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  • Mantasha Khan

“BEYOND BORDERS” - Navigating The Maze Of India's Uniform Civil Code Debate

Updated: Nov 19

Figure of Lady Justice
Uniform Civil Code

In exploring the errors in the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code, it becomes evident that the one-size-fits-all approach overlooks the diverse cultural, religious, and social complexities of a nation like India, undermining the principles of personal liberty, equality, and respect for cultural diversity enshrined in its Constitution.

The issue of implementing a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India has been a subject of debate and controversy for many years. A Uniform Civil Code refers to a common set of laws governing personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adoption for all citizens, regardless of their religion.

The first proposal for a Uniform Civil Code in India was introduced during the drafting of the Indian Constitution in the late 1940s. The issue of a Uniform Civil Code was debated by the Constituent Assembly, which was responsible for framing the Constitution. However, it is important to note that the idea of a Uniform Civil Code predates the formation of the Indian Constitution. The concept was discussed during the colonial era as well, as part of the efforts to reform and modernize personal laws in India.

Although proponents of the Uniform Civil Code present various arguments in its favor, it is crucial to acknowledge the counterarguments. The implementation of a Uniform Civil Code not only encroaches upon individuals' rights to determine their personal matters based on their own choices, but it also disregards the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. Additionally, it raises significant questions regarding the definition of law, particularly in light of Article 13 of the Indian Constitution, which recognizes the authority of customs and ancient traditions and places them on an equal footing with legislative enactments in the eyes of the courts.

What does freedom truly encompass if it does not include the right to make personal decisions regarding one's own affairs? Moreover, where does equality stand when a majority community can impose a Uniform Civil Code, while minority communities are compelled to conform? The proposition of a Uniform Civil Code appears to be a misguided endeavor, raising questions about its true nature and purpose. What aspects are meant to be standardized and made uniform under such a code?

India is a country of Diverse cultures, customs, values, languages, and beliefs, and such diversity is seldom found in any part of the world, Article 29 and 30 of the Indian constitution allows rather demands the People preserve their cultural belongings, such as traditions, language, customs, etc. and these can only be preserved by being kept in practices, here is a list of communities that might be affected with the Uniform Civil Code,

  1. Meghalaya has a matrilineal society where lineage and inheritance are traced through the mother's line. The state allows for certain exceptions in civil matters, particularly relating to property and inheritance, to uphold the matrilineal system and preserve the cultural practices of the indigenous Khasi, Garo, and Jaintia tribes.

  2. Nagaland, another northeastern state with a predominantly tribal population, has certain exceptions in civil matters. Traditional customs and practices, particularly relating to marriage and inheritance, hold significant importance in Nagaland. The Nagaland Marriage and Inheritance Act recognizes customary laws and traditions within the state.

  3. Mizoram, another northeastern state with a significant tribal population, has provisions in civil matters that consider customary laws and practices. The Mizoram Marriage, Divorce, and Inheritance (Amendment) Act, 2014, recognizes and protects the customary practices and traditions of the indigenous Mizo community.

  4. Prior to the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the state had its own constitution and a separate set of civil laws. These laws included provisions related to marriage, divorce, and property rights, allowing for certain exceptions and variations from the national civil laws.

  5. The state of Goa, with its unique blend of Portuguese and Indian influences, has its own set of civil laws known as the Goa Civil Code. It differs from the rest of India, particularly in matters of marriage, divorce, and succession. The Goa Civil Code draws from Portuguese civil law and reflects the state's historical background.

  6. The Muslim Personal Law in India, which is primarily based on Islamic principles, has been a topic of debate in the context of a Uniform Civil Code. Opponents argue that the application of a UCC might disproportionately impact Muslims and their religious practices, as their personal laws could face significant changes or restrictions under a uniform code.

A uniform civil code not only challenges the personal laws of these communities, it also threatens the word and spirit of the Constitution. A uniform civil code undermines the distinctive cultural practices and traditions followed by various religious communities challenging India's cultural and religious diversity which should be respected and preserved. Uniform Civil Code might infringe upon the rights and customs of religious minorities. They express concerns that minority communities would feel their religious freedom is compromised and that their personal laws, which they consider an integral part of their identity, would be disregarded.

The implementation of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India raises questions about the compatibility of certain articles and laws of the Indian Constitution and existing legal frameworks with the idea of a uniform set of laws governing personal matters for all citizens. It is important to note that legal interpretations and debates on this issue can vary.

Article 25: Article 25 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion, including the right to profess, practice, and propagate one's religion. Therefore implementing a uniform code may infringe upon this fundamental right, as it could be perceived as an interference with religious practices and personal laws protected under this article.

Educational Rights: Implementation of UCC may also infringe on the right to education of a specific religion since it has been a tradition in Indian families to teach religious values to the young members since childhood, this tradition which happens to be a personal choice of life, is not only threatened but the educational rights of the young members of the family to learn these values may also get challenged.

Conclusion – Implementing UCC will not only threaten various fundamental rights and the word and spirit of the constitution but also create new challenges for the legislature, as all personal matters are governed by specific statutes and religious authority. Any attempt to implement a Uniform Civil Code would require extensive deliberation, consideration of diverse viewpoints, and a balanced approach that respects individual rights, cultural diversity, and constitutional principles.

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