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What Is Uniform Civil Code(UCC): A Big Picture

The UCC refers to a common set of laws governing personal matters such as marriage, divorce, adoption, inheritance and succession for all citizens, irrespective of religion. The Article 44 of the Constitution makes a reference to a UCC and says, “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”

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Basis for UCC:

  • Article 44, one of the Directive Principles of the Constitution lays down that the state shall endeavour to secure a UCC for the citizens throughout the territory of India.
  • These, as defined in Article 37are not justiciable (not enforceable by any court) but the principles laid down therein are fundamental in governance.

Arguments For UCC:

  • Uniformity and reduced discord:
    • Common Code would enable uniform civil principles to be applied to the entire Nation.
    • If and when the whole population will start following the same laws, chances are there that it would bring more peace to the living and reduce riots.
  • Secularism and Women’s Rights: 
    • UCC would help end gender discrimination and overall discrimination on religious grounds and strengthen the secular fabric of the nation.
    • Therefore UCC could bring all communities together to ensure Women the Right to a dignified life and control over their life as well as body.
  • Ending unjust customs and traditions: 
    • A rational common and unified personal law will help eradicate many evil, unjust and irrational customs and traditions prevalent across the communities.
    • For example, Law against Manual scavenging. It might have been a custom in the past but in a mature democracy like India, this custom cannot be justified.
  • Ease of Administration: 
    • UCC would make it easy to administer the huge population base of India.
  • Historically, not all Muslim communities were demanding separate laws:
    • Few the Muslim communities like the Khojas and Cutchi Memons did not want to submit to separate Muslim Personal Law.

Global Scenario:

    • The personal laws of minorities were not recognised in any of the advanced Muslim countries.
    • Eg., in Turkey and Egypt, no minority in these countries were permitted to have their own personal laws.
    • Many countries have common civil codes.

Argument Against UCC:

  • Hampering diversity and multiculturalism:
    • Indian society has a unique identity in the form of its being diverse and multicultural, and unified law might do away with these unique characteristics of this nation.
  • Violation of fundamental rights:
    • Religious bodies oppose a uniform civil code on the ground that it would be interference in religious affairs which would violate fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 25 of the constitution.
  • May lead to communal unrest: 
    • It would be a tyranny to the minority and when implemented could bring a lot of unrest in the country.
  • The All India Muslim Personal Law Board stated that the laws pertaining to marriage and inheritance were part of religious injunctions for ages.

A Timeline Of Civil Law & UCC: In Indian Context:

British period
During the British Raj, Personal laws were first framed mainly for Hindu and Muslims citizens.

Start of 20th Century
In the beginning of the twentieth century, the demand for a uniform civil code was first put forward by the women activists. The objective behind this demand was the women’s rights, equality and secularism.

1940 – The Idea of Uniform Civil Code is born
The idea of Uniform Civil Code was tabled by the National Planning Commission (NPC) appointed by the Congress. There was a subcommittee who was to examine women’s status and recommends reforms of personal law for gender equality.

1947 – Question of UCC as a Fundamental Right
UCC was sought to be enshrined in the Constitution of India as a fundamental right by Minoo Masani, Hansa Mehta, Amrit Kaur and Dr. B.R Ambedkar.

1948 – Constitution Assembly debated UCC
Article 44 of the Indian Constitution i.e. Directive Principles of State Policy sets implementation of uniform civil laws which is the duty of the state under Part IV.

1950 – Reformist Bill passed
Reformist bills were passed which gave the Hindu women the right to divorce and inherit property. Bigamy and child marriages are outlawed. Such reforms were resisted by Dr. Rajendra Prasad.

1951 – Dr. Ambedkar Resigns
Dr. Ambedkar resigned from the cabinet in 1951 when his draft of the Hindu Code Bill was stalled by the Parliament.

1985 – Shah Bano Case
In this case, a divorced Muslim woman was brought within the ambit of Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 by the Supreme Court in which it was declared by the Apex court that she was entitled for maintenance even after the completion of iddat period.

1995- Sarla Mudgal v. Union of India
In this case, Justice Kuldip Singh reiterated the need for the Parliament to frame a Uniform Civil Code, which would help the cause of national integration by removing contradictions based on ideologies. Therefore, the responsibility entrusted on the State under Article 44 of the Constitution whereby a Uniform Civil Code must be secured has been urged by the Supreme Court repeatedly as a matter of urgency.

2000 – Supreme Court advocates UCC
The case of Lily Thomas v. Union of India (2000),where the Supreme Court said it could not direct the centre to introduce a UCC.

2015 – The Debate lives through
The apex court refused to direct the government to take a decision on having a UCC.

2016 – Triple Talaq Debate
When PM asked the Law Commission to examine the issue.

2017 – Ruling of the Triple Talaq case
Triple Talaq (Talaq -e- biddat) was declared unconstitutional on August 22, 2017.

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