Legal Article

Uniform Civil Code

Understanding the Uniform Civil Code in India

Uniform Civil Code is a proposal to unify all the personal laws applicable to the citizens of India belonging to different religious faith. These law apply to marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance. During the British Raj in India, the lex loci report of 1840 emphasized the codification in India. There have been various codes in the world e.g. Torah, Manu Smriti, Corpus Iuris Civilis. There was uniformity in codification of criminal laws. Shariat law had no uniformity and is found to be discriminatory towards women in matters of succession, marriage, adoption etc. Even Hindu law in such matters was biased towards man.

After Independence, there were steps taken towards the codification of Hindu Law as a result of which the Indian Parliament started discussing the report of Hindu law committee in its various sessions. The Hindu code bill faced opposition because it codified issues which were governed by scriptures, Vedas etc like the code promoted monogamy and codified laws related to divorce, marriage, succession etc. The Hindu code bill lead to the introduction of Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act, Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act .

Even after the codification of various Personal laws there lies a disparity in regard to applicability of these laws read with various other statutes applicable to citizens of India. The spirit of Uniform Civil Code reflected in our Constitution as Directive Principles of State Policy under Article 44.

The need for implementation of Uniform Civil Code was catalysed by a series of judgements given by the apex court in the late nineties. In the year 1985 by the case of Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum. In this case there was a conflict between secular and religious authorities over civil code. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Shah Bano Begum granting her maintenance U/S. 125 Cr.PC expressing regrets on Article 44 being a dead letter. The orthodox Muslims felt their communal identity was at stake as the said ruling went beyond Shariat laws. In case of Sarla Mudgal v. Union of India ,1995, the Supreme Court expressed displeasure towards the Government for not implementing Article 44 of the Constitution. The need for Uniform Civil Code transitioned into the 21st century with the case of Lily Thomas v. Union of India, 2000.

In 2017, the Supreme court of India in Shayara Bano v Union of India declared the practice of Triple Talaq (talaq-e-biddat) as unconstitutional. In order to give effect to the landmark judgement delivered by the apex court, the central government introduced triple talaq bill in the parliament. The bill was passed by the parliament marking the existence of the Muslim Women (Protection Of Rights On Marriage) Act, 2019. This act made the pronouncement of talaq by a Muslim husband in spoken, written or electronic form punishable under law.

Uniform Civil Code is a cherished constitutional goal. The Preamble of Indian Constitution revolves to constitute a secular democratic republic indicating there is no state religion. Personal laws of various religions need to be put under a scanner. The rejection of those laws which violates letter and spirit of Indian Constitution is necessary.

Uniform Civil Code is very important as it makes our laws rational in accordance to the citizens belonging to various religious denominations, it is imperative that for promotion of national unity and solidarity a unified code is absolute necessity. We need a uniformed code of civil laws/ family laws under an umbrella of all its constituent religions. The Supreme Court of India has reiterated through its various judgements that there is a need of uniform civil code time and again. The apex court has settled the controversies which have arisen due to apparent conflicts in the personal laws. India is a country of unity in diversity having multi religions and cultures. Hence, civil matters of citizens should be taken in same clutches of law only then prime constitutional goal of fraternity can be materialized.