Uniform Civil Code
Why in news:
- A new organisation in Nagaland has threatened to burn down the official quarters of all the 60 legislators if the State Assembly succumbs to the Centre’s pressure and passes a Bill in support of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC).
- The opposition to the UCC has been the strongest in Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland where Christians account for 74.59%, 86.97%, and 87.93% respectively according to the 2011 Census.
- The northeast is one of the most culturally diverse regions in the world and is home to more than 220 ethnic communities.
- Many fear that the UCC would affect their customary laws protected by the Constitution.
What is Uniform Civil Code:
- Uniform Civil Code refers to the uniformity in the civil laws of the country irrespective of the religion
- At present, personal laws of various religious groups are governed by their religious scriptures and texts.
For ex: Muslims personal laws are governed by the Shariah law.
- But Indian laws do follow a uniform code in most of the civil matters such as Indian Contract Act 1872 Civil Procedure Code, Transfer of Property Act 1882,
Constitutional mandate for Uniform Civil Code:
- Article 44 of the Indian constitution says that “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”
Status of Uniform civil code before Independence:
- The debate for a uniform civil code dates back to the colonial period in India.
- Prior to the British rule, under the East India Company (1757-1858), they tried to reform local social and religious customs by imposing Western ideologies on India.
- The Lex Loci Report of October 1840 emphasised the importance and necessity of uniformity in codification of Indian law, relating to crimes, evidences and contract.
- But it also recommended that personal laws of Hindus and Muslims should be kept outside such codification.
Do the states have constitutional legality to pass UCC in their respective states?
- Yes, states are well within their right to frame the respective law of UCC in their state governments.
- Because personal laws such as intestacy and succession, wills, joint family and partition, marriage and divorce, relate to Entry 5 of ListIII Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
Benefits of passing Uniform Civil Code:
- Simplification of various laws: the passage of uniform civil code will bring simplicity and also negates the scope for confusion among various religious communities.
- Uniformity among different religious groups: Having a uniform civil code among different religious groups will create a level of uniformity and level playing field.
- Protection to vulnerable sections of the society: As envisioned by the Dr. B.R. Ambedkar the passage of UCC will protect the most vulnerable sections of the society like women, children etc.
- Following the principle of secularism in letter and spirit: If UCC is passed then the various religious scriptures will cease to exist and the true sense of secularism can be claimed.
Issues in the passage of UCC :
- Article 25 to 28 :
- These are fundamental rights which deal with the idea of religious freedom.
- In the Indian Constitution at many places the Fundamental Rights are given higher place compared to the Directive principles of state policy.
- Because fundamental rights are justiciable while DPSPs are not.
- UCC which fall under Art 44 comes under DPSPs.
Syllabus: Prelims + Mains; GS II – Polity and Governance