Uniform Civil Code: Triple Talaq debate, Polygamy issue, etc.

India needs a Uniform Civil Code: PM


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

Mains level: Read the attached story

uniform civil code

Central Idea

  • Immediately after returning from the US, PM Modi said that India needed a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) as the country could not run with the dual system of “separate laws for separate communities”.
  • This has raised the level of speculations among the left liberal groups in India.

Key statements made by PM

  • Abolishing Dual System: PM highlighted the impracticality of maintaining separate laws for different communities and emphasized the need for a unified legal framework.
  • Discerning Political Manipulation: He urged the Muslim community to be vigilant about political parties that exploit their interests for personal gains.
  • Constitutional Provisions: He emphasized that the Constitution already upholds the principle of equal rights for all citizens.
  • Opposition’s Exploitation: He criticized political opponents for using Muslims, particularly Pasmanda Muslims, to further their own interests at the expense of the community’s well-being.

What is Uniform Civil Code (UCC)?

  • The UCC aims to establish a single personal civil law for the entire country, applicable to all religious communities in matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption, etc.
  • The idea of a UCC has a long history in India and has been a topic of debate and discussion.
  • This article explores the basis for a UCC, its timeline, the conflict with the right to freedom of religion, minority opinions, challenges to implementation, and the way forward.

Basis for UCC: Article 44

  • Article 44 of the Directive Principles envisions the state’s endeavor to secure a UCC for all citizens throughout the country.
  • While DPSP of the Constitution are not enforceable by courts, they provide fundamental principles for governance.

Personal Laws and UCC: A Timeline

  • Colonial Period: Personal laws were first framed for Hindu and Muslim citizens during the British Raj.
  • 1940: The idea of a UCC was proposed by the National Planning Commission, examining women’s status and recommending reforms for gender equality.
  • 1947: UCC was considered as a fundamental right during the framing of the Constitution by Minoo Masani, Hansa Mehta, Amrit Kaur, and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.
  • 1948: The Constitution Assembly debated Article 44, which emphasizes the implementation of uniform civil laws as a state duty under Part IV.
  • 1950: Reformist bills were passed, granting Hindu women the right to divorce and inherit property and outlawing bigamy and child marriages.
  • 1951: Ambedkar resigned when his draft of the Hindu Code Bill was stalled in Parliament.
  • 1985: Shah Bano case highlighted the need for a UCC and the rights of divorced Muslim women.
  • 1995: Sarla Mudgal v. Union of India reiterated the urgency of a UCC for national integration and removing contradictions.
  • 2000: The Supreme Court, in Lily Thomas v. Union of India, stated it could not direct the government to introduce a UCC.
  • 2015: The apex court refused to mandate a decision on implementing a UCC.
  • 2016: The Triple Talaq debate gained attention, leading to the ruling of its unconstitutionality in 2017.

UCC vs. Right to Freedom of Religion

  1. Article 25: Guarantees an individual’s fundamental right to religion.
  2. Article 26(b): Upholds the right of religious denominations to manage their own affairs.
  3. Article 29: Protects the right to conserve distinctive culture.
  • Reasonable restrictions can be imposed on freedom of religion for public order, health, morality, and other provisions related to fundamental rights.

Minority Opinion in the Constituent Assembly

  • Some members sought to exempt Muslim Personal Law from state regulation, arguing against interference in personal laws based on secularism.
  • Concerns were raised about uniformity in a diverse country like India and the potential for opposition from different communities.
  • Gender justice was not a significant focus during these debates.

Enacting and Enforcing UCC

  • Fundamental rights are enforceable in courts, while Directive Principles have varying degrees of enforceability.
  • The wording of Article 44 suggests a lesser duty on the state compared to other Directive Principles.
  • Fundamental rights are considered more important than Directive Principles, and a balance between both is crucial.

Need for UCC

  • Multiple personal laws: Different religions and denominations follow distinct property and matrimonial laws, hindering national unity.
  • Absence of exclusive jurisdiction: Such thing in the Union List implies that the framers did not intend to have a UCC.
  • Customary laws are discriminatory: These laws also vary among different communities and regions.

Why is UCC Necessary?

  • Harmonizing equality: UCC would provide equal status to all citizens, promote gender parity, and align with the aspirations of a liberal and young population.
  • Promote fraternity: Implementation of UCC would support national integration.

Hurdles to UCC Implementation

  • Opposition from religious factions: The diverse religious and cultural landscape of India poses practical difficulties.
  • Minority resistance: UCC is often perceived by minorities as an encroachment on religious freedom and interference in personal matters.
  • Societal preparedness: Experts argue that Indian society may not be ready to embrace a UCC at present.

Unaddressed Questions

  • Ignoring diversities: Maintaining the essence of diverse components of society while achieving uniformity in personal laws.
  • One size fits all: The assumption that practices of one community are backward or unjust.
  • Uniqueness of diversity: The effectiveness of uniformity in eradicating societal inequalities.

Way Forward

  • Theological education: Religious intelligentsia should educate their communities about rights and obligations based on modern interpretations.
  • Open discussion: The government should create an environment conducive to UCC by explaining Article 44’s contents and significance while considering different perspectives.
  • Gradual introduction: Social reforms should be gradual, addressing concerns such as fake news and disinformation.
  • Prioritizing social harmony: Preserving the cultural fabric of the nation is essential.

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