By: Dr. Tanmeet Kaur Sahiwal,
Chairperson, School of Law, NMIMS Bangalore
The idea of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India can be traced back to the colonial era when the British introduced a uniform legal system. After India gained independence, the Constitution-makers decided to leave personal laws untouched, recognizing the diversity of cultures and religions in the country. The UCC falls under Article 44 of the Indian Constitution, which states that “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”
However, the debate on the need for a Uniform Civil Code began in the 1950s, and the government set up a committee to study the issue. Since then, there have been sporadic attempts to implement a Uniform Civil Code, but it has remained a controversial subject due to opposition from various religious groups.
The UCC is a topic that has been a hot topic of debate India for years. The real aim of UCC is to bring about uniformity in personal laws and do away with discriminatory practices. It is often considered a necessary step towards promoting equality and national unity. However, opponents argue that it would infringe upon religious rights and cultural diversity. As the UCC becomes an electoral promise in poll-bound states, it is important to understand the implications of having a Uniform Civil Code.
In February of this year, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan addressed the media to discuss the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). He emphasized the need to dispel misconceptions surrounding the UCC and stated that it should be implemented as it aligns with our constitutional objectives. Rather than turning it into a point of contention, he stressed the importance of clarifying any misunderstandings people may have regarding the UCC.
In April, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Dhami announced that a draft proposal for the UCC was prepared. He further mentioned that the state government would present a final report within the next two months. The implementation of the UCC was one of Dhami’s promises during the 2022 assembly election campaign. In May of the previous year, the government had formed a five-member committee headed by retired Supreme Court Judge Ranjana Prakash Desai to prepare the draft proposal for the UCC’s implementation in the state. Dhami proudly stated that Uttarakhand was the first state to announce the UCC, with other states now following suit.
One of the most significant advantages of the UCC is that it would promote gender equality by ensuring that all citizens are treated equally under the law. The current system of personal laws often discriminates against women, especially in matters of marriage, divorce, and inheritance. The UCC would bring about a much-needed change in this regard by ensuring that all citizens are treated equally irrespective of their gender.
Another benefit of the UCC is that it would promote national unity by eliminating the differences in personal laws based on religion. This would ensure that all citizens are governed by the same set of laws and would lead to greater social cohesion and unity.
Jawahar Lal Nehru once said that “the UCC is a moral obligation for a secular and democratic nation like India.” This statement is still relevant today as India continues to be a diverse country in terms of religion, culture, and traditions.
While the UCC has the potential to address issues of discrimination and promote national unity, naysayers argue that it would intrude upon citizens’ religious rights and cultural diversity. India is a diverse country with different religions, cultures, and traditions. The UCC would require a wide consensus and should be approached with sensitivity. It is important to strike a balance between promoting gender equality, preserving culture, religious traditions, and the constitutional values. The government should ensure that diversity in cultural and religious practices is not compromised in the name of bringing uniformity.
A well-formulated uniform civil code should reflect the fundamental ideals of secularism, justice, equality, and fraternity. It should promote inclusivity and protect the rights of all citizens.
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