Uniform Civil Code – A brief history and the judicial standing 2020

Introduction

Uniform Civil Code for the Country is a law common to all communities in personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and succession. Article 44 - B.N. Rau Committee

India is a land of diversities; of different religions, cast, and sections of people, having different cultural and historical backgrounds. Every religion had its rules and regulations. Every cast and section of people have their set of beliefs. It was quite a task to unite all these people and make a nation. Hence the framers of our constitution mentioned in Article 44 that the state shall secure for all its citizens, a Uniform Civil Code. Uniform Civil Code for the Country is a law common to all communities in personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and succession.

Uniform Civil Code has been a heated topic of debate from the British era and has existed in the country is over 180 years old, but never been implemented. It has grown to be arguably one of the longest pending matters in the legislation to be implemented especially with the growing need for gender equality and freedom. However, much caution is required by the implementing government keeping in mind the diverse interest of people with varying degrees of religious sensibilities.

B.N. Rau Committee (The Hindu Law Committee)

In 1941 of the B.N. Rau Committee (The Hindu Law Committee) took up the task to examine the question of the necessity of common Hindu laws. It had then recommended a codified Hindu law, which would give equal rights and opportunities to women keeping in mind the modern trends and outlook in the society. It comprehensively dealt with succession, Maintenance, Marriage and Divorce, Minority and Guardianship, and Adoption. All these provisions had to be broken up into separate parts, apparently to nudge through the radical changes in smaller steps, rather than as a whole scale transformation. Hence the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, and Hindu Succession Act, 1956 was passed.

The question that, why only the Hindu Law alone was codified and why was it not codified for the entire population, remains answered to this day. Maybe the framers of the Constitution believed that the time would not be far off when other communities might also like to follow a similar path. But, it was a pious hope that did not materialize. 

However, the people (Hindus in general) were unhappy as;

Uniform Civil Code must be implemented urgently | IndiaFactsIndiaFacts 
<ol type=
  • The Supreme Court in Ms. Jorden Diengdeh vs. S.S. Chopra[i] stated that laws relating to judicial separation, nullity of marriage, and divorce are far from uniform. It is time for a complete reform of marriage laws and makes a uniform law applicable to all people irrespective of religion or cast. They requested the intervention of the legislature in these matters to provide for a uniform code of marriage and divorce.
    • In Mohamed Ahmed Khan vs. Shah Bano Begum and others,[ii] the Supreme Court had ruled that a Muslim husband is liable to pay the divorced wife maintenance beyond the Iddat period. The court regretted that Article 44 remains a “dead letter” as there was no evidence of any official activity for framing a common civil code for the country. The court has emphasized that a common civil code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to the law which have conflicting ideologies.
    • In Sarla Mudgal v Union of India,[iii] there was a Hindu husband, married under Hindu Law embraced Islam and solemnized the second marriage. The question was whether the second marriage, without the first marriage being dissolved, would be valid, qua (while) the first wife, continue to be a Hindu. The second marriage of a Hindu husband after his conversion to Islam would be a void marriage under Section 494 IPC. The Court has emphasized that Article 44 is based on the concept that there is no necessary relation between religion and personal law in a civilized society. Article 25 guarantees religious freedom whereas Article 44 seeks to separate religion from social relations and personal law.
    • In Ahmedabad Women Action Group (AWAG) vs. Union of India,[iv] the SC was invited to declare a certain aspect of Muslim Personal Law as void e.g. Polygamy, etc. as being void under Article 14 & 15. But the court refused to do so saying, that the issue raised was fit to be dealt by the legislature and not the court.
    • The Supreme Court in Shayara Bano vs Union of India and Others[v] the majority judgment held triple talaq to be unconstitutional under Article 14 with Article 13(1). Talaq-e- bidat was a practice that gives a man the right to divorce his wife by uttering ‘talaq’ three times in one sitting without his wife’s consent.

    However, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has argued that uncodified Muslim personal law is not subject to constitutional judicial review and that these are essential practices of the Islamic religion which are protected under Article 25 of the Constitution. It shall oppose any attempts to adopt a UCC.

    In an age when citizens’ rights are of paramount significance irrespective of caste, religion, region, and gender, the imperative legislature on a UCC cannot be denied.

    Should India have a Uniform Civil Code? - LawOrdo
    Uniform Civil Code for the Country is a law common to all communities in personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and succession. Article 44 – B.N. Rau Committee

    It was several decades later that instant triple talaq was outlawed by a strong pro-Hindu government; and though some orthodox opposed it, modern India, and the world in general, largely welcomed the measure.

    Ambedkar himself had tried to soothe agitated minds when he had argued and said that there would be a time when the future parliament may make a provision of the Code and in the initial stage apply on only those who are prepared to be bound by it voluntarily

    If the current political leadership can take few gentle steps forward in this direction by demonstrating, reasoning, and explaining rather than forcing the new law down to unwilling people; we may finally be able to find in the voice of Ambedkar the middle ground that we can all live by.


    [i] 1985 AIR 935

    [ii] AIR 1985 SC 945

    [iii] AIR 1995 SC 1531

    [iv] AIR 1997 SC 3614

    [v] (2017) 9 SCC 1

    Uniform Civil Code – A brief history and the judicial standing Ms. Jorden Diengdeh vs. S.S. Chopra Sarla Mudgal v Union of India Ahmedabad Women Action Group (AWAG) vs. Union of India Shayara Bano vs Union of India and Others B.N. Rau Committee (The Hindu Law Committee) Article 44 Uniform Civil Code – A brief history and the judicial standing Ms. Jorden Diengdeh vs. S.S. Chopra Sarla Mudgal v Union of India Ahmedabad Women Action Group (AWAG) vs. Union of India Shayara Bano vs Union of India and Others B.N. Rau Committee (The Hindu Law Committee) Article 44

    Uniform Civil Code – A brief history and the judicial standing Ms. Jorden Diengdeh vs. S.S. Chopra Sarla Mudgal v Union of India Ahmedabad Women Action Group (AWAG) vs. Union of India Shayara Bano vs Union of India and Others B.N. Rau Committee (The Hindu Law Committee) Article 44 Uniform Civil Code – A brief history and the judicial standing Ms. Jorden Diengdeh vs. S.S. Chopra Sarla Mudgal v Union of India Ahmedabad Women Action Group (AWAG) vs. Union of India Shayara Bano vs Union of India and Others B.N. Rau Committee (The Hindu Law Committee) Article 44

    Uniform Civil Code – A brief history and the judicial standing Ms. Jorden Diengdeh vs. S.S. Chopra Sarla Mudgal v Union of India Ahmedabad Women Action Group (AWAG) vs. Union of India Shayara Bano vs Union of India and Others B.N. Rau Committee (The Hindu Law Committee) Article 44 Uniform Civil Code – A brief history and the judicial standing Ms. Jorden Diengdeh vs. S.S. Chopra Sarla Mudgal v Union of India Ahmedabad Women Action Group (AWAG) vs. Union of India Shayara Bano vs Union of India and Others B.N. Rau Committee (The Hindu Law Committee) Article 44

    Uniform Civil Code – A brief history and the judicial standing Ms. Jorden Diengdeh vs. S.S. Chopra Sarla Mudgal v Union of India Ahmedabad Women Action Group (AWAG) vs. Union of India Shayara Bano vs Union of India and Others B.N. Rau Committee (The Hindu Law Committee) Article 44 Uniform Civil Code – A brief history and the judicial standing Ms. Jorden Diengdeh vs. S.S. Chopra Sarla Mudgal v Union of India Ahmedabad Women Action Group (AWAG) vs. Union of India Shayara Bano vs Union of India and Others B.N. Rau Committee (The Hindu Law Committee) Article 44