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Need and Necessity of UCC in India

Omkar Dattatray

India is a diverse country as there are diversities not only between different religious communities but there are even diversities between various sections in the majority Hindu community .Besides India is a secular and plural country where every religion has got freedom to profess ,propagate ,follow and last but not the least to change his or her religion .Given such diversities and pluralism and secularism ,is there need and necessity to have a uniform civil code for all Indians irrespective of their religion .At the outset it can be said that in one nation and country there should be same laws which apply to all religious communities uniformly .There is nothing bad in it as we have to accept the fact that in a liberal and dynamic democracy ,various religious communities cannot be governed by different laws and instead for equality and uniformity ,there is great  need and necessity of having a same laws for all communities .When all religious communities will be governed by the same civil laws ,it will lead to national harmony, national cohesion and above all will help in national integration .So uniform national law is the need of the hour .Therefore there is no wrong if there will be same laws in force in the country for all religious communities as it will enhance the basic premise of equality before law which is the foundation of our democratic society and country .There should be no confusion and misunderstanding about the fact that UCC will ensure uniformity in civil law and no uniformity in religious practices and religious freedom will remain  intact and so there is no need to raise voice against this move of the government .The UCC debate is very old but it has again reached to centre stage because of the law commission asking and inviting objections from the people and religious organizations and all the stakeholders and also because of the push given by the BJP government and the PM Modi to the need for having a common civil code .The law commission should circulate and advertise the draft UCC to the public so that the people will give suggestions and arguments in favor and against the UCC otherwise we will be talking in thin air .The UCC is not a new topic of debate as it has continued on since the time of the framers of the constitution deliberated upon it .Dr B.R.Ambedkar who is called the founding father of the constitution as the chairman of the drafting committee ,was clearly in favor of the uniform civil code in the constituent assembly debates .Part 4 ,article 44 of the constitution says, ’’state shall endeavor to provide for its citizens a UCC throughout the territory of India. ’’A uniform civil code aims to replace personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of various religious communities ,with a common set of rules governing every citizen of the country .This idea has elicited mixed reactions from various factions of the society .While article 25 to 28 of the constitution guarantee freedom of religion to every individual ,it at the same time enforces the state to apply directive principles of state policy and common laws while drafting national policies .The origin of UCC can be traced back to 1935 when the British colonial rule stressed upon the immediate need for uniformity in personal laws for Hindus ,Buddhists ,Janis, and Sikhs .They however ,exempted  Muslims ,Christians and Parses’ .Now it is sought to have a UCC for all citizens in force for equality ,uniformity and gender justice .A big section of the society  that is the women including the women of the Muslim community are in favor of uniform civil law to save themselves from male domination and chauvinism .Therefore for gender justice and equality ,UCC is very important .But unfortunately UCC has been widely criticized by the so called secular political parties ,AIMPLB and other organizations so much so that AIMPLB has asked Muslims to oppose and raise a revolt against the UCC .But it is important to understand that AIMPLB is not the truly representative body of Muslims and so it has no inborn right to speak for and on behalf of Muslims. .Uniform civil code resonates with one country one rule/law to be applied to all religious communities.UCC calls for the formulation of one law for India ,which would be applicable to all religious communities in matters such as marriage ,divorce ,inheritance ,adoption .The code comes under article 44 of the constitution ,which lays down that the state shall endeavor to secure a uniform civil code for citizens throughout the territory of India.BJP leader and former union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad noted at a press conference that the UCC has been a part of the ruling party’s manifesto.BJP said a process on the issue of adopting a UCC is underway and people should wait for its outcome ,as it side –stepped a query on whether the measure will be implemented soon .The UCC has hogged the limelight after the Law Commission sought people’s  views on the contentious issue through a public notice on June 13 .PM Modi later on made a strong push for the country having one civil code .Some groups ,including those representing sections of Muslims and tribal’s ,have opposed the UCC while most opposition parties have linked the BJP’s push for it to upcoming polls ,including the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.The new effort by the 22rd Law Commission will look at the personal laws relating to marriage ,divorce ,maintenance ,custody and guardianship of children ,inheritance ,succession and adoption .Along with the repeal of Article 370 and the construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya ,both of which the Modi government has accomplished ,the adoption of a uniform civil code has been the third prong of the BJP ‘s three –point core agenda since the late 1980’s .The 22rd Law commission initiated a fresh consultation process on UCC by inviting suggestions ,opinions and objections to it .As already said Directive Principles of State Policy Chapter 1V of the Indian constitution mentions about UCC Liberal –Intellectual Principles .The desirability of a uniform civil code is consistent with human rights and the principle of equality ,fairness and justice .The UCC calls for the formulation of one law for India ,which would be applicable to all religious communities in matters such as marriage ,divorce ,inheritance ,adoption and the like .It is intended to replace the system of fragmented personal laws which currently govern interpersonal relationships and related matters within different religious communities .Directive Principles are defined in article 37 which proclaims ,’’The provisions contained in this part shall not be enforceable by any court ,but the principles therein laid down are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the state to apply these principles in making laws .’’It effectively means that the vision of a uniform civil code is enshrined in the Indian constitution as a goal towards which the nation should strive ,but it is not a fundamental right or a constitutional  guarantee .One cannot approach the court to demand a UCC .But that does not mean courts can’t opine on the matter .In fact the demand for a UCC came to fore in the important judgment pronounced in the Shah Bano case in 1985 ,more than three decades after the constitution was drafted .The Apex court bench ,in a verdict in favor of Shah Bano ,observed –‘’There is no evidence of any official activity for framing a common civil code for the country .A common civil code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to laws which have conflicting ideologies. .In 1995 Sarla Mudgal case ,Justice Kuldip Singh reiterated the need for parliament to frame a uniform civil code ,which would help the cause of national integration by removing ideological contradictions. In its manifesto or Sankalp Patra released ,before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections ,the BJP reiterated its stand to draft a uniform civil code to deal with the personal laws in India .The need for UCC is because of the following –1-UCC aims to protect vulnerable sections i.e including women and religious minorities.2—The code will simply the complex laws around marriage ceremonies ,inheritance ,succession ,adoption making them one for all .3—It will ensure gender justice in the country among women of various religions .The centre government should see that it is not easy to make and enforce UCC in the country ,it was comparatively easier to abrogate article 370,but it is very complex and difficult to frame law and implement the same in the country .All the above sums up that UCC is the need and necessity of today’s India and all political parties should cooperate with the government to frame and implement the UCC for all Indians.

(The author is a columnist, social and KP activist)

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