Article 44 of Directive Principle of State Policy states that, “State shall endeavour to provide for its citizens a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) throughout the territory of India.”
India gained independence on 15th August, 1947. However today even after 72 years of independence no laws have been made by the Parliament in order to implement Article 44 of Directive Principle of State Policy. Time and again the Supreme Court of India has given a call to the Parliament to make laws for Uniform Civil Code. The Hindu Code Bill is a set laws, which was passed in 1950. It aimed at codifying various Hindu Laws such as Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act, Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act.
India is a diverse as well as a secular country. It means that all religions in India get due respect and protection from the government. One will find people practicing different religion such as Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and Judaism in India. All the religions have their own personal laws on matters such Marriage, Adoption, Maintenance, Divorce. Different personal laws for different religions is a major obstacle to national integration of our country.
The first case which sparked the need of a Uniform Civil Code was of Shah Bano Begum. Shah Bano Begum was married to Mohd Ahmad Khan. Shah Bano filed a petition under Section 125 of Criminal Procedure Code, demanding maintenance for herself from her husband. Shah Bano’s claim of maintenance was against The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937. The main question before the court in this case was that whether Section 125 is applicable to Muslim Women as well. The Supreme Court increased the amount of maintenance that was decided by the High Court. However, the then government led by Rajiv Gandhi passed the Muslim Women (Protection on Divorce Act), 1986, as a result of the protests and riots by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. This law declared the Supreme Courts verdict in Shah Bano Case null and void.
The case of Sarla Mudgal was another landmark case which highlighted that it was about time that Uniform Civil Code be implemented in India. In this case Sarla Mudgal’s husband converted to Islam and thereby solemnized a second marriage. Thus, two questions arose in this case, Firstly, Whether a Hindu husband, married under Hindu Law, could solemnize second marriage by converting to Islam. Secondly, Whether such a marriage wherein the first marriage is not dissolved would be valid considering the fact that the first wife is yet a Hindu. The Supreme Court thus concluded that the second marriage was void and that that the husband was guilty under Section 494 of Indian Penal Code.
In John Vallamattom v. Union of India, a priest from Kerala filed a writ petition. Section 118 of the Indian Succession Act is discriminatory against Christians. According to this Act the Christians had to donate their property for religious or charitable purpose by will. John Vallamattom was criticized it. Thus, this Act violates Articles 14, 15, 25 and 26 of the Indian Constitution.
There are many more such cases which portray the need for the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code. Goa is a shining example of Uniform Civil Code. In Goa there are set of laws which are applicable to all the citizens residing in Goa irrespective of their religion. Thus, in Goa polygamy is a prohibited even for Muslims. According to the different personal laws prevalent in India Hindus can adopt children under The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, whereas adoption is not permitted by Parsi, Christians and Muslims. Adopting of children is a personal choice and cannot be restricted in the name of religion. Adoption is a boon for women who may not be able to conceive.
Recently, The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019 was passed which made triple talaq illegal and void. This Act states that if a Muslim husband pronounces instant and irrevocable divorce to his wife then he will be punished for up to three years of imprisonment and a fine. The passing of The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019 is a step towards the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code, although yet many areas require attention with regard to Uniform Civil Code.
The then Chief Justice of India YV Chandrachud had once said that, “Article 44 of our Constitution has remained a dead letter.” When we look back at the Supreme Court judgements wherein the Supreme Court has delivered judgements in favour of Uniform Civil Code, we can see that the judgements have not been accepted by the people and have taken the decisions as violative of their Right to Freedom of Religion. People feel that if a common set of laws known as the Uniform Civil Code is implemented then it will violate their religious beliefs, thoughts, customs and traditions.
Implementation of a common set of laws known as the Uniform Civil Code is necessary for the National Integration of our country. Also, the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code will eliminate Religious Discrimination. The personal laws have been used as a method to oppress women since ages. Uniform Civil Code will render justice and equality to women.