It has always been the case that India has, since its existence, been akin to a garden, with many different types of ‘flora’, referring to the different religions and cultures that make up the nation of ‘India’ as we know it.
However, the issue lies with the fact that a variety of ‘flora’ exists in the ‘garden’ (read India), making it difficult to satisfy each ‘flora’s’ needs and wants. If conflict arises between different types of flora, or even between the same species of flora, the ‘gardener’ in this case, the Executive, is responsible for overseeing these floras and ensuring they coexist peacefully with one another. If a conflict arises, it must be resolved accordingly, but with respect to how each flora is to be treated independently.
Each indigenous religion and local custom has its own laws, which dictate and codify the customs and rituals they follow regarding succession, marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc. It is natural in a country like India, where there is such a vast variety of cultures and religions, that the answer to a quick and speedy resolution of matters within the people of the same religion is in the form of Personal Laws, but if the matter is between two different religions or cultures, the answer to the first situation won’t be the answer to the second, which is why Article 44 of the Constitution of India calls for a ‘Uniform Civil Code’.
While the aforementioned Article has been in the Constitution since Independence, it has never been implemented, even on the 76th anniversary of India’s Independence, which begs the question, why? The answer to that lies in two parts. Firstly, Article 44 falls under the category of ‘Directive Principles of State,’ which means, rather than laws that must be enforced, they are principles that were incorporated into the Constitution as directives intended to be followed by citizens but not legally bound by them and are therefore not enforceable by any court in the country. Secondly, with so many personal laws already in existence, the Legislature has always procrastinated over the materialisation of a Uniform Civil Code, due to an absence of urgency.
Religious Personal Laws governing individual religions or religions themselves do not always guarantee equality amongst, for example, males and females.
Shah Bano Case (1985)
Citation :[1985 (1) SCALE 767; 1985 (3) SCR 844; 1985 (2) SCC 556; AIR 1985 SC 945]
A 73 year old woman by the name of Shah Bano was divorced by her husband, using the now outlawed ‘triple talaq’ or Talaq-e-Biddat, where she was not granted proper maintenance under the same. As a result, she filed a case based on Section 125 of the All India Criminal Code, which pertains to ‘Maintenance of wives, children, and parents’. Based on the judgment resulting from this case, a union civil code was recommended, and after the verdict there were agitations and protests. As a result, Parliament passed the Muslim Women’s (Right to Protection on Divorce) Act (MWA) in 1986, making Section 125 of the Criminal Procedural Code inapplicable to Muslim women.
Daniel Latifi Case (2001)
Citation : Writ Petition (civil) 868 of 1986
The Muslim Woman’s Act (MVA) was challenged on the grounds that it violated Articles 14 and 15 and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. While declaring the aforementioned law Constitutional, the Apex Court provided provisions that it would complement Section 125 of the Indian Criminal Code. This would ensure that the amount received by a wife during her Iddat period was sufficient to sustain her during that time and to provide for her future.
John Vallamattom Case (2003)
Citation : Writ Petition (civil) 242 of 1997
A Keralite Priest, John Vallamottom had challenged the Constitutional validity of Section 118 of the Indian Succession Act, which applies to all non-Hindus in the Union of India. He challenged that the Section 118 of the ISA, Act to be discriminatory in nature against Christians as this particular section put an unreasonable restrictions on the amount of donations and charitable that can be done by Christians, with their own free will. The bench struck down the relevant Section 118 as unconstitutional.
There are also other judgments. As a result of a judgement issued by the Supreme Court in August 2017, the Muslim practice of instant ‘Triple Talaq’ was set aside. The Bench was composed of five judges in a 3:1 ratio, led by Justices Joseph Kuiren, U.U Lalit, and R.F Nariman in favor of setting aside Triple Talaq, and CJI J. S Khehar and Abdul Nazeer in opposition. People who are governed by these personal laws are subjected to many human rights violations, which are rather draconian by nature when viewed through the lens of modern society.
If the Uniform Civil Code were to be implemented, any discrimination or inequality faced by members of different religions would be rectified by their personal laws, and the status of all the aforementioned religions would be equalized before the law and the eyes of the law. It promotes the real secularism by ensuring that every citizen of the nation is treated equally and regarded as such in the eyes of law, as it does not restrict anyone’s right to freely practice any religion of their choice.
Since the current functioning of personal laws is based on traditions that date back thousands of years, the Judiciary cannot process such cases quickly due to its complexities. As far as a cultural point of view is concerned, although it is rich, the laws are very old and ancient from a legal point of view, since laws change with the world as well. The introduction of an Uniform Civil Code in a country like India can also benefit the political atmosphere of the country considering that its implementation can put an end to the various religious vote bank policies adopted by many political parties, allowing them to put the carrot in front of the crowd, the promise of the pro religious personal laws they’ll be able to provide to the target group that they’re trying to appease.
Due to a lack of awareness among the citizens regarding the UCC, the implementation of the same will be hindered greatly. In particular, a lack of understanding will easily lead to misinformation being spread by any religious or sect that does not want such a Code to be implemented for personal reasons. Minority communities, whose majority of members do not consider themselves major religions in India, might consider the introduction and implementation of such a code as essentially unfair, either because of the small number of people who practice the relevant minority religions or their interest might be totally ignored by the said implementation. Misgivings about UCC are natural, but this can be alleviated by various awareness programs. We were assured and are assured, and time has proven the fact that the current India has always promoted plurality under the leadership of Modi ji. A mantra of our Prime Minister is “Sabhka Sath, Sabhka Vikas, Sabhka Viswas, Sabhka Prayas” and his goal is to create an environment in which everyone has a stake in the development of a new India as well as its fruits. Our country can only advance if we join forces with all streams of progress. Yes, together we can. Jai Hind!!