Uniform Civil Code

Shreya Sharma talks about the need for Uniform Civil Code in India.

The term civil code means to cover the entire body of laws governing rights relating to property and otherwise in personal matters like marriage, divorce, maintenance, adoption and inheritance.  Therefore, uniform civil code means unifying all the personal laws to have one set of uniform laws dealing with the above mentioned aspects that will apply to all citizens of India irrespective of any community they belong to.

Under Article-44 of the Constitution of India Uniform Civil Code has been defined as, “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India.”  This means that a secular State should not discriminate against anyone on the ground of religion, a State should only be concerned with the relation of one man with another and not their religion or community.  Uniform Civil Code essentially means that religion should not interfere with the mundane life of an individual.

Uniform Civil Code is required not only for uniformity of laws between communities but is also required for uniformity of law between the rights of men and women.  The Indian Constitution contains Articles that contain Right to Equality and non-discrimination on the grounds of sex, but however, there are several laws existing that violate these principles and are still there under personal laws of certain communities with provisions that are highly discriminatory against women.

In 42nd amendment Act, 1976, the Preamble of the Constitution ascertained that India is a Secular Nation.  In India selective secularism means that in some areas we are a Secular State and in some areas we are not.  If a Preamble states that we are a secular nation then there should not be a selective secularism as our Preamble defines our Constitution whereas there are Articles which provide equality among all the citizens but in contradiction there are other Articles also that give privileges to certain gender as well as there are personal laws that are available for different communities, this way India cannot be called as a secular state in real sense.  Having a Uniform Civil Code would not mean restriction on any community to practice their own religion, it would simply mean introduction of Uniform Laws for every citizen of the nation and would also treat each gender equally in the eyes of law.

The famous case of Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, also famously known as Shah Bano case, where the husband had married another woman and had thrown Shah Bano out of the house promising to give her maintenance every month but later after two years he refused to give her the said maintenance after which she had filed a suit against him for maintenance to which he appealed that under Muslim personal Law, a divorce wife can claim maintenance from the former husband only for the period during which she is observing her iddat, the former husband’s liability extends up to the period of iddat and not beyond that.  Also since he had divorced her, therefore, he claimed that he was not entitled to pay maintenance to her, to this the Supreme Court of India said that Shah Bano was entitled to maintenance under Section-125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure irrespective of any personal law.  To this decision there was a nationwide agitation among the people as personal laws were overlooked, thus, a new act was passed named as Muslim Women (right to protection on divorce) Act, 1986 which curtailed the right of a muslim woman for maintenance under Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure but later on this act was scrapped off.

The above mention case is one of the cases where the need for the Uniform Civil Code has been felt and even Supreme Court has requested the Parliament to implement it in certain cases where personal laws have been harsh on a particular gender.

The very essence of our democratic nation should be that all Indians should be treated the same.  All the laws related to marriage, divorce, maintenance, property etc. should be equal for everyone.  Not only this, introduction of Uniform Civil Code will help in improving the condition of women in India, it will help in changing those old traditions that have been harsh on women and have no place in today’s society, it will help us bring equal rights to women.

Therefore, it can be said that Uniform Civil Code is the sign of modern progressive nation, it is a sign that the nation has moved away from caste and religious politics.  Even though we might have grown economically as a nation but our social growth has not happened at all, in fact it will be right to say that socially and culturally we have degraded to a position where we are neither modern not traditional.  Personal laws have been a loop hole in our system due to which we have been unable to bring people of different communities close and stand united.

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