India is a country of paradoxes. Brimming with diverse cultures and practices, it is often difficult to unify the nation in terms of religion and lifestyle. Foreseeing such a situation, the constitutional makers had envisioned a Uniform Civil Code that seeks to formulate a singular edict that would umbrella various social institutions of Family law. However, the codification of such a bill has been postponed by our legislation time and again. This article seeks to explore the need for a Uniform Civil Code and if the enactment of the same would lead to a progressive outlook in the current scenario of social liberty.
Uniform Civil Code, Social progression, Family law.
Samāna Nāgrika Saṃhitā or the Uniform Civil Code, falling under the purview of Article 44 of the Indian Constitution, refers to a proposed bill that aims to replace the personal laws that govern the current Indian citizen with a uniform code that transcends borders of faith. Unlike the rules in criminal procedure, the Indian law permits each religion to dictate its own decrees on issues of civil nature such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption granting them independence in private affairs. Further, Articles 25-28 of the Constitution enhance the freedom to religion thus diminishing the powers of the unenforceable Directive Principles.
The Directive Principle of State Policy is an instrument of instruction that enumerates 15 pointers to be taken into account while formulating policies and laws. Article 44 introduces and mandates the state to endeavor to secure for its citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory. It strives to focus on the discrimination against vulnerable or minority groups and interweaves the differences that our country celebrates. The constitutional makers believed that Young India was adapting to independence and the sudden introduction of a uniform code would restrict the same. Thus, they had constitutionally made this a voluntary concept that could be adopted in the distant future when India as a nation would be ready to embrace uniformity regardless of its escalation in individuality.
Uniform Civil Code a requirement?
Dr.Ambedkar had previously explained that the government would not expand its powers because it has been vested with the same and that they would wait for the opportune situation to arise. However, the Law Commission of India, in its 185 paged report dated August 31, 2018, stated that a Uniform Civil Code is “neither necessary nor desirable at this stage”, adding that secularism cannot contradict plurality prevalent in the country. By doing so not only are we sacrificing a chance at national harmony but also reiterating that religion prevails over unification. It must be remembered that the famous Shirur Mutt case witnessed the court reiterating that Article 25 is applicable subject to public order, morality and health thus showing us that even Religion is a restricted right and not one that can be enjoyed without supervision. Drawing a parallel we may now introduce the need for a Uniform code that will not only include such restrictions but also encompass all religions.
Progression in Social thought
India as a nation has been conservative with its practices and ideologies. In very few landmark judgments and situations has it been able to embrace its progressive social thought. This includes the decriminalization of Section 377 of IPC that illegalized same-sex conduct and Section 497 of IPC that criminalized adulterous relations by a man. However, these are yet to find acceptance in the current personal laws that govern Indian families.
In 2013 the Delhi High Court, in an appeal filed by astrologer Suresh Kumar Koushal and other religious boards such as the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, upheld Section 377 as valid. Unsurprisingly, this received a lot of praise and support from various religious leaders. Further, Baba Ramdev during an interview had also publically stated that he could cure homosexuality through yoga and even labeled it as a “bad addiction” This sheds light on how religion plays a vital role in advocating free thought and the failure in the same.
Another example of religion posing as a threat to social progression was tackled in the recent Sabarimala judgment that faced extreme hate due to its trivialization of religious practices and upholding the entry of women into the temple premises under equality of law under the constitution. It was met with such animosity from the general public that it is now under scrutiny under a review committee.
Thus, although religion plays a vital role in social integration and cohesion, unfortunately in certain cases it blinds an individual and deviates from the path to Social progression in thought.
As discussed, the Uniform Civil Code attempts to view all at par and share the ladder of social ascend with all communities and groups. Not only does it advocate impartiality but also imparts equality in civil matters. Implementing a uniform code will improve the status of women, ensure gender parity and also embrace the issues of the downtrodden inevitably leading to national integration. In addition, this will also shape the views of the younger generations that have molded their social attitudes and aspirations in the current society that promotes globalization and universal principles of equality and modernity. Lastly, this will also greatly aid in the social progression of India from a country of archaic principles being labeled as old-fashioned to a nation that truly accepts its citizens for their innate identity and protects the same in the name of the law.