Implementation of Uniform Civil Code: What are pros & cons of 'One Nation, One Law'?
A diverse country like India which boasts of a diverse framework for civil issues aiming to bring one uniform law has its own challenges-
Days after being re-elected as Uttarakhand's Chief Minister, Pushkar Singh Dhami announced that he will implement Uniform Civil Code in his state and for that he also decided to form a committee of experts on the implementation of 'One Nation, One Law'. Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Dhami took the decision to implement Unform Civil Code in his first cabinet meeting after being re-elected in the 2022 assembly elections. It means CM Dhami has taken a step forward to fulfill his pre-poll promise. Now, the spotlight is yet again on Uniform Civil Code, let's have a look on what is it and will will be its pros & cons
About Uniform Civil Code 'One Nation, One Law'
The concept of 'One Nation, One Law' i.e. Uniform Civil Code dates back to the drafting of India's constitution. A diverse country like India which boasts of a diverse framework for civil issues aiming to bring one uniform law has its own challenges. Before understanding the implications of CM Dhami's decision, we need to look at how Civil Law functions in India.
Civil Laws in India are different from criminal laws which are applied equally to all of us regardless of our religious beliefs. However, Civil Laws are influenced by faiths. Civil Laws are applied to a group of people based on their religion governed by customs and religious texts. It also comes under matters like inheritance, succession, and marriage. Personal laws come under the concurrent list in schedule 7 of the Indian constitution.
This means both Parliament and State Legislature can make laws on these subjects. Dr. B. R Ambedkar had highlighted that some of the personal laws were discriminatory in nature where women were historically denied their rights. He had contended that the absence of a Uniform Civil Code bringing social reforms will be difficult for a government to implement. He had also clarified that Uniform Civil Code should be optional. Under India's constitution Uniform Civil Code has been provided under article 44 as a Directive Principle which means it cannot be enforced in a court of law like fundamental rights.
Uniform Civil Code Pros & Cons
Now, coming to Uniform Civil Code's pros and cons, the 'One Nation, One Law' aims to ensure two things 'protection and simplification'. It provides protection to vulnerable sections including women and religious minorities as highlighted by Dr. B.R Ambedkar. At the same time, the UCC will simplify the laws that are currently separated on the basis of religious beliefs like The Hindu Court Bill, Shriat Law and others.
This law will be applicable to all the citizens irrespective of their. IN 2021, the Delhi High Court had stressed the need for Uniform Civil Code observing that the modern Indian society is gradually becoming homogeneous and the traditional barriers of religion, community and casts are disappearing. Not only Delhi High Court, but the Allahabad High Court in November 21 had asked the Central government to consider setting up a panel for implementing the mandate of Article 44, which states "state shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) throughout the territory of India".
It is pertinent to mention here that Uttarakhand is not the first state to implement a Uniform Civil Code. Currently Goa is the only state in India where common civil code is followed. However, the nature of Goa Civil Code is dirrefent from the Uniform Civil Code. For instance, the special marriage act which governs marriages of people from different religions operates differently in Goa. Goa is following the Portuguese Civil Code, 1867.
Goa civil code prohibits bigamy (the state of being married to two people at the same time) for all except for the Hindus in some exceptional cases.
While the common civil code aims to ensure uniformity in laws at a large scale, implementing such a code is a monumental task. In 2018, the law commission stated that Uniform Civil Code is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage. The law commission called for preserving diversity of personal laws as it is indicative of robust democracy.
AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi has been also standing firm against the implementation of Uniform Civil Code. Last year, Owaisi had stated that Uniform Civil Code was not good for diversity and pluralism of this country. "Every community or caste in India whether it is Hindu, Muslim, Dalit, tribal Christian or Sikh has its own culture. This country celebrates the diversity of culture and religion. Those who want to impose Uniform Civil Code are deliberately not understanding the beauty of pluralism. You cannot impose one culture one language on the country," Owaisi had said after the Muslim Personal Law had boycotted the implementation of One Nation One Law.
Uttarakhand has made its start but elective unity is needed for fulfilling the dream of 'One Nation, One Law'