Uniform Civil Code, or UCC, has been a talking point in India for many years. But with strong opposition to it, the discussion about UCC dies down very fast. We all know that the implementation of the UCC has been part of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) promise for the last many decades, and now it seems that the party is getting serious about it.
Early this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, soon after his historic visit to the USA, strongly signalled his government’s willingness to implement Uniform Civil Code as soon as possible. With this announcement, the discussion on UCC’s validity and its uselessness has started again. The news channels are buzzing with both to and fro voices for UCC.
The staunch opponents of UCC repeatedly say that implementation of this law is unconstitutional and hence it can’t be implemented. There is also a discussion point that no matter how intense the Modi government’s will to enforce this law it will not be a ‘walk in the park,’ so to say. So among these two major discussion points, let us try and discover whether the proposed Uniform Civil Code has no validity from our constitution and what kind of difficulties the current government has to face while implementing the same.
What is Uniform Civil Code (UCC)?
The proposal of the Uniform Civil Code is about replacing the current personal laws based on religions, customs, and traditions with one common law for every citizen of India. In other words, the UCC will treat everyone irrespective of religion, caste, creed, gender and sexual orientation.
Is Uniform Civil Code (UCC) unconstitutional?
Part 4 of the Indian Constitution says, “…shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.” Hence implementing Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is not unconstitutional.”
Is there any Supreme Court observation on UCC?
While pronouncing its judgment on Mohd. Ahmed Khan vs Shah Bano Begum, the Supreme Court called for implementing the UCC. This case was about demanding maintenance by a Muslim woman from her husband after getting divorced. Similar observations were also delivered by the Supreme Court in the Sarla Mudgal judgement (1995) and Paulo Coutinho vs Maria Luiza Valentina Pereira case (2019).
What does the Law Commission say about UCC?
In its consultation paper in 2018, the Law Commission of India stated that “(UCC) is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage.” It also recommended that whatever discriminatory practices, prejudice and stereotypes within the personal laws of a particular religion can be studied and amended accordingly.
How many Indian states have implemented UCC?
The Goa Civil Code, implemented way back in 1867 by the then Portuguese government, is similar to UCC, and it is still in action in the state despite being complex while implementing it.
Apart from that, the state governments of Uttarakhand, Assam, and Gujarat have shown their interest in implementing Uniform Civil Codes in their state jurisdictions. Apart from the Uttarakhand government, there has been little movement towards UCC in the other two states.
What are the possible difficulties for the implementation of UCC in India?
The first and foremost difficulty is the political will of various political parties in India to support UCC. Despite knowing the benefits of the law, most of the political parties in India will play music that is soothing to their vote banks.
India is an ancient nation whose culture and religious beliefs are thousands of years old. Also, those who invade India and now their dissidents are part of this multicultural nation also have a long history of their beliefs. Hence it will be difficult for the government to convince the followers of all the religions that exist in India to come out of their tradition and accept one single law.
Minorities have already been told by one part of the political leadership in India and their religious leaders that UCC is against them, without any discussion with the government or understanding of the draft of the upcoming law. Hence this rigid mindset may prove a very difficult hurdle to cross for the current government.
Another problem would be gender equality and especially in the LGBT community that exists in India. Just when India started to recognize the LGBT community, such a law may create problems for them if their feelings are not addressed. Plus, women’s rights in some of the existing personal laws are mostly against that gender, and the custodians of those personal laws will remain tough nuts to crake.
The actual feeling of having a Uniform Civil Code in India is to have a greater national integration and a sense of unity prevailing among all the citizens of India. With common rules for everyone without considering their religion, caste, and creed, no one will feel that their general behaviour is not seen as inferior to those who get special treatment due to their personal laws.