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  • Sharuti Sharma

Towards a Unified Legal Framework: Exploring the Uniform Civil Code

By Sharuti Sharma ,B.A.LL.B(1st year),Lovely Professional University

A common law that governs all religious communities in private affairs, such as marriage, inheritance, divorce, adoption, and so on, is known as a Uniform Civil Code (UCC). It seeks to supersede the various personal laws that various religious communities now use to regulate private concerns. A UCC seeks to abolish inconsistent legal systems based on various religions and cultures in order to advance social harmony, gender equality, and secularism. The goal of such a code is to guarantee legal consistency both inside and between communities. Article 44 of the Indian Constitution states that the State shall make every effort to ensure that all people of India have access to a common civil code. This is known as the Directive Principle of State Policies. But as it is a Directive Principle, there is no legal recourse for it.

 

India's position regarding the Uniform Civil Code India does not currently have a national Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in place. Instead, different religious communities have different personal laws that regulate things like marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adoption. These laws are founded on religious norms and practices.Nonetheless, throughout time, the federal government and a few states have taken specific steps to put UCC into effect. These endeavors are categorized under the subsequent two headings:

Special Marriage Act of 1954: It was passed in order to give married couples a secular option. It establishes guidelines for civil marriage for all Indian citizens living abroad as well as those living in India, regardless of the party's chosen religion or level of faith. The Hindu Code Bills: Considered a first step toward the UCC, the Hindu Code Bills were approved by the Parliament in the 1950s. It was used to pass the following 4 Acts, which aim to standardize and codify personal laws among Hindus which includes : The 1955 Hindu Marriage Act,The Hindu Succession Act, The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956.

Steps that are taken by the state:

Uttarakhand: 

 Uttarakhand just enacted the Uttarakhand Uniform Civil Code Bill 2024, making it India's first state to implement a Uniform Civil Code (UCC). The Bill establishes common law for topics such as marriage, divorce, property inheritance, and so on, and it applies to all Uttarakhand inhabitants with the exception of scheduled tribes.

Goa:

Goa is India's first state to adopt a uniform civil code. After India seized the territory in 1961, the Parliament passed legislation to ensure that the Portuguese Civil Code of 1867 was still in effect. This law, known as the Goa Civil Code or Goa Family Code, is applicable to all , regardless of religion or ethnicity.

Uniform Civil Code as Reality

In modern society, people's living standards have increased, and their thinking has developed, as a result of which people are more aware of their fundamental and legal rights, as well as their ability to distinguish between right and wrong. Laws dealing with personal laws must also evolve to keep up with the changing times and society. Our Indian civilization is one of the world's oldest, and many traditions are changing over time. Some new traditions are being added, while some old and irrelevant traditions are being discarded, such as sati pratha, child marriages, which are now prohibited but still practiced in some religions due to personal law, triple talaq, and untouchability. This dynamic nature of society is critical for its further evolution, as we now require a Uniform Civil Code to provide justice equitably to all, regardless of faith, in personal legal matters in a just, fair, and equal manner.

Supreme Court’s Views on Uniform Civil Code

·         Mohd. Ahmed Khan vs Shah Bano Begum (1985): In this case, the Supreme Court determined that Muslim women are entitled to maintenance after the iddat period under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code. It was discovered that a UCC would aid in reducing contradictions based on specific religious ideas.

·         Indian Young Lawyers Association v. State of Kerala (2018):  In this case, the Supreme Court reviewed the ban on menstrual-age women entering the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. The decision emphasized the importance of a UCC to reconcile competing claims and ensure gender equality among religions.

·         ASection 497 of the IPC, which dealt with adultery, violated Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the constitution. The court stressed the importance of gender-neutral laws and proposed the creation of a Uniform Civil Code to overcome anomalies in personal laws.

Arguments in Favour:

·         Simplifies Legal System: Having a single set of rules for everyone will simplify personal laws, which are currently separated based on religious beliefs. This, in turn, would streamline the legal structure and process.

·         Promotes Equality:  UCC seeks to ensure that all people of India, regardless of religion, are treated equally under the law. As a result, it will contribute to the promotion of the Preamble's ideals of equality.

·         National integration: India's current personal law system divides citizens by governing different religious sects under different laws. The UCC would establish a common set of laws for all citizens, so promoting national integration and unity.

·         Securalism: The Indian Constitution promotes secularism, requiring the state to be religiously neutral. The UCC would assist ensure that all religions are treated equally under the law, as well as to keep the state from being influenced by any one faith.

Uniform Civil Code as Political Agenda:

The Uniform Civil Code is a difficult issue that political parties frequently use in their election manifestos to rally followers to their cause. There have been other occasions in which political parties exploited it as an electoral manifesto, such as the Ram Mandir issue, which was used solely to gain votes. It was done by all political parties, whether in Lok Sabha or state assembly elections. Here are some concrete ways in which the UCC is used to advance political agendas:Political parties use UCC to motivate supporters. For example, one party utilizes the UCC to appeal to its Hindu constituency, and the other appeals to its minority base. There are several examples of UCC being used as a manifesto. Lok Sabha election incluses one party vowed to implement UCC if they formed government and received a large number of votes on that premise, but now that the 2023 and 2024 Lok Sabha elections are approaching, there is little sign of even considering the issue.Also, the same thing was done at the time. For the past two decades or so, one party has used the UCC to advance its political agenda. ● Political parties use the UCC to gain political advantage over its opponents. ● Political parties utilize the UCC to shift focus away from other concerns.

 

Arguments against uniform civil code:

Lack of Consensus: There is no agreement among different communities on what the UCC should include. The absence of agreement on the concepts and contents of a common code makes it difficult to imagine a UCC that is acceptable to everyone. Implementation Challenges: Due to the huge range of laws governing different communities, drafting and implementing a UCC is a challenging task. Creating a code that effectively recognizes and respects the peculiarities of each community's legislation will be difficult.Threat to Religious Freedom: The implementation of a UCC would violate citizens' religious freedom by imposing uniform regulations that may conflict with their religious views and practices. This could imply government meddling in religious concerns.

Threat to Cultural Diversity: Imposing uniform rules across such diverse communities would disrespect each religion group's distinct cultural practices, traditions, customs, and sensitivities. Overall, it may go against the concept of diversity. Fear of Majoritarianism: Some are concerned that a UCC will mirror the ideas and practices of the prevailing faith. Thus, it may be analogous to forcing a majoritarian viewpoint on minorities, resulting in marginalization of minority groups.Suggestions:

We have a number of proposals for developing the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) to solve major issues that benefit the nation and its residents. These ideas include critical focal issues for the UCC, with an emphasis on encouraging social advancement and inclusivity. The UCC should stress gender justice and equality in all areas, including marriage, divorce, inheritance, and property rights. Ensuring equal rights and protections for all people, regardless of gender, is critical. The UCC should find a balance between establishing common civil laws and protecting cultural and religious traditions that do not violate fundamental rights.The central government should endeavor to involve native states in creating their own UCCs because they have a stronger awareness of the customs and cultures. This strategy enables state governments to adjust UCCs to the individual requirements and sensitivities of their populations. Furthermore, the central government can gain significant insights from state governments about the process and obstacles of drafting the law, as well as the concerns raised by various populations.The government should vigorously promote awareness initiatives to educate the public about the UCC. Organizing small awareness camps, particularly in villages with varied inhabitants, can be a useful strategy. These camps should include specialists or students who are well-versed in the relevant subjects and can provide information on the law, its potential consequences, and the steps the government is taking to execute it. Conducting surveys in several areas across India to get public input and suggestions.

Conclusion:

We have covered the history of the UCC, its present state of growth, and how diversified India is in terms of the legal framework, with distinct rules for different populations. Furthermore, how difficult must it be for the legal systems to deliver fair and excellent rulings in a nation divided by differences? Positively, the Judiciary will be better able to render decisions in civil cases involving marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption, and maintenance that involve the fundamental rights of the people of the country if the UCC is enforced. Given that certain customs and practices are ingrained with gender justice and equality, they merit consideration. Protracted legal proceedings emphasize the fight for justice and the necessity of a prompt conclusion. Nonetheless, there are important implementation issues that need to be resolved, such as efficient dissemination of the essence of UCC to avoid misconceptions. The protection of every citizen's fundamental rights and the avoidance of discrimination against any community should come first in the UCC's implementation. Ensuring that the code upholds and safeguards the rights and welfare of every person, irrespective of their background, is imperative. One encouraging development is that a few states have willingly started to design their own UCCs within their borders. The first draft has already been completed by Uttarakhand and is pending delivery to the federal government. This will offer insightful information on the UCC's emphasis and goals.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

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