What does the Uniform Civil Code imply?
-> Having a Uniform Civil Code means that the same set of personal laws apply to all civilians irrespective of their religion.
-> As things stand now, the personal laws are different for Hindus and Muslims. Personal laws deal with areas such as property, succession and inheritance, and divorce and marriage.
Debate over the years:
-> It was first raised as a demand in the 1930s by the All India Women’s Conference, seeking equal rights for women, irrespective of religion, in marriage, inheritance, divorce, adoption and succession.
-> Every few years, the debate surrounding the UCC gets reignited. A five-judge bench in Shah Bano’s case noted that Article 44 has remained a ‘dead letter’ and that it is ultimately the duty of the State, which has the legislative competence, to enact a UCC.
Uniform Civil Code and The Indian Constitution:
The constitution has a provision for Uniform Civil Code in Article 44 as a Directive Principle of State Policy which states that “The State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”.
Arguments in favor of Uniform Civil Code:
-> It Promotes Real Secularism – What we have right now in India is selective secularism which means that in some areas we are secular and in others we aren’t.
-> All Indians Should be Treated Same – Right now we have personal laws based on particular religions, which means that while Muslims can marry multiple times in India, a Hindu or a Christian will be prosecuted for doing the same.
-> It will Give More Rights to the Women – Our society is extremely patriarchal and misogynistic and by allowing old religious rules to continue to govern the family life we are condemning all Indian women to subjugation and mistreatment.
-> It Will Help in Reducing Vote Bank Politics – Not having a uniform civil code is detrimental to true democracy and that must change.
-> It Will Integrate India in true Sense – A uniform civil code will help in integrating India more than it has ever been since independence.
-> It will promote gender parity – It is commonly observed that personal laws of almost all religions are discriminatory towards women.
Arguments against Uniform Civil Code:
-> Practical difficulties due to diversity in India.
-> Perception of Uniform Civil Code as encroachment on religious freedom by many communities.
-> Interference of state in personal matters – The constitution provides for the right to freedom of religion of one’s choice. With codification of uniform rules and its compulsion, the scope of the freedom of religion will be reduced.
-> It is sensitive and tough task to implement – it might turn out to be more disastrous in a form of communal violence if properly not managed.
-> Any forcible imposition can exacerbate those fissures, that our constitution makers have so deftly, sewn together.
The new draft Progressive Uniform Civil Code:
-> The draft is based on the idea that a Uniform Civil Code must be progressive rather than majoritarian.
-> Address inequality and issues related to gender discrimination & religious discrimination.
-> The draft addresses concerns of diversity of Indians, with a thrust upon individual rights.
Uniform Civil Code is necessary for India, but should be consensus-based, should include diverse views from different communities and need to be widely debated.
The need of the hour is to gradually pave the way for the implementation of a law that has the potential to cause a huge amount of unrest. This can be done if government takes measures to sensitise and educate people about the benefits of the implementing the UCC – provided in clause 10 of the draft Progressive UCC.