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- Article 44 enshrined in Chapter IV of the Constitution of India, 1950 states that “The State shall endeavor to secure the citizens a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) throughout the territory of India”.
- Our Constituent Assembly borrowed the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) from the Irish Constitution of 1937.
- Chapter IV of the Constitution of India describes about DPSP (Article 36-51). These are policies that the State needs to implement for the overall betterment of society.
- UCC aims to apply a uniform set of personal laws upon each religion in India.
- The matters covered under UCC are Marriage, Inheritance, Maintenance, Guardianship, Succession, Adoption, etc.
Background of UCC
Pre- Independence Period
- During the pre-colonial period, the need for a uniform law was considered in the Lex Loci Report of 1840. It included the codification of criminal laws, contract law and law of evidence but recommended to keep the personal laws outside the ambit of unification into a code.
- The non-interference in personal laws was promised in Queen’s Proclamation in 1859.
Post Independence Period
- The period counts from 1947-1985
- Members of drafting committee like Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar stood in the favor of establishing a Uniform Civil Code.
- Nevertheless, the recommendation was opposed by religious leaders, and it resulted in the incorporation of the principle in the Directive Principles of State Policy.
Contentions Favoring Uniform Civil Code
- Several acts are already functioning uniformly in India such as the Indian Contract Act, 1872 and Special Marriage Act, 1954 covering civil matters at a similar stance of personal laws.
- If a Common Civil Code is enacted and enforced, it would help to accelerate national integration.
- Overlapping of provisions of law will be avoided to establish harmony among laws.
- A sense of oneness and the national spirit would be roused.
- The country would emerge with new force and power to face any odds, finally defeating the communal and the divisionist forces.
- It would contribute to gender justice and equality to women by eradicating discriminatory practices against women in several personal laws.
Series of Landmark Case Laws
1. Md. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum (1985)
- Supreme Court upheld the uniform application of Section 125 Cr.P.C upon all religion.
- Maintenance to wives, children, and parents under Section 125 became applicable to each religion.
- The court recommended bringing a uniform civil code.
- Further, the religious debates initiated after the ruling of the case led to the enactment of The Muslim Women’s (Right to protection on divorce) Act (MWA) in 1986 which nullified the application of Section 125 upon Muslim women.
2. Ms. Jorden Deingdeh v. S.S. Chopra (1985)
- The apex court stated that this is the time to bring a Uniform Civil Code for the concept of marriage.
3. Sarla Mudgal v. Union of India (1995)
- The court stated that if a person marries again by converting into Islam without dissolving his first marriage will be punishable for Bigamy under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Any person who had been Hindu is obligated to dissolve his marriage as per Hindu Law before marrying again.
4. John Vallamattom v. Union of India (2003)
- Section 118 of Indian Succession Act, 1925 was struck down for being unconstitutional and discriminatory towards Christians.
- The reason behind the verdict was restriction imposed through the provision upon donation of property for religious and charitable purposes through will.
5. Daniel Latifi v. Union of India (2011)
- The Muslim Women’s (Right to protection on divorce) Act (MWA) was challenged before Supreme Court for being contradictory to Article 14 and 21.
- Nevertheless, the court upheld the validity of the act and harmonized it with Section 125.
6. Lily Thomas v. Union of India (2013)
- In the case the apex court left a huge emphasis upon bringing a single code for each personal law. UCC was discussed necessary for the concept of succession.
Goa Civil Code
- Portuguese Civil Code of 1867 is now known as Goa Civil Code.
- This is not dealt under Article 44 but has the same functioning and is acting as a precedent of harmony.
- Matters of marriage, succession and divorce are dealt under a uniform code in Goa.
- All religions are bound by a single civil code.
- Pre-nuptial agreements are valid in Goa to ensure the already agreed distribution of property after dissolution of marriage.
- Here marriage is considered as a contract in which consent of both the parties is required.
Implementation of UCC in Uttarakhand
- A five-membered expert committee headed by retired Supreme Judge Ranjana Desai is formulated to give recommendations for the implementation of UCC in Uttarakhand. Other members of the committee were retired High Court judge Pramod Kohli, retired IAS Shatrughan Singh, social activist Manu Gaur and Doon University VC Surekha Dangwal.
- The residents of Uttarakhand are also open to annex suggestions for its execution.
- If Uttarakhand will execute the implementation of the Article 44, it will become first state in India to take such action.
Drawback for Uniform Civil Code
- It the tough to craft a uniform rule for diverse population of India.
- People have the fear of UCC encroaching on their freedom of religion.
- If the fairness got disbalanced, during codification then it may lead to religious riots and violence.
- It demands interference of government in personal matters.
- Multiple communities in India are not prepared to undergo this change.
- The Union Civil Code is still a directive for the government to align its endeavor in order to satisfy the purpose of including it in the constitution.
- The government was expected to move ahead with its execution.
- Nevertheless, the judiciary has expressed its views in various precedents to bring the common code. But religious fundamentalists and political motives become a hurdle before its contrivance.
- Additionally, huge diversity in India population is also a reason behind delay in finding the appropriate method for the application of UCC.
- Hence, Article 44 is still a textual concept rather than having any distinctly practical application.