Law Commission On Uniform Civil Code In India

  • In a recent ‘Consultation Paper on Family Law Reforms’ released by the Law Commission, the commission has taken a stand in favour of “equality ‘within communities’ between men and women” (personal law reform), “rather than ‘equality between’ communities (Uniform Civil Code)”.The consultation paper states that the Law Commission should deal with laws that are discriminatory rather than providing a uniform civil code which is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage.
  • Though the earlier intent of Uniform Civil Code was to ensure the assimilation of the best of all personal laws and codifying it into one single code valid for all Indian citizens, the current debate has been limited to deleting provisions of personal laws of particular communities terming it as unconstitutional and against equality. This needs to be checked as it does not bode well for the Indian Society in general.

What is Uniform Civil Code?

Article 44 of the Directive Principles (DPSP) in the Constitution says the “State shall endeavour to provide for its citizens a uniform civil code (UCC) throughout the territory of India.” The objective of this endeavour should be to address the discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonize diverse cultural practices. A uniform civil code administers the same set of secular civil laws to govern all people irrespective of their religion, caste and tribe.

Current Status

The Indian constitution currently allows different communities to follow their personal laws for marriage, divorce, inheritance, succession and adoption. The contentious nature of the issue is best illustrated by the fact that Article 25 of the constitution upholds the practice and propagation of religion as a fundamental right while Article 44 lists that the state shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the country, as one of the directive principles of state policy.

Criticisms against implementing UCC

  • Seen as an interference by the majority on personal laws of the minority.
  • Seen as infringing on the fundamental rights of minorities provided under Article 25(freedom of religion)
  • Difficult to implement in a diverse country like India having its own diverse cultures and religions
  • Politically motivated topic to segregate communities along religious lines during election season
  • Can be a cause for social unrest and move against secularism

Recommendations made by the Law Panel

  • Treat a Muslim mother as natural guardian of child on equal footing with the father.
  • Amend Juvenile Justice Act to ensure all communities can adopt children (only Hindus can now do so without too much hassle and with full inheritance rights for the adopted child).
  • Enact a law on the legitimisation and inheritance of children born out of live-in relationships.
  • Make 18 the marriageable age for both boys and girls (it’s now 21 for boys).
  • Simplify divorce procedures to discourage spouses from bringing false criminal charges (like domestic cruelty) against each other to ensure a quick exit.
  • Amend Special Marriages Act to ensure 30-day notice given to the registrar is not misused by families to discourage inter-caste or inter-religion marriages.
  • Make polygamy a crime for all communities, with a clarification in the Nikah halala itself.

Way Forward

  • Reforming personal laws to ensure each of them are contemporary, progressive and gender sensitive
  • Assimilation and adoption of best practices of different religious personal laws among each other, which will build trust among communities
  • Political maturity should be shown during elections while discussing the topic realising the sensitivity of the topic
  • Recognizing the fact that India’s strength lies in its plurality and diversity. Therefore enforcing Uniform Civil Code on Indian Citizens in name of national integration, gender equality and to provide equality among all citizens may not have the desired effect.