Uniform Civil Code: Definition, debate, way-forward
Yesterday, The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), along with several other organizations associated with the Muslim community, opposed the Law Commission’s questionnaire on the possibility of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC). There has been much debate in recent times on this topic of Uniform Civil Code. The article explore’s the topic in detail consolidating history of topic with the recent news.
Structure of Laws in India:
Before going to Uniform Civil Code, it is important that we have a look at structure of laws in India and how Indian judiciary functions.
Well, Constitution makers believed in philosophy of separation of power and so India has 3 branches of State:
- Legislature in form of Parliament and Vidhan Sabha that makes rules. It includes rules that define what is legal and illegal country & what is the punishment for breaking any law.
- The Executive, i.e. Police, Collector, Income Tax and other departments are there to see proper implementation of these laws. When someone breaks any law. Officers from one of these department show up to your place with appropriate government notice.
- The third branch is Judiciary, Government officials or anyone else that considers that you have broken a law, takes you to court. The court check for proofs and then Sabboto Aur Gawafoo ke maddnazar can annouce you as mujrim. The judge then checks what punishment is described and hands the same to you. Here, the judge only checks if you are culprit or not and cannot decide what punishment you will be given. The punishment is decided by Parliament itself when it passes the bills.
It is important here to highlight the beauty of the system, the rules are indirectly made by people themselves through chosen leaders to govern themselves and punish all those who don’t follow these rules.
Now that working of Laws is clear, we move on to next important thing, Where does the Judge Checks from ?
Well, When the Parliament & Vidhan Sabha pass different bills like juvenile justice bill, child labor act etc., there is also a section in bill that define the punishments when someone breaks the rules. The judge looks at these documents, while passing judgments.
For Sake of understanding, the Laws working in India have been divided into few Categories like below (Other Categories also exist):
- Criminal Law
- Civi Law
- Contract Law
- Labour Law
- Company Law
- Tort Law
The categories are defined according to nature of activities. Like Criminal law covers activities against state like murder, terrorism etc. Civil laws include laws relating to activities that involve dispute between citizen. Example, property dispute within family etc.
Now, a major portion of these Civil Laws are laws that relate to activities within the family and culture(Personal Laws). Example, marriages, inheritance, divorce etc.
Uniform Civil Code: The Definition
Uniform civil code is the proposal to replace the personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in India with a common set governing every citizen. These laws are distinguished from public law and cover marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance.
The source of Problem: Different rules for different people
Now, for most categories, law are same for all people, for example the punishment for murder is same whether your are hindu or muslim or sikh and so there is no issue.
However, in matters relating to personal sphere ( marriages, inheritance etc), different rules were passed for different cultures. Example: Hindu marriage act for hindu marriages, Anand Karaj for Sikhs etc. Shariat law, 1937 was passed to govern the personal matters of all Indian Muslims by Islamic laws. These were called Personal Laws.
Hence, the center of debate for Uniform civil code is that “there should be uniform or single rule for personal activities also.” That is rules for hindu, muslim, sikh marriage, inheritance should be same.
Personal Laws & Uniform Civil Code: Timeline:
British Period: Personal laws were first framed during the British Raj, mainly for Hindu and Muslim citizens. The British feared opposition from community leaders and refrained from further interfering within this domestic sphere.
Start of 20th Century: The demand for a uniform civil code was first put forward by women activists in the beginning of the twentieth century, with the objective of women’s rights, equality and secularism.
1940:The Idea of Uniform Civil Code is Born
1947: Question of UCC as a fundamental Right
1948: Constitution Assembly debated UCC
Article 44 of the Directive Principles in India sets implementation of Uniform Civil Laws as duty of the State.
1950: Reformist Bill Passed
1951: Ambekar Resigns:
Ambedkar resigned from the cabinet in 1951, when Parliament stalled his draft of the Hindu Code Bill, which sought to enshrine gender equality in the laws of inheritance and marriage.
1985: Shah Bano Case
Shah Bano, a 62-year-old Muslim mother of five, was divorced by her husband in 1978. She filed a criminal suit in the Supreme Court of India, the Court invoked Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure, which applies to everyone regardless of caste, creed, or religion. It ruled that Shah Bano be given maintenance money, similar to alimony.
The Shah Bano judgment elicited a protest from many sections of Muslims who considered it as an attack on their religion and their right to their own religious personal law. As a result, [congress] government, with its absolute majority, to pass the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 which diluted the judgment of the Supreme Court and, in reality (reference missing), denied even utterly destitute Muslim divorcées the right to alimony from their former husbands.
The law received severe criticism from several sections of the society. The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) organised demonstrations of Muslim women.
1995: Sarla Mudgal v. Union of India
The second instance in which the Supreme Court again directed the government of Article 44 was in the case of Sarla Mudgal v. Union of India .
2000: Supreme Court Advocates Uniform Civil Code
2015: The debate lives through
2016: Recent NEWS: Triple Talaq Debate
The topic of “Uniform Civil Code” again came to limelight when Narendra Modi Government asked the Law Commission to examine the issue. Consequently, Law Commission has sought public views on the matter.
Then, The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), along with several other organisations associated with the Muslim community, opposed the Law Commission’s questionnaire on the possibility of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC). They considerUCC will bring to an end country’s pluralism and paint all in “one colour”. DEBATE RESTARTS.
Why India Should Go for Uniform Civil Code?
The Constitution makers had a vision to enact UCC in future to have a same set of civil laws governing all irrespective of religion. The present government has brought forward the issue as a part of its fulfillment of manifesto of having a Uniform Civil Code.
- A secular republic like India needs a common law for all citizens rather than differentiated rules based on religious practices.
- The Uniform Civil Code is also equally required for Gender Justice. The rights of women are usually limited under religious law, be it Hindu or Muslim. The practice of triple talaq is a classic example. It is important to note that B.R. Ambedkar fought hard for the passage of the Hindu Code Bill because he saw it as an opportunity to empower women but his dreams are still far from realized.
Where to Start?
The civil law in Goa—derived from the Portuguese Civil Procedure Code of 1939—could be a useful starting point for a national debate. The coastal state continued with its practice of treating all communities alike even after its entry into the Indian Union. Family laws in Goa are uniform for all state citizens and can be considered as a model for a Uniform Civil Code in the country
Discussion on Uniform Civil Code: Rajya Sabha TV: The Big Picture