Governance · Law · Public Policy · Religion

The Uniform Civil Code – An Expansive Overview

Akash Kumar Prasad gives an overview of the concept of the Uniform Civil Code, along with the governing laws and significant features imbibed. It also analyzes the need for its implementation and the communal etc. problems that such an execution can tackle.

INTRODUCTION

One Nation, One Law. What is a Civil Code? It is the entire body of laws governing the rights relating to property and otherwise in personal matters like marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance. In India, basically there are different personal laws for different communities. The Uniform Civil Code was a proposal, wich aimed to replace the personal laws of major religions, which based on various sculptures and customs, with a common set of principles governing the citizens of the country irrespective of their religion, caste or community. These laws are different from the public laws.

 

UNIFORM CIVIL CODE : THE LAWS

The position of Uniform Civil Code under the Indian Constitution has to be taken into acount. The Preamble starts with ‘we the people’ and further talks about fraternity and secularism.

Article 44, one of the “directive principles” laid down in the Constitution, gives : “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens an uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”

• As Article 37 of the Constitution itself makes clear, the directive principles “shall not be enforceable by any court”. Nevertheless, they are “fundamental in the governance of the country”.

• Also, Article 15 of the Indian Constitution guarantees every citizen of no discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.

Article 15 (3) provides that :  ‘Nothing in this article shall prevent the state from making any special provision for women and children’.

It is often argued that right to religion under Article 25 clearly prohibits a uniform civil code, which is a very big misconception among the mass. It is to be noted that only Hindu law is codified by the parliament and not any other personal law.

 

SIGNIFICANT FEATURES OF THE UNIFORM CIVIL CODE

The essentials of Uniform Civil Code are :

• Marriage & Divorce : which proposes, a fixed age limit ( male: 21 years & female:18 years) to curb the child marriage menace,  compulsory registration of marriage and grounds and procedures for divorce, to be specific.

Succession & Inheritance : which proposes, equal shares to sons and daughters in father’s property, provisions for inheritance of mother’s property, essentials, procedures and the execution of the will and the provisions for gifts.

Maintenance : which forms one of the important essentials which states husband’s duty to maintain wife during the marriage and after also until she remarries, amount of alimony to be decided on income, status & lifestyle of husband, responsibility of parents to maintain children and also, responsibility of children to maintain their parents.

 

THE UNIFORM CIVIL CODE : ITS IMMENSE SIGNIFICANCE

We should understand the need of Uniform Civil Code. It aims women empowerment, helps attaining gender justice and thus removes patriarchal society. It establishes the right to equality, brings uniformity in laws and removes ambiguities regarding rights and duties. It establishes complete secularism and imparts justice in true sense. In a famous case Sarla Mudgal v. Union of India, Supreme Court directed to take a fresh look at Article 44 and ordered removal of Polygamy. It stated that Uniform Civil Code is free from religion and that the countries worldwide followed Uniform Civil Code.

Also in a famous landmark case of Mohammed Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, famously known as Shan Bano case, SC awarded maintainance under Section 123 of The Crpc. There were widespread protests by Muslims. All India Muslim Personal Law Board reversed the decision and there was an urgent need for Uniform Civil Code sought by everyone.

Due to Uniform Civil Code not only Muslims will be affected but every religion, caste and community. It helps maintaining a balanced society. There is no ambiguity left. There is removal of discrimination and establishes Right to Equality and Secularism. Moreover, it imparts greater justice. But unfortunately, the Code is yet not in force till now. It seems that the mindset of orthodox communities and their beliefs, minority psyche, ignorance of people, political parties using communal issues for vote bank purposes won’t let it happen so easily. The issues of Haji Ali Dargah and the Sabarimala temple case clearly shows the requirement of the Uniform Civil Code.

 

INFERENCE

India is a secular country. The personal laws should not encroach upon inviolable values of nation. Personal laws are often in disfavour, and Uniform Civil Code provides remedies to many of the problems which are currently prevailing in the society. Most importantly, the disparities between religion will disappear and this Uniform Civil Code will provide equal rights and protection to women.

“If we say, our country is a secular country, we should really make efforts to actually make it a secular country.”

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