The UCC is intended to replace the many conflicting laws already in force and applied to various communities. These laws include the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act, Indian Christian Marriages Act, and Indian Divorce Act.
What is Uniform Civil Code of India and How Will It Affect The Marriages in India
In our Constitution, the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is described in Article 44 of the Directive Principles of State Policy. According to this, it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that a Uniform Civil Code of India exists across India’s territory. In other words, it refers to one country, one rule. Let’s learn more about the Uniform Civil Code and its advantages and disadvantages.
What is Uniform Civil Code of India?
A national civil code that is uniformly applicable to everyone is referred to as a “Uniform Civil Code,” It states that all segments of society, regardless of their religious beliefs, shall be considered equally under this national civil code.
They deal with marriage registration, divorce, support, inheritance, adoption, and property succession. Its underlying tenet holds that there is no relationship between religion and the rule of law in contemporary civilisation.
Why is Article 44 important?
Addressing discrimination against vulnerable groups and bringing together various cultural groups across the nation were the two goals of Article 44 of the Directive Principles in the Indian Constitution. Dr B. R. Ambedkar stated that a Uniform Civil Code of India is desirable but should be voluntary for the time being when drafting the Constitution.
As a result, Article 35 of the draught Constitution was added as Article 44 of the Directive Principles of the State Policy in Part IV of the Constitution of India. The Constitution included it as a clause whose fulfilment would occur once the country was ready to embrace it and the UCC could gain social acceptance.
Origin of Uniform Civil Code
The British government’s report from 1835, which emphasised the necessity of uniformity in the codification of Indian law concerning crimes, evidence, and contracts, is where the UCC first emerged. It also recommended that the personal laws of Hindus and Muslims not be included in this codification.
The government established the B N Rau Committee in 1941 to codify Hindu law due to increased legislation addressing personal issues at the end of British rule. The Hindu Law Committee was charged with examining the issue of whether common Hindu laws were necessary. The committee, per the scriptures, recommended a codified Hindu law that would grant women equal rights. A civil code of marriage and succession for Hindus was suggested after a review of the 1937 Act.
What is the Hindu Code Bill?
After the Constitution was adopted in 1951, a select committee headed by B. R. Ambedkar was convened, and they were given the Rau Committee report’s draught to review. The Hindu Code Bill was discussed for a while before it expired and was resubmitted in 1952.
The Hindu Succession Act was subsequently passed in 1956 to amend and codify the law governing intestate or unwilled succession among Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs. The Act updated Hindu personal law and increased women’s property rights and ownership opportunities. Their father’s estate granted women property rights.
For a male who passes away intestate, the rules and guidelines of succession under the Act of 1956 state that Class I heirs succeed before heirs in other classes. The Act was amended in 2005 to add more descendants, elevating women to Class I heirs. The daughter receives the same share as the son.
The Distinction between Civil and Criminal Law
The civil laws in India are influenced by faith, whereas the criminal laws are uniform and apply to everyone equally, regardless of their religious beliefs. Though influenced by religious texts, the personal laws that apply in civil cases have always been applied following constitutional standards.
What are Personal Laws?
Laws are made after carefully considering traditions and religious texts that apply to a particular group based on their caste, religion, faith, and beliefs. Hindu and Muslim personal law derives from and is governed by ancient religious texts.
Hinduism applies personal laws to cases involving legal matters such as succession, inheritance, marriage, adoption, co-parenting, sons’ debt-paying responsibilities, the division of family assets, support, guardianship, and charitable contributions.
Personal laws, which have their roots in the Quran, are applicable in Islam regarding succession, wills, inheritance, legacies, marriages, wakfs, dowry, custody, divorce, gifts, and pre-emption.
Shah Bano Case (1985)
The Shah Bano Case is better known as Mohammad Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum. Shah Bano moved to the Supreme Court in this case in 1985 to request maintenance under section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure after her husband gave her a triple talaq divorce and refused to pay her regular maintenance.
According to section 125 of the Indian Criminal Code, which is applied to all citizens regardless of religion, the Supreme Court found in Shah Bano’s favour. Chief Justice Y.V. Chandrachud states that a Common Civil Code would aid national integration by removing divergent legal allegiances. The court then gave Parliament the order to draught a UCC.
On the other hand, the Rajiv Gandhi government was not pleased with the court’s ruling. Rather than approving it, the government passed the Muslim Women Act 1986 to overturn the Shah Bano Case ruling by the Supreme Court and allow Muslim Personal Law to take precedence in divorce cases. According to this Act, a Muslim woman only has the right to iddat (three months of maintenance) following a divorce before her support is transferred to her family or the Wakf Board.
Sarla Mudgal Case
This is the second time the Supreme Court has instructed the government following Article 44. In the case Sarla Mudgal v. Union of India, the issue was whether a Hindu husband who had been wed according to Hindu law could perform a second marriage after converting to Islam.
According to the Supreme Court, it is against the law to adopt Islam to enter a second marriage. Further, Hindu marriages could be dissolved under the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, meaning that simply converting to Islam and getting married again would not be sufficient to end a Hindu marriage. This would violate Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code.
John Vallamattom vs. Union of India Case
In 1997, a Keralan priest named John Vallamatton filed a writ petition claiming that Section 118 of the Indian Succession Act discriminated against Christians by placing unreasonable limitations on their ability to leave property to a religious or charitable organisation through their wills. The bench invalidated the Section, which was made up of Chief Justice of India V.V. Khare, Justice S.B. Sinha, and Justice A.R. Lakshmanan, announcing it to be unconstitutional. Khare added the following;
“Article 44 states that the State must make every effort to ensure that all citizens have access to a Uniform Civil Code across the entire territory of India.
It is regrettable that Article 44 of the Constitution has still not been implemented. The country’s common civil code will eventually be drafted by Parliament. By removing the conflicts based on ideologies, a Common Civil Code would then serve the interests of national unification.”
UCC would be the ideal State to protect citizens’ rights. Its adoption will result in progressive law. Due to the changing times, a Common Civil Code is now required to protect all citizens’ fundamental rights and the Constitution, regardless of their religion. By implementing UCC, secularism and national integrity can be strengthened. It remains to be seen whether a nation with the cultural and religious diversity of India can integrate a Uniform Civil Code of India.