Importance of the Uniform Civil Code and Secularism in India

This Article will help people understand the concept of Uniform Civil Code, the importance of UCC, the stand of the judiciary on Uniform Civil Code, Views of Chairman of drafting committee of Constitution of India Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on UCC and where India stands today as far as implementation of Uniform Civil Code is concerned.

Meaning and importance of the Uniform Civil Code

Article 44 of Constitution of India, under the head 'Directive Principles', provides that the state shall secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India.

Today, matters related to marriage, divorce, succession etc. are administered by various personal laws for different religions, for example: matters related to marriage of Hindus are governed by The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and matters related to marriage of Christians are governed by The Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872. When Uniform Civil Code will be implemented, the matters related to marriage, divorce, succession, etc. will no longer be governed by personal laws and therefore there will be one uniform law for all the citizens irrespective of their religion.

The most important thing is that the Uniform Civil Code falls under directive principles and directive principles are constitutional obligations on the State to implement UCC for citizens of India throughout the territory of India. Here, let me make it clear that the concept of "State" in terms of the Constitution, as per Article 12 of the Constitution, is not restricted to a State Government only but it includes the Central Government as well as all other Government departments and machinery.

The core reason behind the matrimonial problems specific to women and children is that registration of the matters related to marriage, divorce, and succession also, is not mandatory in most of the personal laws. Implementation of Uniform Civil Code will make it mandatory for everyone irrespective of their religion.

Uniform Civil Code will help in the following areas:
  • It will help to prevent child marriage;

  • Check on matters like bigamy and polygamy;

  • Help women to exercise their rights under marriage, maintenance, custody of children, etc.;

  • Help widows to claim inheritance;

  • It will also deter husbands from deserting their wives.

Judicial directions for implementation

In the year 1995, in Sarla Mudgal V. Union of India, the Supreme Court had directed the then Prime Minister to take a fresh look at Article 44 of the Constitution which enjoins the State to secure a uniform civil code which, according to the Court, is imperative for both, the protection of the oppressed, and the promotion of national unity and integrity. The Court also directed the Govt. to file an affidavit for implementation of uniform civil code for the citizens of India.

In the above-mentioned case, the division bench noted that, since 1950, a number of Governments had come and gone but they had failed to make any efforts towards implementing the constitutional mandate under Article 44. Consequently, the problem today is that many Hindus have changed their religion and have converted to Islam only for the purpose of escaping the consequences of bigamy because Muslim law permits more than one wife and to the extent of four.

In John Vallamatton V. Union of India, in the year 2003, Supreme Court had once again expressed regret for non-enactment of Common Civil Code.

Judicial stand on Uniform Civil Code and Secularism

In Sarla Mudgal V. Union of India, Kuldip Singh J., said that Article 44 is based on the concept that there is no necessary connection between religion and personal law in a civilized society. Marriage, succession and the like matters are of a secular nature and therefore, they can be regulated by law. No religion permits deliberate distortions. Much apprehension prevails about bigamy in Islam itself. Many Islamic countries, as in Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Pakistan, Iran, and others, have codified their personal law to check its abuse.

In John Vallamatton V. Union of India - The Chief Justice of India, in view of the facts of the case, forcefully reiterated the view that the Common Civil Code be enacted as it would solve many problems. He said, "Article 44 is based on the premise that there is no necessary connection between religion and personal law in a civilized society. Article 25 and 44 show that former guarantees religious freedom whereas the latter divests religion from social relations and personal law. It is no matter of doubt that marriage, succession and the like matters of a secular character cannot be brought within the guarantee enshrined under Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution. It is a matter of regret that Article 44 of the Constitution has not been given effect to as it will enhance the cause of national integration by removing the contradiction based on ideologies."

Crucial questions to be addressed

  1. When judiciary has made it clear that implementation of the Uniform Civil Code will not disrupt secularism of India and it will enhance unity and integrity of India by breaking barriers of religions, why then still many politicians are trying to communalise the matter by linking it with religions and terming it as an attack on India's secular character?

  2. When Islamic nations like Iran, Pakistan, Syria, etc. have implemented the Uniform Civil Code, why a secular nation like India cannot implement it? How can there be laws based on religions when the nature of India's culture and the constitution itself is secular?

Dr. Ambedkar's views

This is what Dr. Ambedkar had to say on the Uniform Civil Code while debating in the Constituent Assembly -

  • "I personally do not understand why religion should be given this vast, expensive jurisdiction so as to cover the whole life and to prevent the legislature from encroaching upon that field. After all, what are we having this liberty for?"

  • "We are having this liberty in order to reform our social system, which is so full of inequalities, discriminations and other things which conflict with our fundamental rights."

Position today

Today, Delhi is still far away. The State of Goa is the only State which has implemented the Uniform Civil Code. It is unfortunate that even after seven decades of independence, India is under the influence of vote bank politics and minority appeasement politics in the name of secularism and therefore consensus for Uniform Civil Code among all the political parties is still a dream. The current Govt. at Center had promised to pass UCC in their Lok Sabha 2019 election manifesto and also can pass a Bill on Uniform Civil Code in Lok Sabha where it has a full majority on its own. However, the same b=Bill will get stalled in the upper house of Parliament i.e. Rajya Sabha, as it has no majority and enough numbers as well as support out there. India may have to wait for implementation of UCC for a long time as no ray of hope is visible in the near future in the current atmosphere of Indian politics.

Article by Umang Shah
"Words are precious, ought to be used wisely." - Umang Shah

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Guest Author: B K Jha04 Jul 2019

The UCC is a necessity in urgency. Any delay in its implementation is going to be detrimental to Indian society. It also must have a component on population policy, failing which it would lose its sheen.

I liked the writeup. Its relevance is timely as well.

Author: Umang Shah27 Jul 2019 Member Level: Silver   Points : 0

Thank you very much B K Jha sir for your words of appreciation.

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