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Is there a need for Uniform Civil Code?

“I see women around me. I see a fear, of walking out of her home, of walking into her home! Uniform Civil Code promises to destroy the male dominance, patriarchy, and male chauvinism. It is definitely not the panacea but perhaps the first step towards achieving equality.” – Swami Vivekananda

INTRODUCTION

The Uniform Civil Code has recently been the subject of controversy. India, as a democratic country, has a series of laws covering a range of aspects.

We have a wide range of religions in India, each with its own set of laws. Our Indian Constitution contains a particular article on the Uniform Civil Code, but it is not being followed. Every law varies from community to community, yet they are all being challenged because of biases in various clauses.

The term “uniform civil code” refers to the unification of all personal laws into a codified uniform law that governs all citizens equally and without prejudice. The main goal of the uniform civil code is to apply the same set of civil laws to all citizens in society in accordance with the constitution. It should apply to everyone, regardless of religion, colour, caste, or sect.

UNIFORM CIVIL CODE- DEFINITION

 Article-44

“Uniform civil code for the citizens The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”

The term “uniform civil code” refers to a body of rules that govern all aspects of personal law relating to marriage, maintenance, divorce, and property for all citizens of India, regardless of gender or religion. It is a body of secular civil law that is unaffected by personal law. It aims to keep personal laws distinct from religious legislation in order to protect the nation’s integrity and unity.

CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISION IN INDIA

The purpose of enacting a uniform civil code is to ensure that all citizens are treated equally under the law. The question is, will it be implemented throughout India? With the exception of Goa, there is still no unified civil law in India. Goa is India’s only state with a uniform civil code. Goa was previously a Portuguese territory, and the Portuguese civil code was followed.

The provisions of Goa civil code includes-

  • Marriage is defined as a civil contract.
  • Everything owned by the married couple before and after marriage becomes common property after marriage, and the spouse is entitled to half of that common property in the event of divorce. In such instances, the code allows for prenuptial agreements.
  • Both boys and girls have equal property rights.
  • Parents do not have the right to completely disinherit their children.

MAJOR CHALLENGES

Article 25 of the Indian Constitution is a key hindrance to the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code. The implementation of the Uniform Civil Code is opposed by the country’s minorities, who invoke Article 25 as a defence.

Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees religious freedom, which is a fundamental right. A person is free to practise and propagate his or her chosen religion under this Article. Religious activities that are widespread in community personal laws are continued to be practised. These communities argue that Article 25, Right to freedom of religion allows them to control their personal lives.

The implementation of the Uniform Civil Code is being challenged as a violation of Article 25 of the Constitution. Article 44 is merely a Directive Principle of State Policy that is not enforceable in courts, whereas Article 25 is a Fundamental Right that is.

IMPORTANT CASES

The issue of uniformity in personal marriage laws was questioned in Ms Jorden Diengdeh v S.S. Chopra, AIR 1985 SC 935.

The Supreme Court noted that regulations relating to marriage, such as judicial separation and divorce, are not universal. It also underlined the importance of having uniform procedures in place, such as an irreversible breakup of marriage and mutual consent for divorce, to be applied irrespective of all religion.

Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 was at question in the case of Sarla Mudgal, President, Kalyani v UOI, AIR 1995 SC 1531. (45 of 1860). Bigamy is punishable under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Muslims, on the other hand, are excluded from their authority because their own legislation, the “Shariat Act,” permits polygamy.

RECENT INSTANCES

The government of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) has already taken moves to address the issue of triple talaq and Article 370. A law prohibiting triple talaq has been passed. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act of 2019 makes triple talaq a crime.

In August 2019, the Government of India issued a constitutional order superseding Article 370, which grants special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, after a resolution was passed with a 2/3 majority in both houses of Parliament. It allows all Indian laws to be applied in Jammu and Kashmir.

These two incidents sparked a media debate about a universal civil code. It is assumed that the legislature is moving toward a uniform civil code based on these two examples. The legislature is expected to introduce the Uniform Civil Code soon.

DELHI HIGH COURT JUDGMENT

Justice Prathiba M Singh, a single-judge, stated that as Indian society becomes more homogeneous, youth from various communities, tribes, castes, or religions should not be compelled to deal with challenges originating from conflicts in numerous personal laws, particularly in regard to marriage and divorce.

Hence, the hope expressed in Article 44 of the Constitution that the State shall secure for its citizens Uniform Civil Code should not remain a mere hope, the Court added.

CONCLUSION

The concept behind the Uniform Civil Code’s application is vast and must be fully comprehended. Law is dynamic and evolves with the passage of time. UCC is also a concept for dealing with discriminatory personal laws and the changing social environment. It is a secular code for personal rules that is required in a country like India, where “secularism” is a fundamental framework.

It is not implemented uniformly in India. The only uniform code that is not uniform in nature is the Goa Civil Code. It only applies to Goa residents and includes various exceptions, making it non-uniform. Uniform civil code does not end with the codification of Hindu personal laws. This is a problem that must be addressed.

This article has been written by Anshika Jain, from Amity University, Gwalior.

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