A Uniform Civil Code refers to a single law, applicable to all citizens of India in matters such as marriage, divorce, custody, adoption, and inheritance.

 

New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) National General Secretary and Rajya Sabha MP Dushyant Kumar Gautam has said that Bhimrao Ambedkar wanted a Uniform Civil Code in the country and equal rights for women. Talking to media persons at the party headquarters on Tuesday, Gautam said: “Bhimrao Ambedkar did not want Article 370 in the country; instead he wanted a Uniform Civil Code and demanded equal rights for women. The Congress resented Ambedkar so much that he had to wait for a non-Congress government to confer him the Bharat Ratna.” Last week, BJP national General Secretary in charge of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, C.T. Ravi said that the BJP was ready to introduce two laws for Uniform Civil Code and National Birth Control if people desired to have them.

These statements regarding the Uniform Civil Code come at a time when there is a demand in the country to implement the same laws for all religions. A Uniform Civil Code refers to a single law, applicable to all citizens of India in matters such as marriage, divorce, custody, adoption, and inheritance. According to reports, this will replace the system of fragmented personal laws that currently govern interpersonal relationships within different religious communities.

Advocate and BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay told The Sunday Guardian that India, which is a secular country, needs a Uniform Civil Code to cover civil and human rights issues.

“In our country, even the age of marriage is not uniform; for a girl, it is 18 and for boys, it is 21 and this is also not religion-neutral. In Muslims, age of a girl is not defined. One of our PILs in the Supreme Court is on uniform age of marriage and it should be 21 common for all. Now divorce should also be religion-neutral as it’s a civil and human rights issue. Every personal law has different grounds for divorce and it needs to be uniform. The third component is alimony and it is also not religion and gender-neutral and it has to be uniform. Alimony is not properly defined in Hindu Marriage Act. A similar thing is happening in adoption and inheritance. A draft should be formed on these five essential aspects and it can be called the Indian Civil Code. UCC is already there in US, UK and several European countries. Goa has UCC and there are no issues. Religion wise it has a balanced population too. For starters, the UCC of Goa can be implemented across the country. Meanwhile, these five elements should be addressed immediately,” Upadhayay told The Sunday Guardian.

It is noteworthy that Article 44 of the Directive Principles in the Constitution says: “State shall endeavour to provide for its citizens a uniform civil code (UCC) throughout the territory of India.”

In 1985, during the Shah Bano case, the demand for UCC had come to light. The SC bench that gave the verdict in favour of Shah Bano, observed: “There is no evidence of any official activity for framing a common civil code for the country. A common civil code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to laws which have conflicting ideologies.”

Similarly, in 1995 Justice Kuldip Singh reiterated the need for Parliament to frame a Uniform Civil Code during the Sarla Mudgal case in order to remove ideological contradictions. Currently, Goa is the only state in India with a Uniform Civil Code. The Portuguese Civil Code of 1867 applies to all Goans, irrespective of their religious or ethnic community. However, there are certain provisions on the basis of religion like Hindu men are being allowed bigamy if the wife fails to deliver a child by the age of 25, or a male child by the age of 30.

“Those who are supporting UCC don’t know anything about UCC. They are supporting it because it is in BJP’s manifesto. Those who are against it, also don’t know and are resisting because it’s in BJP’s manifesto. I have a PIL on UCC in Delhi High Court. The court cannot implement UCC, but it can form a commission to draft it. The day the draft of UCC will be out 90% of people will stop protesting against it. Since there is no draft, so a lot of misconception is going on like it will be anti-Muslim, you won’t be able to read namaz etc. It’s all wrong. It should be implemented as a gender equality measure. All the religious and personal laws should be analysed and the best features from all religions as well as foreign countries should be compiled and adopted. If the whole UCC cannot be implemented now, then the five important aspects comprising uniform grounds of marriage, divorce, custody, adoption and inheritance should come into force immediately,” the BJP leader said.

Earlier this month, President Ram Nath Kovind, who was participating in the Goa Liberation Day celebrations, lauded the Uniform Civil Code in force in the state and termed it as a matter of pride.

Undoubtedly, a Uniform Civil Code will ensure gender equality and will provide equal status to all citizens irrespective of the community they belong to. The personal laws of different religions are very dissimilar, due to which they clash with Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law. According to reports, multiple amendments have been brought to Hindu personal laws, while Muslim laws have seen fewer changes. These personal laws also put men in a more advantageous position compared to women; for instance, Muslim men are being allowed to marry multiple wives, while women are forbidden from having multiple husbands.

“According to me, UCC draft should be formed and it should be uploaded on the website 2-3 months before implementation and then people will read it, the media debate on it and there will be healthy discussions on it and people will understand it. There are still so many people who don’t know about it; so if people are made aware of it before implementation, it will be better. The government will also get feedback,” the BJP leader said.