Exploring the Uniform Civil Code in India: Will BJP be Successful in Implementing Before 2024?

Discover the Uniform Civil Code in India, its objectives, challenges, the ongoing debates, controversies, its merits and demerits.

Uniform Civil Code in India

India, known for its incredible diversity in ethnicities and religions, is a country where people from various cultural backgrounds coexist, each following distinct practices. This vibrant diversity is not only evident in our society but also in our legal system, which incorporates personal laws based on religious affiliations. However, the concept of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) has gained attention as a means to establish a unified legal framework that transcends religious boundaries. In this blog post, we will delve into the Uniform Civil Code in India and its potential to promote equality and justice for all citizens.

Uniform Civil Code in India

History of Uniform Civil Code in India

The origin of the uniform civil code in India can be traced back to the British rule when personal laws were first introduced for Hindu and Muslim citizens. However, the British refrained from interfering further due to potential opposition from community leaders. The demand for a uniform civil code was initially raised by women activists at the beginning of the 20th century, to promote women’s rights, equality, and secularism.

Significant legislative reforms were made to improve the condition of women, especially Hindu widows, in the pre-independence era. Despite a demand for a uniform civil code by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, women activists, and their supporters, it faced severe opposition. The Shah Bano case in 1985 brought the issue to the forefront of Indian politics as the Supreme Court ruled that Bano, a Muslim woman, was entitled to alimony from her ex-spouse. This judgment led to controversy and protests, and the uniform civil code once again became a contentious issue. Eventually, due to intense opposition, the uniform civil code was only added to the Directive Principles as a compromise.

The Constitution and the Uniform Civil Code in India

According to Article 44 of Indian Constitution as a part of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), the state is obligated to strive towards establishing a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) for all citizens throughout India. The provision emphasizes the importance of ensuring a uniform set of laws governing personal matters irrespective of religion.

In several cases, the Supreme Court has referred to Article 44 and the concept of UCC to draw attention to the lackadaisical approach of the executive and legislative branches in implementing the directive. The DPSPs are not legally binding but serve as guidelines for the government while administering the country. Article 44 is reflective of a society seeking to promote equality, justice, and fairness and encourages the state machinery to work towards upholding these values

List of Cases Related to Uniform Civil Code in India

  1. The State Of Bombay vs Narasu Appa Mali AIR 1952 Bom 84
  2. Lily Thomas, Etc. Etc. vs Union Of India & Ors. 2000 (2) ALD Cri 686
  3. S. R. Bommai v. Union of India 1994 SCC (3)
  4. Sarla Mudgal v. Union of India 1995 AIR 1531
  5. Mohd Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum AIR 1985 SC 945
  6. Ahmedabad Women Action Group… vs Union Of India AIR 1997, 3 SCC 573

Recent developments on Uniform Civil Code in India

The Uniform Civil Code in India (UCC) has been an ongoing point of discussion and debate in India for many years. As stated in the Indian Constitution, the Uniform Civil Code proposes the creation of a common set of rules for all citizens of India. This would replace the personal laws that are currently based on the customs and traditions of different religions. In recent years, there have been various developments in regards to the Uniform Civil Code in India.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been a vocal supporter of the Uniform Civil Code in India. Ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP included the Uniform Civil Code as one of their important manifesto promises. Since then, they have been striving to make this a reality. In October 2020, the then Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad announced that the government was working to bring a new Uniform Civil Code in India, and it was also included on the list of issues that BJP Chief Ministers would discuss at Niti Aayog.

The BJP’s push towards a Uniform Civil Code has been met with opposition from various religious groups and minorities, who have argued that the policy would disrupt their religious practices and traditions. Many Muslim groups have been particularly vociferous in their opposition to the UCC, arguing that Shari’a laws are already a unified set of personal laws for Muslims. Nevertheless, there are also sections of the Muslim population, particularly Muslim women, who have been advocating for a Uniform Civil Code as a way to guarantee equal rights and justice for all.

In recent years, the Supreme Court of India has also been vocal in support of the Uniform Civil Code. In the landmark Shah Bano v. Union of India case in 1985, the Supreme Court stated that the Constitution of India mandates the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code in order to promote gender justice and unity among citizens. Despite this, the court has not yet issued a directive asking the government to implement a Uniform Civil Code.

Recently, the 22nd Law Commission of India has declared its plan to collect public opinions and hold discussions with endorsed religious organizations on the matter of the Uniform Civil Code in India (UCC). The commission’s decision follows the previous 21st Law Commission’s consultation paper on the Reform of Family Law, which stated that the creation of a UCC is not required or advisable at this point.

Need for Uniform Civil Code in India

The objectives of the UCC are manifold. First and foremost, it seeks to establish a unified legal framework that brings consistency and clarity to personal matters. Additionally, the UCC aims to rectify gender injustices prevalent in certain personal laws. Women have been disproportionately affected by discriminatory practices within personal laws, including issues related to divorce, marriage, and inheritance. Implementing a UCC can provide women with equal rights and opportunities, empowering them to overcome social evils prevalent in society.

  1. Promotes real secularism: A uniform civil code in India would ensure that all citizens of India, regardless of their religion, must follow the same laws. This would promote real secularism and ensure that every person is treated the same.
  2. All Indians should be treated the same: Personal laws based on religion lead to unequal treatment of citizens. For example, Muslims can marry multiple times in India, while Hindus and Christians cannot. A uniform civil code in India would ensure that all laws related to marriage, inheritance, and family are equal for all Indians.
  3. Provides more rights to women: A uniform civil code in India can lead to improved conditions for women in India, as religious rules that lead to subjugation and mistreatment can be changed. Gender equality can be promoted through a uniform civil code in India.
  4. Every modern nation has it: A uniform civil code in India is a sign of a modern, progressive nation that has moved away from caste and religious politics. It can help India become a developed nation.

A uniform civil code is necessary for individuals of different religions and denominations, and it is crucial for promoting national unity and solidarity. However, despite more than 60 years of independence, India has yet to realize the aspiration of a uniform civil code.

The concept of a uniform civil code in India aims to ensure equality for all and provide just, fair, and predictable laws that protect everyone on personal matters. This code would establish laws that govern all citizens indiscriminately, irrespective of their religion, and uphold the principle of secularism. It would eliminate gender discrimination based on religion, strengthen secularism, and promote national unity.

India has long been committed to building a secular society, and a uniform civil code is an essential component of this vision. Its implementation would eliminate diversity in matrimonial laws, simplify the Indian legal system, and create a more homogenous society. A uniform civil code would also promote a sense of national identity and prevent fragmentation in the country. This code would include uniform provisions regarding family matters, based on social justice and gender equality for all.

Pragmatic Recommendations by the 21st Law Commission

Gender Justice and Uniformity of Rights: The Commission acknowledged the importance of ensuring gender justice and advocated for the uniformity of rights across religions. Instead of imposing uniform laws, the Commission recognized cultural diversity and aimed to reform family laws of every religion to promote equality.

Economic Rights of Women: The Commission highlighted the need to address women’s economic rights, calling for the abolition of the Hindu coparcenary system and proposing reforms in inheritance laws across religions to ensure fair distribution of wealth.

No-Fault Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property: The Commission recommended the simplification of the divorce process and advocated for “no-fault divorce” in all personal laws. All property acquired after marriage should be distributed equally between both spouses upon dissolution of the marriage, ensuring equitable distribution.

Muslim Law of Inheritance and Succession: The Commission recommended codifying the Muslim law of inheritance and succession to establish uniform provisions for Shias and Sunnis. The inheritance should be based on proximity to the deceased rather than preference for male agnates, promoting gender equality in inheritance rights.

Polygamy and Conversion: The Commission acknowledged the issue of polygamy and conversion and noted misuse of conversion from other religions to Islam to solemnize another marriage. This observation supported the need for drafting a Uniform Civil Code in India.

Best Interest of the Child: The Commission prioritized the “best interest of the child” principle in matters of custody and guardianship. This approach ensures that decisions related to child custody are made based on what is most beneficial for the child’s well-being and development.

Parsi and Christian Women’s Rights: The Commission recommended reforms in the personal laws of Parsi and Christian women to promote gender equality and protect women’s rights.

International Scenario on Uniform Civil Code

When it comes to uniform civil code, India lags behind several other countries. Countries like Israel, Japan, France, and Russia have a strong sense of unity among their citizens, which India still lacks. Uniform civil code or uniform law exists in most countries, including secular laws in Europe and the US that apply uniformly to all citizens regardless of their religion. Islamic countries have a uniform law based on sharia that applies to all individuals, irrespective of their religion. It’s essential for India to develop and promote a sense of unity and equality amongst its diverse citizens to establish a uniform civil code that promotes justice and secularity.

Law Commission of India Seeking Suggestions

The intention of the Commission is to obtain opinions from both the general public and religious bodies regarding the Uniform Civil Code in India. By proactively seeking public opinions and interacting with religious bodies, the 22nd Law Commission intends to amass a range of perspectives on the Uniform Civil Code in India. This strategy acknowledges the importance of public input and the necessity of considering the opinions of multiple religious communities that would possibly be impacted by the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code in India.

LawUniform Civil Code (UCC)
ArticleArticle 44
CountryIndia
MinistryMinistry of Law & Justice
Suggestion Period14 June 2023 to 14 July 2023
CommissionLaw Commission of India
Suggestion Link/ Uniform Civil
Code Voting Link
Public Notice

Process for Submitting Suggestions on Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

To provide suggestions on the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) advocated by the Centre for Indian residents, please follow the steps mentioned below:

  1. Visit the website portal lawcommissionofindia.nic.in.
  2. Click on the Uniform Civil Code- Public Notice (New) file.
  3. Read the details and click on the “Click here” link provided in the Uniform Civil Code- Public Notice (New) PDF file.
  4. A new webpage will appear where you need to fill in your contact information, including your name, contact number, organization, state, pin code, etc.
  5. Enter the relevant information, share your suggestions, and submit the form.
Uniform Civil Code in India

Uniform Civil Code Pros and Cons

Implementing a uniform civil code in India offers several merits most of which we have already discussed above. It fosters justice by eliminating discriminatory practices embedded within personal laws, ensuring equal treatment for all citizens. Additionally, it upholds the principles of equality and secularism, fostering social harmony and reducing communal conflicts arising from different personal laws.

However, there are potential drawbacks and criticisms as well. Some argue that a Uniform Civil Code in India may interfere with religious freedom or erode cultural identities. Some of the concerns associated with the implementation of the uniform civil code in India are as follows:

Religious Opposition: Religious organizations may hold differing views on the Uniform Civil Code, and some may even oppose it altogether. Engaging with such organizations can lead to resistance and make it difficult to achieve a consensus on the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code.

Potential Polarization: The Uniform Civil Code is a sensitive and contentious issue in India due to its potential impact on religious personal laws. Seeking the opinions of religious organizations and the general public may further polarize society along religious lines, leading to increased tensions and divisions.

Preservation of Traditional Practices: Religious organizations may advocate for the preservation of traditional practices and resist any reforms or changes proposed by the Uniform Civil Code. This can impede efforts to achieve gender equality and other social reforms that the Uniform Civil Code aims to implement.

Difficulty in Consensus: Collecting public opinions from a diverse population with differing views can make it challenging to reach an agreement on the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code in India. Conflicting opinions and interests may present obstacles to formulating comprehensive and effective recommendations.

Delay in Decision-Making: Engaging with various stakeholders, including the public and religious organizations, may prolong the decision-making process and cause delays in implementing reforms and achieving the goals envisaged by the Uniform Civil Code in India.

Dilution of Gender Justice: In some cases, religious organizations may seek to maintain discriminatory practices against women under the guise of religious freedom or cultural practices, thwarting efforts to establish gender justice and equality, which are essential objectives of the Uniform Civil Code in India.

Conclusion

The concept of a Uniform Civil Code in India fuels a thought-provoking debate. By establishing a unified legal framework for personal matters, the UCC aims to promote equality, justice, and social harmony. Although it faces opposition and challenges, it remains an important topic for discussion and analysis. Engaging in open and inclusive conversations allows us to collectively work towards a society that upholds equality and justice for all citizens, irrespective of their religious beliefs.

Is there Uniform Civil Code in India?

No, India does not currently have a Uniform Civil Code in place. The implementation of a Uniform Civil Code has been a topic of debate and discussion in India for many years, with supporters advocating for a common set of laws that would create a more unified country, while opponents argue that different religious communities should be able to follow their own personal laws.

What does it mean that India needs a Uniform Civil Code?

The need for a Uniform Civil Code in India refers to the idea that the country should have one common set of laws that govern personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and property rights.

Which state follows the Uniform Civil Code in India?

Goa is the only state in India that currently follows the Uniform Civil Code, meaning that the state has a common set of laws that apply uniformly to all citizens, regardless of their religion, gender or ancestry.

Why UCC is not possible in India?

UCC is quite possible in India. However, the complexities associated with implementing a Uniform Civil Code in India are many and varied, which is why there remains significant debate and discussion surrounding this issue.

When will government of India implement Uniform Civil Code Bill?

There is no definitive answer to when the Government of India plans to implement a Uniform Civil Code 1. While some politicians have expressed their commitment to its implementation, there has been no official announcement or timeline provided by the government. We may expect it before 2024 General Elections.

Is it right time to implement the Uniform Civil Code (UCC law) in India?

Some argue that it is not the right time yet, while others believe that the time has come to implement it. The Vice President of India, Jagdeep Dhankhar, has recently stated that the time has come to implement the Uniform Civil Code.

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