This article on ‘Uniform civil code: Background and Recent Developments‘ was written by Rosy Adhikary, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
The chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Justice (ret.) Arun Kumar Mishra has spoken for the Uniform Civil Code, arguing that it is crucial to protect women from discrimination. The Uttarakhand government formed an expert panel to examine and implement the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) throughout the state. The following state was Gujarat, followed by Himachal Pradesh.
State officials intend to implement a uniform civil code, according to Uttar Pradesh’s deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya. Madhya Pradesh has also made the decision to establish a commission to investigate how the Uniform Civil Code is being applied (UCC). In November, we learned that Basavaraj Bommai, the chief minister of Karnataka, had stated that he was gathering information about events in many states and what the Constitution says in accordance with the “Uniform Civil Code” (UCC). As a result, in line with what I said before, the article’s main focus is on the Uniform Civil Code and how it has evolved through time.
What is the Uniform Civil Code (UCC)?
A single civil code that could be applicable to all religious groups is based on the principle of one nation, one law. The phrase “Uniform Civil Code” is mentioned expressly in Part 4, Article 44, of the Indian Constitution. According to Article 44, the States parties undertake to secure for the Citizens a civil code that is uniform throughout the entirety of India.
The following changes have occurred to the uniform civil code from colonial times;
Pre-Independence (colonial era) (colonial era)
The October 1840 Lex Loci Report identified several areas wherein universality in the formulation of Indian law was crucial, including crimes, proof, and contracts. Contrarily, it was also suggested against codifying Islamic and Hindu personal law. In 1859, the Queen’s Proclamation promised to have no bearing whatsoever on matters of religion since personal laws are still governed by locally unique laws, even though the country’s criminal laws have been codified and declared universal.
Following the end of British rule, there were more laws addressing personal issues, therefore the B N Rau Committee was founded in 1941 by the government to codify Hindu law.
The Hindu Law Committee was charged with examining the issue of whether common Hindu laws were necessary. A codified Hindu legislation that would grant women equal rights was advocated by the committee in accordance with the scriptures. After a study of the 1937 Act, the idea for a legal code of marriage and inheritance for Hindus was put out. After the Constitution was adopted in 1951, a select committee headed by B. R. Ambedkar was convened, and they were given the Rau Committee report’s draught to review. In order to update and codify the laws that regulate a will or unwilled succession among Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, the Hindu Succession Act was subsequently passed in 1956.
Post-Colonial era (1947-1985)
Famous individuals like Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar advocated for a standard civil code during the constitution’s construction. But due to opposition from religious conservatives and a lack of knowledge in general at the time, they chose to include the UCC in the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP, Article 44). Muslim officials emphasised the necessity of following individual Islamic rules based on religious practises. Because of this, only Article 44 of the Indian Constitution may mention UCC.
Following its independence, the State of Goa adopted the Portuguese Civil Code, which imposed a UCC on all of its inhabitants. This code states that a husband and wife own all property that each spouse possesses and owns jointly. Even parents are prohibited from fully disinheriting their kids; nearly half of the estate must go to them. Muslims who have been legally married in Goa are not allowed to practice polygamy.
- Shah Bano case:
Shah Bano, 73, was refused alimony while her husband filed for divorce using the triple talaq method, which includes saying “I divorce thee” three times. She appeared in court, and the District Court and the High Court both decided in her favour. Her husband then appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, saying that he had fulfilled all of his obligations under Islamic law.
Under the Criminal Procedure Code’s “support of spouses, children, and parents” provision (Section 125), which belongs to all people irrespective of faith, the Supreme Court rendered a decision in her favour in 1985. Additionally, it advocated for the creation of a standard civil code.
- Daniel Latifi Case:
The Muslim Women’s Act (MWA) was challenged on the claim that this really violated both Article 21’s right to life and Articles 14 and 15’s and 21’s right to equality. The Supreme Court found that a wife’s iddat payment must be sufficient to sustain her both now and in the future, upholding the validity of the provision and harmonising it with section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code. According to local regulations, a Muslim woman who has been divorced is entitled to support for the rest of her life or until she marries again.
According to the news website LiveLaw, the Allahabad High Court similarly referred to UCC as a “necessity” in November 2021 and stated that it was “mandatorily essential today.” The court was considering a number of petitions filed by interfaith couples seeking protection when it emphasised the necessity of a “single-family code” to prevent such couples from being “hounded as criminals.”
The lack of a unified civil code in India reduces the likelihood of overall social growth in that nation. The present administration has taken commendable steps to achieve gender equality, such as raising the marriageable age for girls from 18 to 21.
- Patil Amruta( Nov 30, 2022) Uniform Civil Code – Indian Polity Notes available at https://prepp.in/news/g-44413-uniform-civil-code-indian-polity-notes
- DHEYA IAS ,Uniform Civil Code: A necessity?: Daily Current Affairs available at https://www.dhyeyaias.com/current-affairs/daily-current-affairs/uniform-civil-code-a-necessity
- BYJU’S Exam prep, Uniform Civil Code – Challenges, Suggestions & Debate On UCC [UPSC Notes] available at https://byjus.com/free-ias-prep/need-for-a-uniform-civil-code-in-a-secular-india/
- ABHINAV MEHROTRA , Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India: An overview (6 January 2022) available at https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/uniform-civil-code-ucc-in-india-an-overview/
- Uniform Civil Code – Challenges, Suggestions & Debate On UCC [UPSC Notes] Civil Code – Challenges, Suggestions & Debate On UCC [UPSC Notes]