Governance · Law

Uniform Civil Code – An Oblivious Exploration

Shivam Singhal elucidates the concept of Uniform Civil Code and specifies its feasibility in India and the possibility of it’s implementation.

It was in 1985, the time when India was already shaken by the anti-Sikh riots, somewhere a Muslim lawyer in a fit of rage pronounced “talaaq,talaaq,talaaq” to his wife, who was helplessly submitted to it and subsequently demanded her right of maintenance, which was challenged in Supreme Court in India. The Court vindicated the woman’s stand and awarded her right to maintenance, but the Personal Muslim law which are unreformed since 1937 didn’t allow so. Therefore, a legislation was brought by the Government to overrule the Supreme Court’s judgement, in the landmark case of Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum (1985 SCR (3) 844). This marked the uproar for the demand of Uniform Civil Code (herein after referred as UCC) in India, in order to overcome the flaws ad loopholes in the personal laws of different religions. This code will be separate from the public law and will primarily focus on marriage, succession, inheritance, adoption etc, and will form a uniform code throughout the India irrespective of any religion. Provisions for UCC are given under Article 44 of the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution of India specifying, “The State shall endeavor to secure for citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”

Few months back, PM Narendra Modi asked the Law Commission to ponder upon the UCC and its feasibility, hoping for a law which can actually compliment the true nature of Constitution, which is secular.

With this the inevitable question arises – Is India ready for UCC? A country where communal riots are always on the edge, a little sparkle can take up the gigantic size of mass genocide. India is a place where religious tolerance has been substantially challenged from time to time, and where there is extremist ideology regarding one’s religion. The short answer to this dilemma can be Goa’s Family law, which the Portuguese made Civil law, and which is still followed in whole of the Goa. But again, can we rely on Goa as an exemplary model for the nation, when we have states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, where the riots on personal laws have been persistent? Can they survive such an humongous change and can they adapt to a code where there will be amalgamation of customs and codes of every religion? What if one of the religion has dominant persistence in the code? Will there be another gory riot triggered on such instances.

Thus, the question rises whether the Uniform Civil Code can be an answer to the complexities, problems and loopholes in the personal laws.

The main cause for the need of UCC is to do away with the regressive laws of the personal laws, like the polygamy in Muslim Law or the regressive laws against females in Hindu personal codes etc. Even the Supreme Court, in Oct. 2015, said that there is a need of Uniform Civil Code in the country and the personal laws cannot be accepted, as otherwise, every religion will say it has a right to decide various issues as a matter of its personal law. Such has to be done through a decree of a court.

Talking about changes towards this direction, such can be seen in the Special Marriage Act, 1954, which makes provisions for marriage of citizens irrespective of their religion. This Act is similar to the Hindu Marriage Act, but is a more secular in nature.

Ultimately, the Constitutional perspective on UCC is in itself ambiguous. The Constitution provides for a secular State, where the minorities are given full right to maintain, uphold and follow their religious practices without any restrictions of the State, and have been provided with certain remedies in case of their infringement. Whereas, Article 44 of the Constitution provides for Uniform Civil Code. In the circumstances when there is uproar for UCC, the fundamentalist take the plea of Constitutional backing and it ultimately lead to nowhere, but being in this age where the complexities have creeped every one of us and arbitrary and somewhat regressive personal laws have accorded us for such a long period , is this the perfect time to bid adieu them and to give ourselves a single, united, simple, logical and of course a reasonable code i.e. Uniform Civil Code or there is still no stopping to this endless debate – that only the time can establish, but the future is expecting for a more simpler life and law! Or it will remain a secular propaganda for bulking in votes.