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  • Jananni Babu

Uniform Civil Code – A Need Or Needless?

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

ucc needed in india ?
Uniform Civil Code

The implementation of Uniform Civil Code has been a heated discussion for decades now. It is back in the news after PM Modi asserted the need for UCC last month during one of his speeches. It also comes less than a fortnight after the 22nd Law Commission of India sought fresh suggestions from various stakeholders, including public and religious organizations, on the UCC. The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a concept in Indian constitutional law that aims to replace personal laws based on religious or community customs and traditions with a common set of civil laws governing personal matters for all citizens of the country, irrespective of their religion, caste, or ethnicity.

The Uniform Civil Code is a proposal to replace personal laws based on religious customs and practices with a common set of laws governing various aspects of personal life, such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adoption, for all citizens irrespective of their religion. It aims to promote equality, secularism, and justice. India's decision on whether or not to implement a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a complex and multifaceted issue. It involves considerations of legal, social, cultural, and political factors.

Every law has its advantages and disadvantages when critically examined. The UCC is no different, but a careful analysis of it would shed light on the fact that if implemented, it has more disadvantages than advantages and would defeat the entire purpose of its enactment. The drawbacks to the UCC are numerous and it is only right to say that India is not prepared as a nation for the implementation of the UCC. There are a number of reasons why various proponents disregard and reject UCC.

Firstly, the Indian Constitution recognizes the right to religious freedom and allows individuals to be governed by personal laws based on their religion. Article 25 to 28 ensures the protection of religious freedom, which includes the right to practice and propagate religion, manage religious institutions, and follow personal laws. Article 44 of the Indian Constitution calls for the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code, but it has not been implemented by the different Governments that have held power at the Centre due to the vast cultural and religious differences in India. It could be argued that the Indian Constitution is contradicting itself by Article 44. Under part 3, Fundamental Rights, the Constitution are guarantees an inherent right to Freedom of Religion and to follow personal laws and right in part 4, Directive Principles of State Policy, the Constitution vouches for the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code which contradicts Article 25-28. It is to be noted that the Right to Freedom of Religion is an enforceable right whereas Article 44 is non-enforceable. Further, implementing the UCC would burden the judiciary with the emergence of new cases challenging its constitutionality.

Secondly, it is a threat to the rights of minorities which are also protected under the constitution by articles 29 and 30. One of India’s biggest strengths is its diversity and unity. Implementation of the UCC would break this harmony and it would undermine the cultural and religious autonomy of the minorities. This could lead them to feel a sense of alienation and marginalization and the minority groups might face isolation from the majority communities.

Thirdly, it could lead to a clash between the different personal laws. There are various personal laws, but the judiciary has evolved in a way that accepts all the laws in a peaceful and amicable way. There is no discrimination against the application of any personal law. The coexistence of different personal laws has been accepted by Indian society for centuries. The personal laws, even with their flaws, have managed to maintain social harmony and accommodate diverse cultural and religious practices. The various personal laws differ completely from one another. They all have a set of their own unique rules in matters of marriage, divorce, succession, inheritance, etc. To bring a consensus between all the personal laws and arrive at a Uniform Civil Code would be a very tough task. Inevitably, it would lead to hurting the religious sentiments of one religion or the other.

Next, Implementing UCC would also face a lot of practical challenges. It would require significant legislative efforts and consensus-building among various religious and cultural groups. There are concerns that such a process could lead to social unrest or conflicts. The extensive legal reforms required to harmonize personal laws into a single code would demand significant time and effort. The process of codifying personal laws into a UCC would also require addressing intricate legal and social issues, which might be challenging to achieve in a diverse country like India. The Indian judiciary is already burdened with a plethora of backlog cases. A statistic says that at the current speed, it would take 324 years to clear the backlog cases in India. Implementing UCC would exacerbate the situation and confusion about the retrospective effect of the law would also arise.

Fifth, in a country like India where religion is intricate and deep-rooted, it is hard to gain societal acceptance for a single Code. Religion and religious laws take up a huge portion of the lives of Indians and they have been socially and personally attached to it. After centuries of being guided and governed by personal laws, it would be difficult for people to give it up and adopt UCC. Social acceptance of a single code in the place of personal laws will take a few more decades. The inclusion of UCC sparked a discussion in the Constituent Assembly Debates. A voting was held and based on a 4:5 majority decided by a sub-committed for fundamental rights headed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, it was decided that the Uniform Civil Could not be placed under the Fundamental Rights. The father of Constitution the Indian Constitution, D.R. B.R. Ambedkar, while drafting the constitution, said that the UCC was desirable but should remain voluntary until the nation was socially prepared to accept it. As a result, UCC was placed under the Directive Principles of State Policy. This gives us a clear insight into the thoughts of the constitution framers. The UCC should not be implemented until there is social acceptance. In the current scenario, it is only right to say that the society is not yet ready for a Uniform Civil Code.

There are also proponents who advocate for a UCC, emphasizing gender equality, uniformity, and clarity, national integration, and the need to address discriminatory provisions within personal laws. The question of whether India requires UCC has been persistent through the decades, and it is best answered by saying that India requires UCC but this is not the right time to implement it. It still has a long way to go as a nation before the implementation of a single code.


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