UPSC MAINS SOCIOLOGY SYLLABUS
Paper 2 – Section C – Social Changes in India – (iv) Politics and Society:
(a) Nation, democracy and citizenship.
(b) Political parties, pressure groups, social and political elite.
(c) Regionalism and decentralization of power.
Article 44 contained in part IV of the Constitution says that the state “shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”. Part IV of the Constitution outlines the Directive Principles of State Policy, which, while not enforceable or justiciable in a court of law, are fundamental to the country’s governance.
WHAT IS UNIFORM CIVIL CODE ?
UCC is envisaged to provide for one law for the entire country, applicable to all religious communities in their personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption etc. The Uniform Civil Code means a uniform personal law for all citizens of the country. This code will replace the existing religious personal laws in India and have a uniform law that will cater to all the citizens, irrespective of their religion.
ARGUMENTS FOR UCC
- UCC will ensure the integration of India by bringing different communities on a common platform.
- It is commonly observed that personal laws of almost all religions are discriminatory towards women. UCC will promote gender parity through uniformity of laws.
- Contemporary India is a totally new society with 55% of its population is below 25 years of age. Their social attitudes and aspirations are shaped by universal and global principles of equality, humanity, and modernity. Their view of shedding identity on the basis of any religion has to be given a serious consideration so as to utilize their full potential towards nation building.
ARGUMENTS AGAINST UCC
- The main argument against a UCC is that it violates the constitutional freedom to practice the religion of choice which allows religious communities to follow their respective personal laws. For example, Article 25 gives every religious group the right to manage its own affairs. A similar concern has been voiced by tribal groups like the Rashtriya Adivasi Ekta Parishad, which approached the Supreme Court in 2016 seeking protection of their customs and religious practices from a potential UCC.
- It is also argued that if codified civil laws and criminal laws like the CrPC and IPC don’t follow ‘one nation, one law’, then how can this diktat be applied to diverse personal laws of various communities? For example, the Indian Evidence Act of 1872, a federal act, was amended by the governments of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
- It is alleged that a UCC will impose a Hinduised code for all communities.
THE CASE OF GOA
Goa is the only state in the country that has a UCC. But the Goa Civil Code was given by the Portuguese in 1867.
WHAT DOES THE SUPREME COURT SAY?
In its Mohd. Ahmed Khan vs Shah Bano Begum judgement of 1985, where a divorced Muslim woman demanded maintenance from her former husband, the apex court while deciding whether to give prevalence to the CrPc or the Muslim personal law, called for the implementation of the UCC.
The Court also called on the government to implement the UCC in the 1995 Sarla Mudgal judgement as well as in the Paulo Coutinho vs Maria Luiza Valentina Pereira case (2019).
It is practically tough to come up with a common and uniform set of rules for personal issues like marriage due to tremendous cultural diversity India across the religions, sects, castes, states etc. Many communities, particularly minority communities perceive Uniform Civil Code as an encroachment on their rights to religious freedom. Such a code, in its true spirit, must be brought about by borrowing freely from different personal laws, making gradual changes in each, issuing judicial pronouncements assuring gender equality, and adopting expansive interpretations on marriage, maintenance, adoption, and succession by acknowledging the benefits that one community secures from the others.