Few days back, a petition has been filed in Supreme Court of India against Uniform Civil Code on divorce and alimony.

Points To Note

  • The Uniform Civil Code is one that would provide for one law for the entire country, applicable to all religious communities in their personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption etc.
    • Article 44 lays down that the state shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens of India.
      • Article 44 of the constitution is one of the Directive Principles of State Policy.
      • It as defined in Article 37, are not justiciable (not enforceable by any court) but the principles laid down therein are fundamental in governance.
  • Status of Uniform Civil Code in India
    • Indian laws do follow a uniform code in most civil matters such as Indian Contract Act of 1872, Civil Procedure Code, Transfer of Property Act of 1882, Partnership Act of 1932, Evidence Act of 1872 etc.
    • States, however, have made hundreds of amendments and, therefore, in certain matters, there is diversity even under these secular civil laws.
      • Recently, several states refused to be governed by the uniform Motor Vehicles Act of 2019.
  • Backdrop
    • The origin of the Uniform Civil Code dates back to colonial India when the Britishers submitted its report in the year 1835 stressing the need for uniformity in the codification of Indian law relating to crimes, evidence, and contracts, specifically recommending that personal laws of Hindus and Muslims be kept outside such codification.
    • Increase in legislations dealing with personal issues in the far end of the British rule forced the government to form the B N Rau Committee to codify Hindu law in the year 1941.
    • It is Based on these recommendations, a bill was then adopted in the year 1956 as the Hindu Succession Act to amend and codify the law relating to intestate or unwilled succession, among Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs.
      • However, there were separate personal laws for muslim, chirstian and Parsis.
    • In order to bring uniformity, the courts have often said in their judgements that the government should move towards a Uniform Civil Code.
      • The judgement in the Shah Bano case in 1985 is well known.
      • Another case was the Sarla Mudgal Case in 1995, which dealt with issue of bigamy and conflict between the personal laws existing on matters of marriage.
    • By arguing that practices such as triple talaq and polygamy impact adversely the right of a woman to a life of dignity, the Centre government has raised the question whether constitutional protection given to religious practices should extend even to those that are not in compliance with fundamental rights.
  • Implications of UCC on Personal Laws
    • Protection to Vulnerable Section of Society
      • The Uniform Civil Code aims to provide protection to vulnerable sections as envisaged by Ambedkar including women and religious minorities, while also promoting nationalistic fervour through unity.
    • Simplification of the Laws
      • The Uniform Civil Code will simplify the complex laws around marriage ceremonies, inheritance, succession, adoptions making them one for all. The same civil law will then be applicable to all citizens irrespective of their faith.
    • Adhering to Ideal of Secularism
      • Secularism is the objective enshrined in the Preamble, a secular republic needs a common law for all citizens rather than differentiated rules based on religious practices.
    • Gender Justice
      • If a Uniform Civil Code is enacted, all personal laws will cease to exist. It will do away with gender biases in existing laws.
  • Challenges
    • Exceptions in Central Family Laws
      • The preliminary sections in all central family law Acts enacted by Parliament since Independence declare that they will apply to “the whole of India except the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
        • A Second exception was added in the year 1968 in all these Acts, pronouncing that “nothing herein contained shall apply to the Renoncants in the Union Territory of Pondicherry.”
        • A third exception, none of these Acts applies in Goa, Daman and Diu.
        • Last and fourth exception, relating to the north-eastern states of Nagaland and Mizoram, emanates from Articles 371A and 371G of the Constitution, decreeing that no parliamentary legislation will replace the customary law and religion-based system for its administration.
    • Communal Politics
      • The demand for a UCC has been framed in the context of communal politics.
      • A large section of society sees it as majoritarianism under the garb of social reform.
    • Constitutional Hurdle
      • Article 25, that seeks to preserve the freedom to practise and propagate any religion gets into conflict with the concepts of equality enshrined under Article 14.

Ahead

  • The government of India and society will have to work hard to build trust, but more importantly, make common cause with social reformers rather than religious conservatives.
  • Rather than an omnibus approach, the government could bring separate aspects such as marriage, adoption, succession and maintenance into a Uniform Civil Code in stages.
  • Need of the hour is the codification of all personal laws so that prejudices and stereotypes in every one of them would come to light and can be tested on the anvil of fundamental rights of the Constitution.

Uniform Civil Code on divorce and alimony