All about the Uniform Civil Code

The debate on the topic of Uniform Civil Code has gained grounds again. While the government and the Supreme Court have been consistently voicing in favor of the promulgation of this code, there is a section of people which object to the same.

In this article, we will understand various dimensions associated with the Uniform Civil Code(UCC).

What is the Uniform Civil Code(UCC)?

  • It is a civil procedure code which will apply to the whole of the Indian society irrespective of any religion or caste.
  • A civil procedure code is the one which governs the matters of civil importance like marriage, divorce, inheritance among others.
  • A UCC would replace all the existing “Personal Laws” of different religions , Hindu or Muslim.

What is the history/chronology of this debate?

The debate has been near perennial one. However, two instances have been the milestones in this debate:

  • Shah Bano Case(1985):
    • A Muslim woman who was aggravated by the system of Triple Talaq (I divorce thee three times), permitted under the Islamic Law.
    • Her husband divorced her and also denied her regular maintenance.
    • Though on the decree of a local court he did so, another petition filed after a while claimed that the husband is done with these obligations under the Islamic Personal Law.
    • Shah Bano’s voice reached the Supreme court which opined in favor of the lady.
    • However, due to trivial political considerations, the verdict of the court was overruled by a subsequent legislation.
  • Shayra Bano(2016):
    • Again, in 2016, a Muslim woman raised voiced against the Triple Talaq system.
    • This has once again revived the debate.

Is there any constitutional basis for this debate?

  • Article 44(Part 4, Directive Principles of State Policy) of the Indian Constitution says- ” The state shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India” .
  • When it comes to the Directive Principles, it is to be understood that these are the principles which have to be performed by the state to establish an ideal society.
  • However, these are not enforceable in the court of law, that is, even if this are not complied to, the state could not be dragged in the court of law.

What is the issue in the promulgation?:

  • The major impediment in the promulgation is the claim by the Personal Law Board of a religion that such a move is an interference in their religious matters.
  • This, they say, is a clear violation of the Right to Freedom of Religion provided to all the citizens of India under Articles 25-28.

Has there been any kind of efforts to rationalize religious laws in the past?

  • Hindu Code bill in the early 1950s was the first such effort to rationalize the Hindu personal laws.
  • Due to opposition, it was later divided into 4 bills: Marriage, Succession, Adoption and Maintenance and Minority and Guardianship.
  • The move was opposed on two grounds:
    • Interference in religion.
    • Only Hindus and not Muslim laws are sought to be reformed.
  • However, this was the first step in the direction of UCC establishment

What are the arguments given in favor of this move?

  • Many Personal laws have a discriminating stance against the women. For example, in the Hindu religion, there are no inheritance rights of the daughter; in Muslim religion ,Triple Talaq and dismal maintenance obligations are said to be discriminatory in nature. A UCC would establish a single law applicable to all. This would obviously be based on constitutional values and thus, will be equal for all.
  • It is in line with the spirit of secularism.
  • The trivial vote bank politics as evident from the Shah Bano case could be checked.
  • A major leap in the integration of India and establishing Unity in Diversity.
  • Rationality instead of blind beliefs will become the basis of law.

What are the arguments against the move?:

  • Interference in the religious affairs(as mentioned above).
  • It may develop anti-state tendencies. This may cause the situation of unrest and communalism in the country.

What are the challenges and hurdles in the implementation of UCC?:

  • The opposition from the religious groups.
  • Misunderstood concept of the UCC.
  • Vote bank politics.
  • The situation of unrest that may follow as it did post the enacting of the Hindu Code Bill.

What is the way ahead?:

  • Meeting and accommodating the views of all the stakeholders to come out with a foolproof UCC.
  • Removing all the misconceptions regarding UCC.
  • The Supreme Court along with the government must push through this reform for greater legitimacy.
  • Debates and Discussions which are already at their peak must evolve out a solution.

 

 

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