This article discusses mainly the idea and legal aspects of the Uniform Civil Code and examines the fundamental nature of the Uniform Civil Code, its significance, as well as its legal outlook and interpretations. It also describes the need for such a Uniform Civil Code and whether or not it should be introduced, some decisions taken by the Indian Judiciary to take-up UCC.
India is a country where different religions such as Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Sikhism, and so on are followed. India has been following secularism. It is enshrined in our Constitution after the 42nd Amendment in 1976 was included in the preamble. The word “secular” implies the State will not follow any specific religion, nor will it discriminate against the individuals because of the religion they follow. Currently, different personal laws are governing citizens in India, based on their religion, caste and community. For example, in cases of marriage, divorce, maintenance, etc., the Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists are governed by the Hindu Marriage Act of 1956. The Islamic Law governs Muslims and the Christians by Christianity. These are three wide sects of Indian private law-Hindu Law, Christian Law, and Islamic Law. If the Uniform Civil Code were established, in all such del all Indian citizens would be controlled by the same law.
Provisions of Marriage and Divorce under different Personal Laws
India has different personal laws in which four major communities follow their own religious personal laws, and are all governed by different provisions and enactments. And when we focus on the concept of marriage registration, it is compulsory in Christians and Parsis, whereas in Hindus, non-registration does not affect the validity of a marriage. They are more of a social contract in our country. Women often become victim to property disputes and bigamous relationships. They face hardships in establishing their marriage as they do not have any proof if not registered. It has been encountered in a number of cases of bigamy that the wives lose the case because of failure to prove the first or second marriage of their husbands. Also, Special Marriage Act, 1954 has been enacted which covers marriages between people of different religions, but people of the same faith can also be married under this act. A person who wants to marry someone from a different religion but wishes to retain one’s religion even after the marriage has to go through the prescribed procedure for the marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.
Some states like Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh have already enacted uniform compulsory registration of marriages, irrespective of caste, creed or religion. The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) 1979 Article 16 (2) also asks for the compulsory registration of all marriages. India is a signatory to this convention. But with the large variety of legislation, customs, traditions, and absence of legal knowledge, this treaty clause has not yet been implemented.
Also, there are various grounds prescribed for obtaining a divorce under different personal laws and acts and therefore, very difficult to implement them. In the case of Jordan Diengdeh vs. S.S. Chopra, where both the parties belonged to different religions filing for a judicial separation, where the Constitutional Court Bench emphasized the urgency of infusing life into Article 44 of the Constitution & Chinnappa Reddy, J held that “the State shall endeavour to ensure a uniform civil code for citizens throughout the territory of India. Now is the moment for a full reform of marriage law and for a uniform law to be applied to all individuals regardless of religion or caste.”
Also, in the famous landmark case of Shah Bano Begum, wherein the SC held triple talaq to be strictly unconstitutional and encouraging the implementation of UFC, J. Chandrachud observed, “Justice to all is a far more satisfactory way of dispensing justice from case to case.”
All individuals need to realize is that there are two distinct ideas of religion and legislation. The code does not aim to restrict the right to pursue any religion in any corner of the country, to be implemented soon.