The Delhi High Court of Friday backed the need for a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and asked the Centre to take the necessary steps in the matter. The court observed that the modern Indian society is gradually turning “homogeneous" and dissipating “traditional barriers of religion, community, and caste, and in view of these changing paradigms, a uniform civil code is in order.” Here’s what the law is all about, its origin and importance in the current scenario:
What is Uniform Civil Code?
The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) essentially calls for the formulation of one law for India, applicable to all religious communities in their personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption etc. It comes under Article 44 of the Constitution, which lays down that the state shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India.
Currently, different laws regulate these aspects in India for adherents of different religions, for example, Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act, Indian Christian Marriages Act, Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act. However, Muslim personal laws are not codified and are based on their religious texts.
Objective of Article 44
The objective of Article 44 of the Directive Principles, as defined in the Article 37 of the constitution, is to address the “discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise diverse cultural groups across the country".
Origin of UCC
The origin of the UCC dates back to the pre-independence era when the British government, in a report submitted in 1835, stressed on “the need for uniformity in the codification of Indian law relating to crimes, evidence, and contracts”, and insisted that “personal laws of Hindus and Muslims be kept outside such codification.”
Law Commission’s Take
In 2017, the Law Commission had termed the prospect of UCC difficult to implement, saying “UCC is not possible and not even an option”.
The law panel had said that the exemptions under the constitution must be honoured and UCC could disturb the essence of the constitution. “Constitution itself has given so many exemptions to so many people like the tribals, etc. There are exemptions even in Civil Procedure Code and Criminal Procedure Code… UCC is not a solution and there cannot be a composite Act. You cannot say forget the Constitution and do away with the sixth schedule. This would make people question their accession to the Indian Union on the understanding that they will be respected,” it said.
It said that UCC is not possible also because of the customs prevalent in remote parts of India, which are protected by the Constitution. “In a particular community in North East, the whole property goes to the younger daughter. Then the son-in-law comes and settles there and he is not only husband of the girl but also becomes the husband of the girl’s mother. This practice is known as Nokuram and the son-in-law becomes the man in place of father-in-law for all purposes and not only property. Now what do you do with it under UCC? It is protected under the Constitution,” it had said.