Any discussion around the Uniform Civil Code has its roots in the Constitution of India. As enunciated in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution, “We the Indians are committed to preserving the mutual fraternity, dignity, unity, and integrity of the nation and all citizens of our country”. Every nation has its own characteristics and salient features. It is a fact that the existence of any nation is an existence different from its diversity. The most important imperative for a nation to exist forever is its unity and the oneness of its people and the existence of a uniform law governing its entire populace. Hence, for the integrity of the country, the ruling Government has a moral obligation to ensure that the constitutional rights of the people as guaranteed are assured and adequately provided to the common people without discrimination as also ensuring simultaneously that its directive principles are governed appropriately and constitutionally.
Emphasis on UCC
Article 44 of the Indian Constitution states that the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India. The very purpose of delineating the term “endeavour” simply implies the urgency to make an earnest effort for it. Before the Constitution came into effect, divergent marriage and divorce laws existed for various classes. All of these continued under the ambit and support of Article 372 of the Constitution.
“The Modi Government ended triple talaq and gave rights to Muslim women. Article 370 and 35A were uprooted on August 5, 2019. Now the central Government will work on the Uniform Civil Code. BJP-ruled states in the country are moving towards UCC & opponents of the BJP are deeply hurt by this announcement”
— Home Minister Amit Shah said at Kolhapur Rally on February 21, 2023
However, one may look into the very core concept, which is the vision of a secular state maintaining social equality and unequivocal equity. After much deliberations in the interregnum of various rounds of discussions at the framework stage of the Constitution, members of the Constituent Assembly felt that the nation was too in its nascent stages to inculcate the idea of a Uniform Civil Code though the same was definitely not a distant dream. The progress of implementation was foreseen, but felt needed a gradual escalation considering the cultural and religious diversity. The very presence of Article 44 in the Constitution recognises the existence of separate personal laws, and Entry No. 5 in the Concurrent list gives power to the Legislatures to enact laws affecting underlying personal laws. While Article 14 ensures provision of equality to all citizens before the law of the land, Article 15 stipulates that there shall be no discrimination on the grounds of religion, caste and sex. Both these privileges are universally accepted as the basic principles of the Constitution. On this occasion, Articles 37 and 44 of the Indian Constitution should be read in conjunction with Articles 14 and 15. These point to the urgency of provision of congruity in implementing a uniform civil law. The State has to implement the Uniform Civil Code as stated in Article 37 of the Indian Constitution as fundamental to administration. In a modern and progressing nation such as ours, the plurality of multiple codes flouts and violates the very basic principle of equality of law. The Constituent Assembly did witness this provision and hence it was much debated and deliberated to consider a unified code as a Fundamental Right or as a Directive Principle within the Constitution and finally arrived at a conclusion with the latter. Article 44 of the Constitution of India proclaims that efforts ought to be made to enforce a uniform civil law for the entire population of the country. The Supreme Court and various High Courts have mandated instructions to the Government that the Uniform Civil Code should be implemented. Nonetheless, all of this, so far, seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
Benefits for Common man
Legislating a Uniform Civil Code is much more obligatory than bringing a political election manifesto into reality. It should be regarded as a social vehicle with common citizens of the country being the beneficiaries. The aim of bringing about this meritorious legislation benefiting all, should not in the slightest stance be there to target religious or cultural minorities which have their own customs or tradition. What was foreseen by the Constitution makers was an inclusive and informed reform in the best interest of the people. Now, religious fundamentalists and pseudo-secular politicians, aiming at vote bank politics, are opposing implementation of Article 44. One of the objectives of the UCC is to eliminate discrimination against women in matters such as marriage, divorce, and succession. Opponents of Uniform Civil Law argue that while polygamy, unilateral divorce by men, and denial of equality to women are illegal, all these are mandated by their religion and that implementing Uniform Civil Law would destroy their cultural norms. Under British rule, efforts were made to unify the people by unifying the civil and criminal laws and by amending and denying many of the personal laws.
“Article 29 of the Constitution provides an unfettered fundamental right to follow religion, culture and traditional practices. No government can snatch this fundamental right on the pretext of UCC” — AIMIM President Asaduddin Owaisi, said on
February 21, 2023
One should not turn a blind eye to the brighter side of UCC such as facilitating men and women of full age to marry without distinction of caste, religion, or nationality. They have equal power to marry and divorce. In the document signed by India at the International Conference on Civil Rights, it is stated that States are obliged to ensure adequate procedures for marriage and divorce and to protect the rights of husband and wife. Therefore, a common law applicable to all citizens is necessary and urgency under a constitutional system which accepts single citizenship and equal justice as fundamental principles.