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States can enact laws on uniform civil code: Law Minister

  • Published
    16th Dec, 2022
Context

The Law Minister Kiren Rijiju informed the Rajya Sabha, that the States are empowered to enact personal laws that decide issues such as succession, marriage and divorce, in their endeavour to secure a uniform civil code (UCC).

Background:

  • The origin of the UCC dates back to colonial India when the British government submitted its report in 1835 stressing the need for uniformity in the codification of Indian law relating to crimes, evidence, and contracts, specifically recommending that personal laws of Hindus and Muslims be kept outside such codification.
  • An increase in legislation dealing with personal issues at the far end of British rule forced the government to form the B N Rau Committee to codify Hindu law in 1941.
  • Based on these recommendations, a bill was then adopted in 1956 as the Hindu Succession Act to amend and codify the law relating to intestate or unwilled succession, among Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs.
    • However, there were separate personal laws for Muslims, Christians and Parsis.
  • In order to bring uniformity, the courts have often said in their judgements that the government should move towards a UCC.
    • The judgement in the Shah Bano case(1985).
    • Another case was the Sarla Mudgal Case (1995), which dealt with the issue of bigamy and conflict between the personal laws existing on matters of marriage.
  • By arguing that practices such as triple talaq and polygamy impact adversely the right of a woman to a life of dignity, the Centre has raised the question of whether constitutional protection given to religious practices should extend even to those that are not in compliance with fundamental rights.
About

About Uniform Civil Code (UCC):

  • Uniform Civil Code generally refers to that part of the law that deals with the family affairs of an individual and denotes uniform law for all citizens, irrespective of his/her religion, caste or tribe.
  • A Uniform Civil Code administers the same set of secular civil laws to govern different people belonging to different religions and regions. This supersedes the right of citizens to be governed under different personal laws based on their religion or ethnicity.
  • The common areas covered by a civil code include:
  • Personal Status
  • Rights related to the acquisition and administration of property
  • Marriage, divorce and adoption

Need for such legislation:

  • The need for a uniform civil code is inscribed in Article 44 (Article 35 in the draft constitution). This article is included in Part IV of the Constitution dealing with the directive principles of state policy.
  • The legal nature of the Directive Principles is such that they cannot be enforced by any court and therefore these are non-judicial rights.

Constitutional Provisions:

  • Article 44, which deals with the Uniform Civil Code states: "The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens, a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India".
  • The Constitution calls upon the State to apply UCC principles in making laws as these principles are fundamental in the governance of the country.

In India, Goa is the only state to have implemented the directive principle of the Uniform Civil Code and converted it into a law called the Goa Civil Code or the Goa Family Law. It is the set of civil laws that governs all the Goans irrespective of the religion or the ethnicity to which they belong.

Who can enact laws on the Uniform Civil code?

  • The Parliament is authorized to make laws on UCC, as per the Constitution of India, with the consultation of States.
  • This will be done by amending the Constitutional provisions and hence requiring more than 50% of the States to agree to the amendment.

Are States empowered to take decisions regarding UCC?

  • As per Entry 5 of List-III-Concurrent List, Personal laws such as intestacy and succession; wills; joint family and partition; marriage and divorce, relate to the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, and hence, the States are also empowered to legislate upon them.

Advantages surrounding UCC:

  • Prevention of discrimination- Prevention of discrimination based on religion, race, caste, gender, etc. UCC will also cease discrimination in subject matters of succession, inheritance, marriage, divorce, adoption, guardianship, etc.
  • Help in better understanding of personal laws-Prevention of complexity in implementing and understanding various personal laws of different religions.
  • Prevention of violence against women- Prevention of violence against women and preserving the rights of women in India, since numerous personal laws like marriage, divorce, and succession of a certain religion are violative of fundamental rights of women.

Issues surrounding UCC:

  • Difficulty in execution-Different religions having different religious faiths which are based on the basic practices of the religion causes difficulty in implementing a basic platform of practices for every religion.
  • Fear among minorities- The misconception of minorities that UCC will destroy their religious practices and they will be compliant to follow the religious practice of majorities, i.e. Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jain, and Zoroastrians.
  • Unawareness among people- The most significant issue is the unawareness of people regarding the objects of UCC, and the reason for such unawareness is the lack of education, fake news, and irrational religious beliefs.
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