Uniform Civil Code - Delhi Bar and Academia Speaks

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The Uniform Civil Code has been a contentious issue for India for ever since the Constitution was being framed and Constituent Assembly debates were being facilitated. 

The 22nd Law Commission of India solicited views and ideas of the general public and recognised religious organisations about the Uniform Civil Code [UCC] in a recent public notice. In August 2018, the 21st Law Commission released a Consultation Paper on Reform of Family Law. It stated that "the issue of uniform civil code is vast, and its potential repercussions untested, in India" based on research and expert consultation.

Lawbeat reached out to a cross-section of Lawyers and Law Professors from Delhi for their views on the "Implementation of Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India". 

Senior Advocate Saurabh Kirpal stated that the UCC is embodied in the Directive Principles of State Policy & for a society which is committed to equality for all, requires a just, fair and comprehensive legal code, which only the UCC can provide. 

"What should be borne in mind is that it’s enactment should be done with sensitivity (rather like the way GST was ushered in by the government). While not everyone can be convinced about the merits of the UCC, it’s obvious advantages must be diligently explained with an attempt to build a genuine consensus around the code," he added.

Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra also pointed out that the UCC is in Chapter-IV Directive principles chapter of the Constitution. He pointed out that though, in his view, religion and religious practices are individual, the rationalisation and standardisation of laws of Marriage, divorce, custody and inheritance across communities is important.

"It is not only an affirmation of the constitutional desire expressed, but would enhance the right to equality and right to life. As an aside, if Marriage laws are religion agnostic it is likely to end controversies such as love jihad," the Senior lawyer said.

Senior Advocate Vivek Sood reflected on the existence of the UCC in Goa. "It is the first state in the country to have ushered in the UCC," he said, adding that he foresees the UCC being legislated and applied across the country in the times to come.

"The Government of India has expressed its plans and intentions of developing a UCC. The move by the Government, in my view, is progressive. It would be regressive to question the idea of a UCC," Sood said, adding that the UCC must be ushered in India gradually rather than in one shot.

"The UCC will evolve over a period of time. Laws of inheritance, succession, marriage, divorce and adoption deeply affect citizens’ lives and hence must evolve socially. The Government of India is taking gradual steps to usher in the UCC which is a correct approach. The Constitutional mandate for UCC has been a  long pending dream that was ignored by previous Governments but this Government is decisive and proactive in ushering reforms in personal laws through UCC. The UCC is a facet of equality that is part of the basic structure of the Constitution of India," he stated.

Senior Advocate Chetan Mittal, ASG, Punjab & Haryana focussed on the gender justice aspect of the UCC, adding that it is a much awaited social reform in the Indian Legal History. He said that UCC is not religion specific  and it will remove gender inequalities and discrimination under various personal laws, equipping women to challenge the patriarchal and regressive practices that violate their fundamental rights.
Inspite of Supreme Court directions, UCC has been delayed on account of political overtones in the name of religious protection and practises. It will bring uniformity in the laws relating to marriage, succession, adoption, etc. by removing complexities and contradictions".

Views from Legal Academia:

Nimesh Das Guru, Professor, Lloyd Law College thinks that the constitutional promise of securing Uniform Civil Code to citizens could be achieved by enacting a model legislation codifying all aspects of personal laws including marriages, inheritance, succession and adoption. The law may contain a clause, that in absence of contrary proof, all marriages and related concerns shall be presumed to be under UCC. However, I would still like religion and custom based personal laws to operate for those who expressly wish to govern their personal life in accordance with those rules and principles. I am deriving strength from the speech of Dr. Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly. He observed that Constitution only mandate states to endeavour towards securing UCC for all its citizens and that does not mean that state should mandatorily force it upon citizens. He proposed that law should contain a provision that it would apply “only to those who make a declaration that they are prepared to be bound by it”. 

"In my opinion we may reverse the position that Dr. Ambedkar was taking. There should be a general presumption that all personal laws related matters should be governed under UCC unless individuals make an express wish to be governed under their own traditional personal laws. It is correct that Dr. Ambedkar rightly pointed out that except this “little corner” (of personal laws) almost all other civil laws operating throughout the country are religion neutral and uniformly applicable, still, this little corner is a very personal space of an individual’s life, it is directly related to freedom of consciences and religion".

Gargi Tyagi, Lecturer, O.P Jindal University 

"Personal Laws are too different with each other and when we talk about the Uniform Civil Code it is basically putting all the religion under one umbrella. When the positives of UCC is looked upon it gives us uniform, secular/ more specific clarity of laws as well as the procedure. Furthermore, it will also ensure that the discrimination happening as a result of different beliefs and different personal laws will also be eradicated. However, the ground problem which can arise or it would if UCC is implemented is whether this code will be considered in contrary to Art 25 of the Constitution. Additionally, the UCC will look more like one personal law than the other which will cause uproar and unacceptance in the society. For example, we are aware that there are secular laws for marriage as well but what is the percentage of people who are willing to be governed by them instead of their own personal laws. When we talk about India, there is an intense sense of community and customs. Therefore, in my opinion UCC must be implemented to remove the discrimination and removing the complexities of every personal law but this must come into force after finding the solution to the uproar it might cause".

This is an ongoing series reflecting on the UCC through views of persons from the legal industry.

Read Bombay Bar Speaks on UCC here