Table of Contents
THE CONTEXT: Recently, the Uniform Civil Code adopted by the Uttarakhand Assembly aims to consolidate the laws relating to marriage, divorce and succession among all communities. The Uttarakhand has become the first state since pre-Independence Goa to adopt a uniform code for civil matters.
WHAT IS UNIFORM CIVIL CODE?
- Uniform civil code in India is the proposal to replace the personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious with a common set governing every citizen.
- These laws are distinguished from public law and cover marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance.
- It aims to establish a uniform legal framework for all citizens, regardless of their religion.
- Article 44 in the DPSP in Part IV of the Constitution, which states that “the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”.
- Thus, Constitution explicitly states that the state can only “endeavour” to achieve a common code among its citizens, rather than enforce it.
BACKGROUND: DIVERGENT OPINIONS
- When the Constitution makers made the adoption of a UCC one of the directive principles, opinion was divided on whether a UCC will undermine minority rights or promote equal status for women in all religions.
- R. Ambedkar felt the UCC, if enacted, should be voluntary in the initial stages.
- The previous Law Commission had said a UCC is neither desirable nor necessary, and, instead, suggested that each body of personal law be reformed to eliminate discrimination or regressive practices.
- However, the 22nd Law Commission has revived the idea and has started gathering views from the public.
- Fundamental rights: The implementation of the UCC violates the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution, including Article 25 (freedom to profess and practice one’s religion) and Article 29 (right to have a distinct culture). It also contradicts the provisions granted to states like Nagaland and Mizoram.
- Infringe upon minorities right: Major concerns have been raised that its enforcement may infringe upon the rights and distinct practices of minority communities in the state.
- Privacy and rights of individuals: The provisions in Uttarakhand UCC is violative of the Constitution as it aims to formalise live-in relationships through registration. This unwanted incursion into citizens’ personal life is worsened by the prescription of a three-month prison term for non-registration. It will expose citizens to intrusive inquiries, social hostility and pointless deprivation of liberty. It is violative of both rights and privacy of the individuals.
- Erode tolerance and fabric of society: Uniform nation does not necessarily imply a unified nation, it is being believed that the UCC will erode the boundaries of tolerance, despite being non-cognizable.
- Absence of consensus: It is quite obvious that there will be a lack of consensus because it is ultimately the difference of beliefs and ideology that affect a person’s morality. This factor can again make the take of UCC implementation difficult.
THE WAY FORWARD:
- Moderate the personal laws: The personal laws of different religions have unique issues and loopholes mainly due to their inclination towards the patriarchal concept of society. There is a need to bring moderation and balance in the personal laws of the country.
- National integration: Whatever laws and legislation that will be adopted should reflect India’s multiculturalism and preserve its diversity. This will ensure national integration as unity is more important than uniformity.
- Secularism: There is a need to treat every individual equally and for that steps need to be taken to maintain a fair principle of secularity.
- Consultation with Stakeholders: There is a need to make a broader consultation with all the major stakeholders, including religious leaders, legal experts in the process of developing UCC.
Though, the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) has the potential to enhance both secularism and national integrity in India. However, any decision regarding implementing such decision should include different perspectives and needs of different groups.
UPSC PREVIOUS YEAR QUESTIONS
Q.1 Discuss the possible factors that inhibit India from enacting a uniform civil code for its citizens as provided in the Directive Principles of State Policy. (2015)
Q.2 Communalism arises either due to power struggle or relative deprivation. Argue by giving suitable illustrations. (2018)
MAINS PRACTICE QUESTION
Q.1 Explain the concept of Uniform Civil Code. What are the challenges in its implementation and how can it affect the rights of the citizens?Spread the Word