One Nation, One Law: Why India Urgently Needs A Uniform Civil Code

Let us take look into the case of Imrana – a 28-year-old woman and the mother of five children.

On June 6, 2005, Imrana was raped by her 69-year-old father-in-law. After she was raped, a local Muslim panchayat asked her to treat her husband as her son and declared their marriage null and void.

Can the law of the land justify this?

Presently, there are various family laws in India. These include the Hindu Marriage Act, the Muslim Personal Law, the Indian Christian Marriage Act, the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, and many others.

Due to the various family laws, there is an ambiguity amongst people, which leads to differentiation between them on the basis of their religion.

Having a uniform civil code (UCC) will mean that all these different laws will be replaced by a new law which will be applicable for all, irrespective of their religion.

India is a secular country – and every citizen is equal in the eyes of law. However, due to the different family laws, they are treated differently based on their religion. In my opinion, to some extent, this goes against the underlying principles of the Indian Constitution.

At the time of the drafting of our Constitution, some of the framers (in particular, Ambedkar) argued for the inclusion of a UCC – supposedly to help construct a national Indian identity, and eradicate those based on religion. But the proposal was also resisted on the grounds that it would destroy the cultural identity of the minorities.

Subsequently, a compromise was reached. The UCC was placed under the directive principles, which aren’t binding.

Not many in our country (political leaders or individuals) have ever concentrated their efforts towards defining the UCC.

What Does Our Constitution Say About The UCC?

In Article 44, our Constitution clearly specifies the UCC in the following words: “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”

The Constitution is quite clear about the fact that unless a UCC is followed, integration cannot be achieved.

Under the Preamble to the Constitution, the people of India have solemnly resolved to secure to its citizens social, economic and political justice, equality of status and opportunity and to promote fraternity, assuring the dignity of the individual and unity and integrity of the nation.

Article 14 guarantees equality before the law and the equal protection of the law.

Article 15 provides that the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion, caste, sex, etc.

Article 13 provides that all laws in force in the territory of India before the commencement of the Constitution, so far as they are inconsistent with the provision of this part, shall to the extent of such inconsistency, be void.

How long should the country wait to enact a UCC to secure and protect all this, and the unity and the integrity of the nation?

Furthermore, in cases like the Shah Bano case and the Sarla Mudgal case, the Supreme Court (SC) of India came out strongly in favour of the enactment of a UCC. The Court regretted that a UCC in India has not been given effect. In another case, the SC, again regretting the government’s inability to enact a UCC, struck down Section 118 of the Indian Succession Act. In a different case, the Court held that “India is a secular nation and it is a cardinal necessity that religion be distanced from law.”

The fact that such a verdict was given in the Imrana case is an insult to India’s legal system.

In view of above, I can clearly opine that there is an urgent need to enact a UCC, so that better laws can be enacted. It will help improve the condition of women in various religious communities like the Muslims. It will also help end vote-bank politics. It will promote unity, ensure equality and help India be a truly secular nation. It will also reduce the burden on the legal system.

A UCC is indeed necessary for the development of citizens and the country as a whole.

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