Headline : Debate on Uniform Civil Code

Headline : Debate on Uniform Civil Code

Details :

What is a civil code?

  • A civil code is a systematic collection of laws designed to deal with the core areas of private law such as for dealing with business and negligence lawsuits and practices.
  • A jurisdiction that has a civil code generally also has a code of civil procedure.

 

What is Uniform Civil Code (UCC)?

  • Uniform civil Code is a proposal to have a generic set of governing laws for every citizen without taking into consideration the religion.
  • Article 44 of the Constitution says that there should be a Uniform Civil Code.
  • According to this article, “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”.
  • Since the Directive Principles are only guidelines, it is not mandatory to use them.

 

How did the debate on UCC come about?

  • Uniform Civil Code was one of the key issues debated during the writing of the Constitution, with passionate arguments on both sides. However, unable to arrive at a solution, a directive principle was struck regarding this in the constitution.
  • The Constituent Assembly debates reveal a lack of consensus on what a potential uniform civil code would entail.
  • The stand taken by B.R. Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly debates has survived the years. Dr. Ambedkar had said that UCC is desirable but for the moment should remain voluntary.
  • While many thought the UCC would coexist alongside the personal law systems, others thought that it was to replace the personal law.
  • There were yet others who believed that the UCC would deny the freedom of religion.
  • It was this uncertainty that led it to be included in the Directive Principles of State Policy rather than the chapter on Fundamental Rights in the Constitution.

 

Why does it matter?

  • The codification of personal laws has historically generated protests.
  • The Hindu Code Bill, one of the foremost pieces of social legislation, had triggered enormous opposition.
  • The debate on the UCC is centred on the argument to replace individual personal customs and practices of marriage, divorce, adoption and successions with a common code.
  • Those in favour of one code argue that it will end discrimination in religions.
  • Detractors contend that it will rob the nation of its religious diversity and violate the fundamental right to practise religion enshrined in Article 25 of the Constitution.
  • In fact, they hold that a state action to introduce the UCC is against the quintessence of democracy.
  • The secular state is an enabler of rights rather than an inhibitor in sensitive matters of religion and personal laws.
  • The objective of UCC should be to address the discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise diverse cultural practices.

 

Why it is difficult to have a UCC?

  • India being a secular country guarantees its minorities the right to follow their own religion, culture and customs under Article 29 and 30. But implementing a Uniform Code will hamper India’s secularism.

 

Background

  • Supreme Court decision came in October 2015 to take suo motu cognisance of the discriminatory practices against Muslim women.
  • In October 2016, Law Commission published a “questionnaire” to test the waters on the UCC. It wanted to see whether the nation was ready for it.
  • Later in 2017, Supreme Court outlawed triple talaq without addressing the core issue: whether personal law practices should prevail over the fundamental rights of life, dignity and non-discrimination.
  • This Bench pointed out that it had been 30 years since the court, in the Shah Bano case, urged the government to frame a common code to “help in the cause of national integration.”

 

Way Forward

  • Recently, in its consultation paper, the Law Commission chose codification of personal laws over the UCC as a way to end discrimination within religions.
  • Codification of various practices and customs would make them ‘law’ under Article 13 of the Constitution.
  • Any ‘law’ that comes under Article 13 should be consistent with the fundamental rights, the Law Commission has reasoned.
  • This would protect the plurality of religions, too, and may be the way forward for the near future.
  • In fact, the Law Commission has suggested in no uncertain terms that the UCC is “neither necessary nor desirable at this stage in the country.”
  • It said a unified nation does not necessarily need to have “uniformity.”

 

Section : Polity & Governance
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