Uniform Civil Code

UNIFORM CIVIL CODE India always has been a country with a lot of diversities. Right from the Vedic period there has been so much diversity in India that no uniform law was applicable through out the land. Each family, each tribe, each village had their own DHARMA. No uniformity anywhere except probably the fact that land was known as VRIHAD BHARATA. The position did not changed; infect worsened when Muslims conquered India about 1600 years ago. First there was Turkish reign and there after the Mughals came. As both Hindu and Muslim systems are very old lot of schools exist in them. If Hindu law had Mitakshara and Dayabhaga etc. Muslim law had Shia and Sunni schools. These schools are further divided into different sub-schools. So condition naturally worsened during the Muslim reign although great rulers like Akbar honestly tried to maintain uniformity in law but of no use.When British arrived in India in late 17th century they just bewildered after seeing diverse laws prevailing at that time in India. There were different personal laws; inheritance etc. were essentially governed according to different sub-schools. Even there was no uniformity in criminal law and different people were punished differently for the same offence committed by them. During their rule they tried to replace this diversity with uniformity in law resulting in enactments like I.P.C. (1861), evidence (1872) etc. Muslim rules of evidence were replaced by English rules and the court system of England was adopted through out the territory uniformly. But when they tried to use Roman law and Common law principles in personal law the interpretation increased the existing confusion. So they decided not to interfere in personal law. Hindus were governed by their own law and after 1937 when Shariat Act was passed Muslims got statutory recognition of the rule that personal law will be governed according to religion it belonged.After independence in 1947, with India having visionary leaders like Nehru Ji, Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, and Ambedkar etc. it was hoped that uniformity will come to Indian law and each Indian will be governed according to one sect of law applicable through out India. The hope remained alive when Art.44 was inserted into the constitution of India directing government of India to make uniform civil code as soon as possible. But after facing horrible time of partition fear and insecurity in the mind of Indian Muslim was so prevalent that it was felt that it was clear interference in their religious matter. Not only Muslims opposed it but Hindus were also against the enactment of uniform civil code. These things were in the minds of the constitutional assembly at the time of making the constitution. However by the support of persons like Sh. K. M. Munshi Art.44 was entered in.However, it was strongly felt by persons favouring U.C.C. that it was impossible to enact U.C.C. with out the interference of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. But the problem was that Apex court was of the view that Court cannot give guideline for the enforcement of Directive Principles of State policy. The position changed only by the decision of Minerva Mill’s case when Bhagwati J. said that court can give guidelines to state for the implementation of Directive principles.The matter for the first time came before the Apex Court for the first time in Begum Shah Banu’s case in 1985; in the case making S.125 of Cr.P.C. regarding maintenance of divorced wife; applicable to Muslim husbands and the court held that a Muslim husband is bound to maintain his wife even beyond the period of idda (a compulsory period to be observed by wife after divorce which is generally of 3 months, in this period she can not marry again). The decision was fiercely opposed by Muslim leaders all over India who were claiming that a Muslim husband is liable to maintain his wife only till the period of idda and not after (a glaring piece of gender inequality!). Gender inequality is not only prohibited in art.14,15,21 of constitution of India but also by art.22 of universal declaration of human rights, art.3,25 of international covenant on economic and social rights,1966, art.23 of international covenant on civil and political rights,1966 and art.2(f) of The declaration on elimination of all discriminations against women,1979. India is signatory to all of the above treaties and art.50 of constitution of India make it obligatory for government of India to follow these treaties. But the effect of this landmark judgment was nullified by then Rajiv Gandhi government by enacting Muslim women’s act in 1986.Gender inequality is not under Muslim law but it is also the problem of uncodified Hindu law also. However, most of the inequalities in Hindu law were ended by codification of Hindu law on marriage, succession, adoption and maintenance etc. in the decade of 1950’s. But still inequalities prevail as Hindu woman cannot take in adoption of a child herself while she is married, she can not choose her matrimonial home in most of the circumstances and her only duty being to submit herself to the authority of her husband and to remain under his roof. Still we call India as democratic republic! Inequalities prevailing in Muslim community like polygamy and pronouncement of divorce by triple talak etc. are also worth mentioning. It was once observed by the Supreme Court of U.S. that bigamy is a custom against public morals and it should be discouraged in all forms even if it was a matter of personal belief. The matter came into consideration before Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in 1995 in the landmark case of Sarla Mudgil. The question before the court was of Hindu males changing religion just to avoid punishment of Bigamy in Hindu Law. The Hon’ble Court highly discouraged this practice and ordered then Narsimha Rao govt. to start work on Uniform Civil Code. However Hon’ble Kuldip Singh J. said these observations of Court are just obiter dicta and hence not binding on the government. More sadly in 2000 in the case of Lily Thomas v. Union of India, Hon’ble court said it never issued any mandatory directions for the enactment of Uniform Civil Code.But the debate was once again started by Hon’ble court in its decision dated 23/7/2003 when court said that it was sad that even after 56 years of independence no steps were taken for the enactment of U.C.C. it can not be understood that when malpractices like bigamy and triple talak have been totally disapproved in countries like Pakistan, Iran, Morocco and Turkey etc. why India is still holding these. It is commonly debated that these are essential evils to protect secularism in India. One writer has gone to the extent by saying that bigamy exists in Muslim law to avoid adultery; so that the physical needs of Muslim male are satisfied without breaking the law. Horrible argument! If this is so then why polyandry (practice of a woman having more than one husbanded) is not there; or we may take the view that Muslim women have no right to satisfy their physical needs!Secularism is about being indifferent to religious matters of citizens and not about protecting religious malpractices. pluralism is on such height that now Sikhs are also favouring and demanding their own personal law; although this demand is made by very few and not the voice of whole of the community. Think of the day when each community will be having their own personal law. This was never intended by our great thinkers who believe in Vasudev Kutumbkam. So there are thousands of reasons favouring Uniform civil code but this dream will come true it can be easily doubted due to ugly politics prevalent in India Debate has been started and torch has been lighted by the judiciary. Now its time to start working on it before it gets too late. We hope a lot from judiciary now a day due to their active role in nation development. Let’s hope till then that every one will get at least uniform justice in the light of our great constitution. They are doing it from time since independence but hope increases with every good work done!