In Focus: Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

In Focus: Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

What is Uniform Civil Code (UCC)?

  • A Uniform Civil Code refers to a single law for the entire country, applicable to all religious communities in their personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption etc.
  • It is intended to replace the system of fragmented personal laws, which currently govern interpersonal relationships and related matters within different religious communities.

The Constitution of India on UCC:

  • Article 44 of the Constitution lays down that the State shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India.
  • Article 44 is one of the Directive Principles mentioned in Part-IV of the Constitution.
    • These, as defined in Article 37, are not justiciable (not enforceable by any court) but the principles laid down therein are fundamental in governance.
    • These principles consists of all the ideals which the State should follow and keep in mind while formulating policies and enacting laws for the country.

What is the present status of Personal Laws in India?

  • Personal law subjects such as marriage, divorce, inheritance come under the Concurrent list of the Constitution.
    • Both the Parliament and state legislature can make laws with respect to any of the matters enumerated in the Concurrent List.

  • The Hindu personal laws have been codified into four parts by the Parliament in 1956:
    • The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
    • The Hindu Succession Act, 1956
    • The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956
    • The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956

  • The term ‘Hindu’ also includes Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists for the purpose of these laws.
  • Muslim personals laws are not codified per se, and are based on their religious texts, though certain aspects of these are expressly recognised in acts such as the Shariat Application Act and Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act.
  • Christians and Jews are also governed by their own personal laws.

Exception of Goa:

  • Goa is, at present, the only state in India with a uniform civil code.
  • The Portuguese Civil Code of 1867, which continues to be implemented after India annexed the territory in 1961, applies to all Goans, irrespective of their religious or ethnic community.

What is the need for a Uniform Civil Code in India?

  • A Uniform Civil Code would provide equal status to all citizens irrespective of the community they belong to.
  • Personal laws of different religions are widely divergent and there is no consistency in how issues like marriage, succession and adoption are treated for people belonging to different communities.
  • Personal laws, because they derive from tradition and custom, also often tend to give undue advantage to men.
  • A UCC could lead to consistency and gender equalityin India.

Criticism of UCC:

  • As per some, the idea of a UCC clashes with the Right to Freedom of Religion, provided under Article 25 of the Constitution.
    • Separate personal laws are one of the ways in which people have exercised their right to practise their own religion, which has been particularly important for minorities.

News Summary:

  • The Delhi High Court backed the need for a Uniform Civil Code while hearing a plea seeking the applicability of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, in respect of a couple who belong to the Meena community.
  • A petition seeking for divorce was filed by the man in 2015. The petition was dismissed by the trial court as the provisions of the HMA, 1955 do not extend to the Meena community, which is a notified Scheduled Tribe from Rajasthan.
    • The man challenged the trial court order dated 28th November 2020 in the High Court.

  • The Delhi High Court allowed his appeal to challenge the trial court order and set aside the trial court’s decisions.

Observations made by the High Court:

  • The Court opined that in modern Indian society, which is gradually becoming homogenous, the traditional barriers of religion, community and caste are slowly dissipating.
  • The Court observed that the youth of India belonging to various communities, tribes, castes or religions who solemnise their marriages ought not to be forced to struggle with issues arising due to conflicts in various personal laws, especially in relation to marriage and divorce.
  • The Court observed that the hope expressed in Article 44 of the Constitution that the State shall secure for its citizens Uniform Civil Code ought not to remain a mere hope.

 Polity & Governance