Uniform Civil Code: A Code for Secularism and Upliftment of Woman

Oct 10, 2020

A unique set of rules, the Uniform Civil Code is the concept of a uniform code for all religions residing in the country of India through the eradication of the age-old personal laws still relied upon in the country. Yet, the idea of uniform civil code is neither new nor an alien concept to the authorities of the country. With more than a billion individuals residing in the country, the law-making authorities have an incredibly tough task in the strive for a uniform civil code while maintaining respect to the multitude of religions present in the country and respecting the secular nature of the Constitution of India. This essay seeks to explore the concept of a uniform civil code in India and the current scheme of things regarding the discriminatory practices against the woman in the current personal laws in place throughout the country. 

Under the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) of the Constitution of India, Article 44 reads that the "State shall endeavour to provide for its citizens a uniform civil code”. The current set of laws followed by the different sects of people around the country relate to their religions and are therefore known as personal laws. Personal laws relate to a multitude of different subjects such as marriage, divorce and inheritance. Hindus around the country are governed by their laws which have significantly been revised to be framed according to the merits of secularism and modernism through acts of parliament such as the "The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955", "The Hindu Succession Act, 1956", etc. Muslims around the country are subjected to their laws which remain primarily uncodified and traditional and therefore Muslims are governed by the Shariat Law and state interference is looked down upon due to the nature of religious authorities making decisions in matters of personal disputes. 

A uniform civil code has many benefits for the people of this country. In a country with more than a billion inhabitants, national integrity is as important as national security. Due to the frequently discriminatory nature of personal laws, a uniform civil code will not only protect the interests of the vulnerable sections of the society, i.e. religious minorities but also unify the country through the spread of national integration of everyone. Moreover, the complicated nature of different personal laws for every major religious group in the country makes the process of justice cumbersome and long, therefore, through a unified civil code, the process for justice and inclusion would become inherently simplified. As has been seen through various personal laws relating to marriage and divorce, and much more, a woman has been a constant target for repetitive discrimination underage old patriarchal norms. The right to equality and liberty, as envisaged in the constitution, would be achieved for a woman through the process of discarding patriarchal personal laws with a uniform civil codeFinally, as envisaged by the first prime minister of India, Pandit Nehru, through a uniform civil code, the discard of religion from the objectives of society would eventually achieve the goal of an objectively secular India. 

While the need for a uniform civil code seems desirable and imperative for the successful transition of Indian society into the future, there are numerous challenges faced by the authorities to achieve such a goal. As the various personal laws of the many different religions currently in place are ancient traditions, through the implementation of a uniform civil code, Article 25 of the Constitution of India will essentially be violated as it lays down the fundamental right of the right to practice religion for an individual. For the creation of a successful uniform civil code, the lawmakers must seek to provide a code which does not offend or intrinsically impose alien rules and laws on minority religious communities. If so, then the entire fundamental fabric of spiritual prosperity through personal laws will get tarnished without a successful successor. Furthermore as has been seen in reports published by various government-appointed agencies such as the Law Commission and its 2018 report regarding family law rights and duties, it is essentially stated that the need for a uniform civil code is not practical at this point of Indian democracy as it will instil more chaos than what is already in place with the personal laws currently. 

It is essential to consider the rights and customs of all religious groups around the country before the implantation of a uniform civil code. The progressive nature of a uniform civil code in India is barred from taking form due to the heavily stigmatized personal laws in place. Yet, as the 2018 Law Commission of India report clearly states, the state of India and its sociological stance is essentially not prepared for the discard of age-old personal laws for a progressive uniform civil codeA uniform civil code will not only change the laws in place regarding subjects such as marriage and divorce but would also change the fundamental fabric of subjects such as succession and inheritance. Yet, the challenges outweigh the benefits, and therefore the current scenario of Indian democracy is not ready for a uniform civil code.