Proposal of Uniform Civil Code has kicked up a storm amongst the various religious sects in the country. While several have come out in support, most have said that such a code could kill religious diversity in India. As the nation heads into debate, let’s have a look at what is uniform civil code.
Uniform Civil Code essentially means having a common set of laws applicable to all citizens of India irrespective of their religion, caste, community, creed dealing with the personal matters like marriage, inheritance, adoption, divorce and maintenance.
Enforcement of a uniform civil code will mean that all the existing personal laws that currently permit unfair practices such as polygamy, the baffling case of ‘oral talaq’ among Muslims, it will put an end to the judgments passed by the unconstitutional bodies like Panchayats in India. These will all then become subservient to an equitable constitutional law- uniform civil code.
Which is the only state in India to have a uniform civil code?
Goa is the only state in India which has a common civil code. It is also known as the Goa Family Law which remains an exception to the otherwise religion-specific civil codes that separately govern the adherents of different religions in India.
Although Goa Civil Code is not strictly a uniform civil, it has specific provisions for certain communities. For example - the law has inequalities in cases of adopted and illegitimate children. For Hindus, the divorce is permitted only on the grounds of adultery by the wife.
#Article 44 of the Directive Principles of State Policy set the implementation of uniform civil code as duty of the state. But as Article 37 makes clear that Directive Principles are not enforceable by any court of law but they are fundamental in the governance of the country.
#The personal laws were first framed during the British Raj. However, the demand for a uniform civil code in India was first put forward in the beginning of the 20th century by women activists to promote women’s rights, equality and secularism.
#The code entered extensive debate after the Shah Bano case was highlighted.
Who was Shah Bano?
Shah Bano, a 62-year-old Muslim mother of five children from Indore was divorced by her husband in the year 1978. When she filed a criminal lawsuit against in the Supreme Court, she won the right to alimony (under the general provisions to CrPC) from her husband.
But following the pressure from the Islamic orthodoxy, the Indian parliament reversed the judgment. But the then Rajiv Gandhi government brought in an act to nullify the Supreme Court judgment.
Some of the conservative clerics cited Quran to show that the judgment was in conflict with what the Holy book says. It had evoked criticism among Muslims and also triggered controversy about the extent applying different civil codes for different religions in India.