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Uniform Civil Code what does the Constitution say on it what will change after its implementation

Pankaj Prasad
Uniform Civil Code meeting
Uniform Civil Code meeting

Uniform Civil Code means having uniform law for every citizen living in India, irrespective of religion or caste.

The Law Commission on Wednesday initiated the process of seeking fresh consultations on the issue of Uniform Civil Code (UCC). The commission has sought views of the general public and religious organizations on the issue. After this step of the Law Commission, the issue of Uniform Civil Code has again come up for discussion.

What is Uniform Civil Code after all? What does the constitution say on this? What is its history? How is civil law different from criminal law? What will change with the Uniform Civil Code? What is the debate on Uniform Civil Code? Let us know…

Is it the first time that opinion has been sought regarding this?

The Law Commission, headed by former Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Ritu Rai Awasthi, has again sought views on the Uniform Civil Code. The commission has issued a public notice on Wednesday. Earlier, the 21st Law Commission had invited comments on UCC from the public and stakeholders on October 7, 2016. It was reiterated on March 19, 2018 and again on March 27, 2018.

After this, on August 31, 2018, the Law Commission recommended for the reform of the civil law. Since more than three years have passed since the last opinion. In such a situation, considering the seriousness of the subject and the orders of the court, the 22nd Law Commission has decided to seek opinion on this subject again.

What is Uniform Civil Code?

Uniform Civil Code means having uniform law for every citizen living in India, irrespective of religion or caste. With the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code, there will be one law for all religions. The same law will apply to all religions in matters of marriage, divorce, adoption and distribution of property.

  The issue has been at the center of political debate for several decades. The UCC has been a priority agenda for the current ruling BJP at the Center since the days of the Jana Sangh. BJP was the first party to promise to implement UCC if voted to power and the issue was also a part of its 2019 Lok Sabha election manifesto.

What does the constitution say on this?

Article 44 of the Constitution in the country has provision regarding Uniform Civil Code. It states that the state can implement it. Its objective was to eliminate discrimination or partiality with any particular class on the basis of religion and to establish harmony among diverse cultural groups across the country. Constitution maker Dr. BR Ambedkar had said that UCC is necessary but for the time being it should remain voluntary.

Article 35 of the draft constitution was added to Part IV of the Constitution of India as Article 44 as part of the Directive Principles of State Policy. It was included in the constitution as a vision that would be fulfilled when the nation is ready to accept it and UCC can be given social acceptance.

What is its history?

UCC has its origins in colonial India when the British government submitted its report in 1835. In this report, the need for uniformity of Indian laws relating to crimes, evidence and contracts was emphasized. In particular, it recommended that the personal laws of Hindus and Muslims be kept out of such codification.

The British government appointed the BN Rao Committee in 1941 to codify Hindu law. The committee recommended a codified Hindu law, according to the scriptures, which would give equal rights to women. Along with this, the committee also recommended a civil code for Hindus in the issues of marriage and succession.

What is Hindu Code Bill?

The draft of the Rao committee report was submitted to a select committee headed by BR Ambedkar. This draft came up for discussion after the adoption of the Constitution in 1951. The Hindu Code Bill lapsed amid discussion and was reintroduced in 1952. The bill was adopted as the Hindu Succession Act in 1956 to amend and codify the law relating to wills or succession among Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs. The act reformed Hindu personal law and gave more property rights and ownership rights to women. It gave women property rights in their father's property.

What is the difference between civil law and criminal law?

The criminal laws in India are uniform and apply equally to all, irrespective of their religious beliefs. On the other hand, civil laws are influenced by religious values. Personal laws applicable to civil matters have always been applied according to constitutional norms based on religious texts.

What will the Uniform Civil Code do?

The UCC, when implemented, will replace laws such as the Hindu Code Bill, Shariat Law, Special Marriage Act. Uniform civil law would then apply to all citizens irrespective of their religion. Its proponents argue that it will help promote gender equality, reduce discrimination based on religion, and simplify the legal system. Opponents, on the other hand, say it would infringe on religious freedom and that individual laws should be left to the discretion of each religious community.

What is the stand of the Center on this?

In its affidavit in the Supreme Court on Uniform Civil Code last year, the Center had said that people of different religions and sects follow different property and matrimonial laws which are "against the unity of the country". In an affidavit filed in response to a petition in October 2022, the Union Ministry of Law and Justice had said that Article 44 (UCC) reinforces the objective of a secular democratic republic as enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution. The ministry had told the apex court that in view of the importance of the subject matter and the sensitivity involved, a thorough study of the provisions of various personal laws governing different communities was required. Simultaneously, the Center had requested the Law Commission of India to examine the issue relating to the UCC and make recommendations.