guardianship, adoption, maintenance, succession and Inheritance.
● The code comes under Article 44 of the Constitution, which lays down that the state shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India.
Demand for UCC:
● The demand for a UCC came to the fore in the judgment pronounced in the Shah Bano case in 1985, more than three decades after the Constitution was drafted.
● Sarla Mudgal v Union of India, 1995: The Supreme court reiterated the need for Parliament to frame a Uniform Civil Code, which would help the cause of national integration by removing ideological contradictions.
Need for a Uniform Civil Code:
● Protection to Vulnerable Section of Society: UCC aims to protect vulnerable sections i.e., including women and religious minorities.
● Simplification of Laws:The code will simplify the complex laws around marriage ceremonies, inheritance, succession, adoptions making them one for all.
● Gender Justice: Our society is extremely patriarchal and misogynistic and by allowing old religious rules to continue to govern the family life we are condemning all Indian women to subjugation and mistreatment. A uniform civil code would bring rights of women as per man while discontinuing regressive religious custom for women.
● Promotes Secularism: A uniform civil code doesn’t mean it will limit the freedom of people to follow their religion, it just means that every person will be treated the same.
● Help in reducing vote bank politics: If all religions are covered under the same laws, the politicians will have less to offer to certain minorities in exchange for their vote.
CHALLENGES TO UCC:
● Constitutional Hurdle: Article 25 of the Indian constitution, which seeks to preserve the freedom to practise and propagate any religion gets into conflict with the concepts of equality enshrined under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
● Encroachment of state in personal matters: With the codification of uniform rules and their compulsion, the scope of the freedom of religion will be reduced.
● Perception of UCC as an encroachment on religious freedom: Many argue that the Uniform Civil Code would act as an encroachment on their rights to religious freedom.
● Communal Politics: The demand for or against the uniform civil code has been framed in the context of communal politics and is often used for communal mobilization.
● Practical difficulties due to diversity in India: It is practically tough to come up with a common and uniform set of rules for personal issues like marriage due to the tremendous cultural diversity of India across the religions, sects, castes, states etc.
● Political will power: The government may often lack the will to face the consequences of abolishing the personal laws of the major religions and to convince the people of justice and reform they want to bring in the society in order to grow better as a nation.
● Law Commission also stresses initiatives to reconcile the country’s diversity with universal arguments on human rights. It recommended codification of all personal laws.
● To realize the goals of the DPSP and to take care of the uniformity of laws, the subsequent suggestions need immediate consideration.
● A progressive and broadminded outlook should be encouraged among the people to know the spirit of the UCC. For this, education, awareness and sensitisation programmes must be taken up.
● The Uniform Civil Code should be drafted keeping in mind the best interest of all religions.
● A committee of eminent jurists should be constituted to take care of uniformity and care must be taken to not hurt the emotions of any particular community.
● Social Change is best if it comes from the society itself. It is recommended that socio-religious groups lead the baton on UCC instead of top-down legislation led change.