One Law, One Nation: We Need It Now
As one of the young nations of the world which is creating unprecedented economic opportunities for its youth and women, the time has come that uniform civil code should come through a parliamentary enactment and further enhance India’s image of an equitable society wherein women and those deprived of any sect or religion are not discriminated on account of any dated civil laws write Sudhir Mishra, Founder & Managing Partner, Trust Legal ; and Simran Gupta, Associate, Trust Legal.
While we celebrate the ease of doing business ranking for the last few years our dated civil laws will be a big dampener to create an equitable society in India which is a must for a broad-minded egalitarian balanced and forward-looking society which we all aspire to live in. Uniform Civil Code is not a social necessity, it is an economic compulsion for a young and resurgent India. If the founding fathers had expected us to create an equity based social structure with every religion conforming to common property and civil rights, what prevents the 6th biggest economy in the world to remain medievalistic in its interpretation of women marriage and property rights?
India having the largest young working population in the world is being gravely affected economically due to the various issues relating to marriage, divorce, succession etc which in turn is forcing the young generation to struggle with such issues time and again. The focus of the absence of UCC has always been a political or a legal one and the real issues relating to it have been sidelined.
Currently in our country, on the one hand, we have Article 14 and Article 15 of the Indian Constitution protecting the citizen’s right to equality but on the other hand we have laws which say no to conversion or require an advance notice of 30-45 days before conversion.
Looking back at the history of the nation, the manner in which we have adopted the constitution is a direct outcome of the way the nation has been governed in the past. The desirability and need for a uniform civil code was felt even during the framing of the constitution, when the drafting committee chaired by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar proposed it under Article 35 of the Draft Constitution. However, it was felt that India as a nation was not ready to accept it and it should not be made an obligation and it was incorporated as a Directive Principle of State Policy under Article 44 of the Indian Constitution.
The founding fathers of this country expected India as a nation to be a cosmopolitan, as well as a uniform nation therefore Article 44 of the constitution clearly expected from the state to create a Uniform Civil Code at the right time. This was done to address the discrimination against the vulnerable groups and also harmonize the diverse cultural groups across the country.
Due to the absence of a uniform law the courts in India have been repeatedly confronted with the conflicts that arise in personal laws. Time and again with a hope of bringing uniformity and to eliminate the struggles and conflicts being faced they have passed various judgements and highlighted the need for a Uniform Civil Code.
Tracing back to the judgement of Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum and ors (1985) 2 SCC 556, the Supreme Court of India observed that ‘a common civil code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to laws which have conflicting ideologies. Justice to all is a far more satisfactory way of dispensing justice than justice from case to case.’ Similarly in Ms Jordan Diengdeh v. S.S. Chopra (1985) 3 SCC 62, the Supreme Court observed that ‘It is thus seen that the law relating to judicial separation, divorce and nullity of marriage is far from uniform. Surely the time has now come for a complete reform of the law of marriage and make a uniform law applicable to all people irrespective of religion or caste.’
Recently the Delhi High Court, in the case of Satprakash Meena vs Alka Meena (2021) also reiterated the need for a uniform civil code. Justice Pratibha M. Singh observed that ‘The hope expressed in Article 44 of the Constitution that the state shall secure for its citizens Uniform Civil Code ought not to remain a mere hope’.
It can thus be said that we as a nation have not progressed since the women in our country are still facing gender inequality in their personal laws. The issue is not only a political or economic one but is also an empowerment one. The desirability of a uniform civil code is thus consistent with human rights and the principles of equality, fairness and justice and is the urgent need of the hour.
As one of the young nations of the world which is creating unprecedented economic opportunities for its youth and women, the time has come that uniform civil code should come through a parliamentary enactment and further enhance India’s image of an equitable society wherein women and those deprived of any sect or religion are not discriminated on account of any dated civil laws. We gave equal rights to all religions through the constitution and subsequent parliamentary enactments from time to time and the said dynamism needs a final push with an implementation of Uniform Civil Code.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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