UNIFORM CIVIL CODE: ONE NATION ONE LAW
Uniform Civil Code is basically the proposal for codification of various personal laws prevailing in India. Other Civil and Criminal laws such Indian penal Code, law of contract etc. are uniformly codified and are implemented on each and every citizen fairly and evenly. However, personal laws regarding marriage, divorce, etc. are regulated by specific religious communities, i.e., Hindu marriage act, 1955 for hindus and Sunni-shariyat laws for muslims. Thus, UCC aims to uniformly codify these personal laws for every citizen irrespective of their religion or community.
Constitution of India
Constitution of India provides in Article 44 - “ Uniform civil code for the citizens- The State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”
According to Constitution of India, It is the duty of the state to ensure implementation of UCC as a part of their directive principles policy to protect basic constitutional and fundamental rights of the citizens.
India has always been a multi-religious and multilingual country, yet with a distinction presenting unity in diversity. However, India also has an interesting history of religious tensions and conflicts besides a peculiar characteristic of harmony. In 1840’s Lex-Loci report, Britishers emphasized on importance and necessity of codification of laws like laws relating to crimes, evidences, contracts etc. but they decided to exclude the scope of personal laws in this report as they understood that these laws are governed by specific religious communities, their customs and their religious beliefs. There was also a committee formed in 1941 called ‘The Hindu Law Committee’ to look into extensive legislation covering all laws for hindus. It was reinstituted in 1944 under the chairmanship of Sir B.N. Rau Committee favored UCC, which would give equal rights to women in the modern times of society and gave its report in 1947 to Indian Parliament. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was responsible to present the details of the bill, he himself recommended the UCC but due to his various attacks on hindus made him unlikely and hindu code bill received a huge criticism. Hence, lesser version of hindu code bill was implemented in the form of four separate acts, i.e., Hindu marriage act, Hindu succession act , Hindu minority and guardianship act & Hindu adoptions and maintenance act.
ROLE OF JUDICIARY
Mohammad Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Case[i] was the first time in India, when the SC tried to implement UCC in India. In the given case, Shah Bano filed the case under section 125 of code of criminal procedure[ii], which applied to every citizen irrespective of their religion. The SC ruled in favor of the wife, allowing her maintenance under section 125. Further, the chief justice, Y.V. Chandrachud, observed that, "A common civil code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to law which have conflicting ideologies". In Sarla Mudgal v. UOI [iii], a Hindu husband married according to practices of Hindu marriage act, 1955 and later got converted into Islamic religion, to marry another Muslim women as muslim personal laws allowed polygamy. But, the court held that a hindu marriage solemnized under hindu laws can only be dissolved under certain provisions [iv] given by Hindu marriage act, 1955. The SC directed the Prime Minister of India, to take a fresh look on Article 44. In John Vallamattom v. Union of India Case[v] the SC gave another reminder to the government of India for implementation of a UCC throughout the nation because disparities between different religious communities were creating discriminations among the people of the country.
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN IMPLEMENTATION OF UCC
The biggest example of UCC in India can be seen in Goa, called as Goa Family Law. It is based on Portuguese Civil Code 1867, enacted in Goa in 1870. During the month of August 2018, the Law commission submitted a report “Reform of Family Law”. Also, after the ban on ‘Triple Talaq’ and subduing the status of Jammu and Kashmir under article 370, the next big step by Modi’s Government could be the implementation of UCC, which is already the need of the hour.
Hence, from the above given all arguments and statements, it can be inferred that UCC is such a need for a widely diverse nation like India. However, I firmly think that its practical implementation could be totally voluntary initially, so as to make people comfortable with the idea as the personal laws of the different communities are in practice since always. Also, each community should be convinced that UCC is to bring reforms not suppress them and it will never intend to interfere with the rights, rituals, ceremonies or religious beliefs of a community.
Sources: goaprintingpress.gov.in & indianexpress.com
[i] AIR 1985 SC 945; 1985 SCR (3) 844 [ii] The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Section 125: Order for Maintenance of Wives, Children and parents [iii] AIR 1995 SC 153 [iv] Hindu marriage act, 1955, section 13- ‘Divorce’ [v] John Vallamatton v. Union Of India, AIR 2003 SC 2902