Uniform Civil Code intents to replace Personal Laws in the country with a common set governing every citizen. These laws cover marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance.
History of Uniform Civil Code
During British period
The debate for a uniform civil code dates back to the colonial period in India. The Lex Loci Report of October 1840 emphasized the importance and necessity of coding of uniform Indian law relating to crimes, evidences and contract but it recommended that personal laws of Hindus and Muslims should be kept outside such codification. Thus every community had their personal laws for civil matters like Hindu Personal Law, Muslim Personal Law etc. Even when the Indian Penal Code was enacted in 1860, personal laws were left untouched.
However, as Muslim Personal law was not strictly enforced and due to pressure from the Muslim elite, the Shariat law of 1937 was passed which stipulated that all Indian Muslims would be governed by Islamic laws on marriage, divorce, maintenance, adoption, succession and inheritance.
After independence demand for Uniform Civil Code was raised but could not implemented rather Parliament added it in Directive Principle of State Policy (DPSP) and passed four separate acts, the Hindu Marriage Act, Succession Act, Minority and Guardianship Act and Adoptions and Maintenance Act.
But to allow citizen to marry outside their specific religious personal law, Special Marriage Act was enacted.
Again the debate of Uniform Code started with Shah Bano case in 1985. Local Court ruled in favour of Bano for getting maintenance from her husband, Mohammed Ahmed Khan who divorced her. Khan, who himself was a lawyer and a member of Muslim Personal Law Board appealed in Supreme Court. SC also ruled in favour of Bano but not under personal law rather under Section 125 of All India Criminal Code. SC also recommend uniform civil code be set up.
Rajiv Gandhi’s Government initially supported the SC’s recommendation but later stepped back and passed Muslim Women’s (Protection of Rights on Divorce) in 1986, which made Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code inapplicable to Muslim women.
Since then debate on Uniform Civil Code (UCC) goes on with Supreme Court want government to enact uniform civil code and Personal Law Boards opposing it.
Why Uniform Civil Code is not suitable for India?
- Against the Fundamental Right “Freedom of Religion”: Uniform Civil Code is against of fundamental right under article 25 and 26.
- Diversity need to be preserved: India is a diverse nation and it is the beauty of the country which cannot be neglected to forcefully bring Uniform Civil Code.
- Importance of Personal Laws: Even British knows the importance of Personal Laws thus they codified Uniform Criminal Code leaving behind Personal Laws untouched.