Uniform Civil Code (UCC): Article 44 of the Indian Constitution – By Yogita Goel
India is a diverse country and many religions, communities live within its borders. This can also be shown in our legal system in the form of religion-based personal laws. Directive principles of state policy motivate our leaders to apply uniform personal law; i.e. uniform civil code to all religions which have been the subject of debate for generations.
What is Uniform Civil Code?
The code falls under Article 44 of the Indian Constitution; which states that the state will endeavor to secure a uniform civil code for citizens across India.
A Uniform Civil Code means that all classes of society, regardless of their religion; will be treated equally in accordance with a National Civil Code, which will apply equally to all.
They cover areas such as marriage, divorce, maintenance, inheritance, adoption, and inheritance of property. It is based on the premise that in modern civilization there is no connection between religion and law.
The BJP party was the first to promise the implementation of UCC if it comes to power; and the issue was part of its 2019 Lok Sabha election manifesto.
The main purpose of Article 44 is to consider the discrimination against vulnerable groups; and the creation of the balance among the diverse cultural groups across the country.
Dr. BR Ambedkar had said that UCC is desirable but should be voluntary; and thus Article 35 of the Constitution was added as Part IV of the Constitution of India.
“No one needs to be apprehensive that if the State has the power, the State will immediately proceed to execute…that power in a manner may be found to be objectionable by the Muslims or by the Christians or by any other community. I think it would be a mad government if it did so.”Constituent Assembly Speech
The debate on the UCC focuses on the logic of replacing individual personal customs; and practices of marriage, divorce, adoption, and succession with a uniform code. People argue in favor of a code that will end discrimination in religions.
Detractors argue that it will rob the country of its religious diversity; and violate the fundamental right to follow the religion enshrined in Article 25 of the Constitution. In fact, they believe that state action to launch the UCC is against the superlatives of democracy. The secular state is, after all; a promoter of rights rather than a barrier in sensitive matters of religion and personal laws.
Present status of Uniform Civil Code in India:
Indian laws follow a uniform code in most civil cases; – Indian Contract Act, Civil Procedure Code, Sale of Goods Act, Transfer of Property Act, Partnership Act, Evidence Act, etc. However, states have made hundreds of amendments and, therefore there is diversity under these secular civil laws. Recently, several states refused to be governed by the Uniform Motor Vehicles Act, 2019.
Goa is the only state in India having a common civil code called Portuguese civil code 1867, whereby:
- A Muslim man whose marriage is registered in the State cannot practice polygamy.
- A married couple shares property equally, pre-nuptial agreements are the order of the day; and assets are divided equally between the man and woman on divorce.
In 2018, the Law Commission in its report concluded that a Uniform Civil Code is neither possible nor desirable in India.
Status of Personal Laws in India:
The Hindu personal laws that are applicable on Hindu, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists; have been codified by the Parliament in 1956; namely The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; The Hindu Succession Act; 1956, The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956; the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956.
Where the Muslim personal laws are still predominantly unmodified and traditional in their content and approach.
The Sharia law of 1937 governs the individual affairs of all Indian Muslims in India, stating clearly that; the state will not interfere; and religious authority will pass a declaration based on its own interpretations of the Quran and Hadith.
And the Christians and Jews are also governed by different personal laws.
Arguments in favor of Uniform Civil Code:
1. A unified code should be mandatory in Indian society for the protection of the weaker sections, women; and religious minorities and it aims to promote national unity and solidarity.
2. In India, there are so many personal laws like Hindu Code Bill, Sharia Law, etc; and the presence of so many laws sometimes delays justice or no justice at all, creates confusion, complexity, and inconsistency. The Uniform Civil Code will end the overlapping of laws by the Simplification of personal laws.
3. The introduction of UCC helps to make the Indian legal system simplified; by the reduction of litigation emanating from multiple personal laws.
4. The rights of women through religious laws are usually limited to patriarchal discourse. The UCC will free women from patriarchal domination and give them the right to equality and freedom. And in the long term, the UCC will lead to the defeat of communal and divisive forces.
Challenges associated with UCC:
In the name of uniformity, the minorities fear that the culture of the majority is being imposed over them; and because of the vast cultural diversity in India; bringing uniformity among all such people will be a huge challenge.
Also, the Patriarchal mindset of Indian society poses a big challenge in the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code.
Social change in uniformity from a diverse civil code will be gradual and cannot happen in a day. Therefore, the government should adopt a “piecemeal” approach.
The government can bring different aspects of marriage, adoption, succession, and maintenance into a common civil code.
Also, when the Constitution supports the reason for the Uniform Civil Code in its Article 44; it should not be mistaken as a “common law”. The word uniform here means that all communities should be governed by the same principles of gender justice and human justice. This would mean modernization and the humanization of personal laws.
This would mean, not a common law, but various individual laws based on the principles of equality, liberty, and justice; and the government should take steps towards raising awareness among the public; especially minorities, about the importance of being a Uniform Civil Code.
This Article on Uniform Civil Code (UCC): Article 44 of the Indian Constitution is written by Yogita Goel, a student of Geeta Institute of Law and Legal Researcher Content Writer at Legal Thirst.
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