Recently, the Delhi High Court while adjudicating a matrimonial dispute expressed the pressing need for a Uniform Civil Code (UCC).
Justice Pratibha M. Singh said that the need for the Code has been envisioned under Article 44 of the Constitution and has been reiterated from time to time by the Supreme Court and while bringing to light that cases like the present one highlighted the need for such a Code "common to all" would enable uniformity in all principles of marriage, divorce, succession etc., added that citizens will be in a better position to safeguard their rights, without conflicts and contradictions of various personal laws.
“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. The Supreme Court had, in 1985 directed that the judgment in Ms. Jordon Diengdeh (supra) to be placed before the Ministry of Law to take appropriate steps.However, more than three decades have passed since then and it is unclear as to what steps have been taken in this regard till date," she said.
Lawbeat considers this a pertinent issue for discourse and it is for this purpose that we reached out to a cross-section of members from the legal fraternity, for their views on whether the UCC can be effectuated.
Former Chief Justice of Bombay High Court, Justice Sujata Manohar stated that the Uniform Civil Code has unnecessarily become a problem due to its politicisation and thrusted upon the need for proper consultation and mutual confidence for its formulation. "This is not an easy task," she added, "It will require a lot of effort".
"After all, we don't want to alienate people in the quest for uniting them,"
- said Former Chief Justice of Bombay High Court, Justice Sujata Manohar
Justice Manohar added that formulation of the UCC requires that we take concerns of the minorities into account.
Senior Advocate Birendra Saraf highlighted the expectation of the Constitution from the State to endeavour for a Uniform Code.
"The fact that the Constitution itself expects the State to endeavour to provide UCC demonstrates that even the framers of the constitution thought this to be necessary to further the principles of the Constitution of India and strengthen the nation
- Senior Advocate Birendra Saraf
Mr. Saraf highlighted that effectuating the UCC will surely help build a sense of unity amongst the citizens as they will share commonality of the laws governing their personal lives.
Senior Advocate Siddhartha Dave expressed that the time for a UCC will only be when ours is a truly secular society, in which religion is not used for political gains.
"UCC is not about reforming the laws of the minorities alone in regard to marriage. It is also about succession, since that too is governed by personal laws," he said.
While exemplifying that the above, he said that the Hindu Undivided Family and devolution as per ancient Hindu laws in a Hindu family is peculiar to Hindus.
"Were a UCC to be introduced, HUF will have no place. Thus, the right time will be when the majority is also willing to reform its personal laws and not simply alter the laws applicable to minorities.”
- Senior Advocate Siddhartha Dave
Advocate J Sai Deepak stated that although the Constitution of India speaks of a UCC in terms of Article 44 and the Supreme Court has underscored the need for it in quite a few judgments, the society must be consulted with before the Government introduces it.
While stating that the UCC should not remain a dream, Advocate Masoom K. Shah said that it should be the constitutional goal that our society should strive for and achieve.
"It (the Uniform Civil Code) should not be a dream but reality. That will take India to its next stage and open many further doors for more constitutional goals. It shall also hopefully bring peace and prosperity.”
- Advocate Masoom K. Shah
Advocate Abhishek Dwivedi expressed that the UCC continues to be an abstract, even though it has been discussed. "It has not been debated with the seriousness it deserves," he said.
"The Hon'ble Delhi High Court has yet again identified the problems that litigants continue to face due to various personal laws. The judgment is a reminder to the government to take concrete steps in this regard and constitute a committee for preparing a draft that can be published for public scrutiny and comments."
- Advocate Abhishek Dwivedi
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