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  • 07 Dec 2020 GS Paper 2 Polity & Governance

    “The desirability of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is consistent with the principles of equality, fairness and justice.” In the light of the statement discuss the issues associated with implementation of UCC. (250 words)

    Approach
    • Introduce by briefly explaining the UCC and constitutional compulsion for the same.
    • Write the significance of UCC in promoting principles of equality, fairness and justice.
    • Discuss the issues associated with the implementation of UCC
    • Give a way forward.
    • Conclude on a positive note.

    Introduction

    • The Constitution in Article 44 requires the State to strive to secure for its citizens a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) throughout India, but till date, no successful action has been taken in this regard.
    • The Hindu personal laws were codified in the year 1956. However, there has been no attempt to frame a Uniform Civil Code applicable to all citizens of the country.

    Body

    Significance of Uniform Civil Code

    • Different personal laws promote communalism and it leads to discrimination at two levels:
      • First, between people of different religions.
      • Second, between the two sexes.
        • Uniform Civil Code will provide women with the right to equality and justice in courts of law- irrespective of their religion in matters pertaining to marriage, divorce, maintenance, custody of children, inheritance rights, adoption, etc.
    • Protection to Vulnerable Section of Society: The UCC aims to provide protection to vulnerable sections as envisaged by Ambedkar including women and religious minorities, while also promoting nationalistic fervour through unity.
    • Simplification of Laws: The code will simplify the complex laws around marriage ceremonies, inheritance, succession, adoptions making them one for all. The same civil law will then be applicable to all citizens irrespective of their faith.
    • When enacted the code will work to simplify laws that are segregated at present on the basis of religious beliefs like the Hindu code bill, Sharia law, and others.
    • Adhering to Ideal of Secularism: Secularism is the objective enshrined in the Preamble, a secular republic needs a common law for all citizens rather than differentiated rules based on religious practices.
    • Gender Justice: India has separate sets of personal laws for each religion governing marriages, divorce, succession, adoption and maintenance.

    Challenges associated with UCC

    Constitutional challenges

    • Freedom of religion gets into conflict with the right to equality.
      • Article 25 lays down an individual’s fundamental right to religion.
      • Article 26(b) upholds the right of each religious denomination or any section thereof to “manage its own affairs in matters of religion”
      • Article 29 defines the right to conserve distinctive culture.
      • These rights get into conflict with the equality before law enshrined under article 14 and 15.
    • Moreover, an individual’s freedom of religion under Article 25 is subject to “public order, health, morality”.
    • In 2018, a report by the Law Commission of India stated that the Uniform Civil Code is “neither necessary nor desirable at this stage” in the country. The Commission said secularism cannot contradict the plurality prevalent in the country.

    Social-political challenges

    • In the name of uniformity, the minorities fears that the culture of the majority is being imposed over them.
    • Given vast cultural diversity in India, bringing uniformity among all such people will be a huge challenge.
    • Patriarchal mindset of Indian society poses a big challenge in implementation of UCC.
      • This can be reflected by the fact that the Hindu code bill has been already in place from the mid-1950s, yet the quantum of land actually inherited by Hindu women is only a fraction of the land they are entitled.

    Merits of Uniform Civil Code

    • National Integration
      • A unified code is imperative, both for the protection of the vulnerable sections in Indian society (women and religious minorities) and for the promotion of national unity and solidarity.
    • Simplification of laws
      • There exist so many personal laws like Hindu code bill, Shariat law, etc.
      • Presence of so many laws creates confusion, complexity and inconsistencies in the adjudication of personal matters, at times leading to delayed justice or no justice.
      • UCC will eliminate this overlapping of laws.
    • Simplification of Indian legal system:
      • UCC will lead to reduction in litigation emanating from multiple personal laws.
    • Establishing a secular society:
      • UCC will de-link law from religion which is a very desirable objective to achieve in a secular and socialist pattern of society.
      • Moreover, it fulfills constitutional mandates under Article 44 of Directive Principles of State Policy.
    • Gender justice:
      • The rights of women are usually limited under the patriarchal discourse through religious laws.
      • UCC will liberate women from patriarchal domination and provide them with the right to equality and liberty.
    • In the long term, UCC would lead to the defeat of the communal and the divisionist forces.

    Way Forward

    • The social transformation from diverse civil code to uniformity shall be gradual and cannot happen in a day. Therefore, the government must adopt a “Piecemeal” approach.
      • Government could bring separate aspects such as marriage, adoption, succession and maintenance into a uniform civil code in stages.
    • Government must emulate Goan practice of a common civil code, which has been the law since 1867, when the state was under the Portuguese colonial rule.
    • Moreover, when the constitution espouses the cause of Uniform civil code in its Article 44, it shouldn’t be misconstrued to be a “common law”.
      • The word uniform here means that all communities must be governed by uniform principles of gender justice and human justice.
      • It will mean modernization and humanization of each personal law.
      • It would mean, not a common law, but different personal laws based on principles of equality, liberty and justice.

    Conclusion

    • Government has to take steps towards increasing the awareness among the public, especially minorities, about the importance of having a UCC.
    • The UCC must carve a balance between the protection of fundamental rights and religious dogmas of individuals. It should be a code, which is just and proper according to a man of ordinary prudence, without any bias with regards to religious and political considerations.
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