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  • 1. GD Issue Read on ................................... Uniform Civil Code Conundrum - K. Sriraj The recent advice by the Chief Justice V.N. Khare, while delivering a judgement, that the Parliament should pass the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) has once again brought this issue to the centre stage. Before one goes into the specifics, it would be better to understand what is meant by the term Uniform Civil Code. The term “civil code” covers the entire body of laws that governs the rights relating to property and personal matters like marriage, divorce, maintenance, adoption and inheritance. A uniform civil code tries to unify all the existing “personal laws” of the different communities to have one set of secular laws that will be equally applicable to all Indian citizens. The reason for UCC having become controversial is that it has become entangled in vote- bank politics prevalent in India. The end result has been that a measure that can help modernise India’s archaic personal laws has remained an ideal. A good reason for the UCC is not likely to be made Uniform Civil Code throughout implementing UCC is that mandatory. Shri Minoo Masani, the territory of India.” it could help the process of Smt. Hansa Mehta and Rajkumari The Supreme Court, the highest national integration. Presently in Amrit Kaur felt that a factor that court of the land, has also India different communities have has restrained India’s highlighted its need. It said this in different personal laws. Thus laws advancement to nationhood and the Shah Bano and the Sarla that govern inheritance or divorce kept the Nation divided into Mudgal cases. In the latter case, among Hindus are different from watertight compartments has been the Supreme Court actually issued those that govern the Muslims or existence of personal laws based a notice to the Government to Christians. As Chief Justice V.N. on religion. explain why steps had not been Khare remarked in his judgement The passing of a UCC is a taken to implement Article 44. a common civil code would help Constitutional requirement. A UCC can prevent the misuse the “cause of national integration Article 44 of the Directive of the personal laws by …” He also added that in the Principles of State Policy clearly unscrupulous individuals. For interests of national integration states that the “State shall instance, in 1995, the wives of four there was “no necessary endeavour to secure for citizens a Hindu men made four separate connection between religion appeals in the Supreme and personal law.” This aspect Court. They did this since was also highlighted in the their husbands had landmark Shah Bano case of converted to Islam to have a 1985. Justice Y V Chandrachud second wife. In its had then said that such a code judgement the court made it would ‘‘help the cause of clear that conversion should national integration by be out of “conviction” and removing disparate loyalties to not “convenience”. A UCC law which have conflicting will definitely help plug this ideologies.’’ A few of the loophole. members of our Constituent The right-wing parties assembly gave a dissenting have repeatedly used the note when it became clear that personal laws of the 72 Advanc'edge MBA / December 2003
  • 2. GD Issue Read on ................................... Muslims that allow them to have Succession Act 1916 in Mary Roy’s demand for UCC should come four wives to consolidate the case (1986) and the denial of from the minorities themselves. Hindu vote-bank. It has also been guardianship rights to mothers Shah Bano case, where the dissent used to paint the Muslim and other women in Geetha came from within, is an example community as an exclusive Hariharan’s case (1999). of this. But they feel that “One community not ready to be a part Last but not the least, there is a sparrow does not make a of the Indian nation. A UCC will state in India where a Uniform summer”. Also while it is correct take the wind out of the sails of Civil Code, despite certain for the state to interfere in a such hate-mongers. deficiencies, already exists. Goa, criminal case, when no violence is It is highly unfortunate that the the smallest state in the country, involved the state has no business debate over the UCC has only has a UCC that is accepted by all to interfere. In other words, the highlighted the personal laws of communities— Hindus, state has no reason to interfere in the Muslim community. A UCC Christians, Muslims and others. It the private lives of its citizens. can also help to remove certain is known as the Goa Civil Code or Politics has become the biggest gender biases found in the Hindu Family Laws. The laws had been factor influencing the society. One such is the concept of framed and enforced by the implementation of UCC in India. the Hindu undivided family Portuguese colonial rulers While it is an undeniable fact that (HUF). HUF is designed to ensure through various legislations. Due a UCC can help modernise the that the properties remain with the to the support it enjoyed among personal laws in India, care has male descendants of the family. the Goans it has continued even to be taken that it is implemented This aspect was also upheld by the after the liberation of Goa in 1961. only after serious deliberation. Supreme Court, which ruled that If one state can have a UCC the It must be made only after arriving even if no male member is left in a whole nation surely can have one. at a consensus that will take into family, a female member couldn’t A major reason why a UCC consideration the fears of the become karta or in-charge of the should not be introduced at least minorities. Father Dominique ancestral property. Furthermore, immediately is that the Muslims- Emmanuel of the Catholic Bishops it can also remove the existing the largest minority in the country Conference of India when he said, provision that a Hindu cannot has an irrational fear that it targets “We are not averse to any marry outside the faith. It can also them. Indian political parties, progressive legislation but it has help make it mandatory for all without any exception, have failed to take into account the current marriages to be registered under to allay this fear of the Muslim socio-political situation and the the Special Marriage Act. The community. The Muslim sentiments of everyone involved” Special Marriage Act requires that community is underrepresented in highlighted this aspect. The the man be above 21 years and the political and economic spheres clarification given by Atal Behari woman be above 18. If such a despite accounting for over 12 per Vajpayee in a newspaper declaration is made an essential cent of the population. Their interview in January 1998 can part of marriage under UCC, it personal laws they feel balances surely aid this process. He said, will go a long way in checking this feeling of inadequacy and “There is no question of imposing child marriages. gives them a sense of security. Hindu laws over other A codified personal law would The lack of any specific communities. There will be a new make the personal laws just information on the shape of the code, based on gender equality another ‘law’. This means that UCC has also created confusion. and comprising the best elements they can be struck down if it This ignorance has forced in all the personal laws.’’ infringes on any of the minorities to identify UCC with a Definitely after this statement fundamental rights or is invidious. mere imposition of the Hindu nobody should have a cause to This aspect had earlier helped the Personal Law. It is felt that India complain about a uniform civil courts to strike down the is not ready for UCC. This view is code being passed in India. Travancore-Cochin Christian supported by the fact that the 73 Advanc'edge MBA / December 2003