Comparative Analysis of UCC with India and countries that follows UCC
Authored by Dipali Jagannath Nikam
Keywords: Uniform Civil Code, Hindu Law, Muslim Law, Hindu Code Bill, B N Rau Committee, Personal Law, Sharia Law, Sunni Islamic School of Jurisprudence, Mohammad Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum (1985), Triple Talaq, Muslim Women (Right to Protection on Divorce) Act 1986, Personal Property Protection Act, Goa Family Law, Portuguese Civil Code.
Uniform Civil Code or UCC is a formation of one law in a country. This article explains about the UCC and its comparison with other countries that follow UCC. The article introduces UCC and what it means to culturally diverse countries like India. It discusses in detail the personal laws that are followed in India and how UCC can affect it and further proceeds to understand why so far UCC is not followed. It then analyses UCC in India and other countries and then concludes with a set of recommendations in the conclusion. (1)
India is a land of unity in diversity with religions like Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Sikhism, etc coexisting; India follows secularism. It is because of these reasons that before independence we had different personal laws in India that later were divided into two different personal law systems – Hindu Law and Muslim Law. Before that, each state or kingdom had its laws governing the region. Though the personal laws had their benefits to the respective religion there are parts of it that degraded certain fundamental laws and thus had to be changed. The East India Company tried to bring reforms to the social and religious customs and it became one of the reasons for the revolt of 1857.
The British, knowing their previous mistakes were very careful during their rule, and though they decreed uniformity they never tried to step in to clear the muddle of religious norms or practices and maintained a distance in the edifices of personal laws and beliefs. To make their work easy, they made two divisions in the law. The Public Laws were governed by the concept of British and Anglo-Indian Laws which included Crime, Laws of Contract, Evidence and Land Relations, and Personal Laws involved inheritance, marriage, succession, and religious ceremonies. The personal laws were further divided into two sets – Hindu Laws and Muslim Laws but the personal laws that were patriarchal started affecting aspects of public laws and thus the basic conception of UCC began to take place.
Not only British but many social reformers of India felt that few areas of personal law misused the fundamental rights of a human and it led to the creation of the BN Rau Committee which was tasked with forming common Hindu Laws for unification. The Muslim Personal Law remained almost the same apart from a few changes in it. Post-independence, India got its constitution in the year 1950, and in the year 1956 “The Hindu Code Bill” was passed, an effort to unify the Hindu personal law. During this time a phrase was added in Article 44 specifying “that a state must secure for citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India”. This was the first step or inception of the Uniform Civil Code in India. Uniform civil code tries to incorporate all the important sections of all personal laws and make one single law for the country. It covers the entire body of laws that governs the rights relating to personal and property matters like marriage, divorce, maintenance, adoption, and inheritance. (2)
Personal Laws in India and UCC
To the country as diverse as India there have always been many personal laws ruling different communities. Most of these personal laws showed discrimination against women. This is one of the reasons why there’s a need for the Uniform Civil Code. As there are different faiths, religions, customs, and traditions involved, the mere mention of UCC opens up a plethora of emotions and debate. And most of these factors are used as a vote bank by the different factions of political parties. The Indian Judiciary has reminded time and time again to parliament through their judgments to look upon the implementation of a common code for all its citizens but the government or political parties in power either neglected it completely or fearing a communal riot never broached the subject. Socially, the masses who are fractioned by their divisions or support and unsure of the benefits of such a system in place don’t support it and religiously both majority and minority divisions are worried about losing their flavor made it impossible to even referenced.
The major conflict between the judiciary and the government in power happened in a landmark case of Mohammad Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum (1985) also popularly known as Shah Bano Case. In this case a frugal Muslim woman, Shah Bano Begum was divorced by her husband in triple talaq, a form of instant divorce accorded in the Hanafi School of Sunni Islamic Schools of Jurisprudence wherein the husband can legally divorce his wife by uttering the word talaq three times orally, in writing or on the electronic form. (3) The Supreme Court held that the victim had a right to get maintenance from her husband under Section 125 and further stated that a common code will remove the conflicting ideologies. The aftermath of such a decision met with political agitations, strikes, and meetings. The government fearing a backlash from the minority community overturned the verdict in parliament bypassing the Muslim Women (Right to Protection on Divorce) Act, 1986 which downsized the right to maintenance for Muslim Women. Not only Muslim Personal law but even Hindu Law in the name of religion and tradition showcased discrimination to women in various cases.
Why is UCC not followed in India?
Though it has been stated at various juncture about “one nation one rule”, this task is difficult to implement. To treat all the different communities equally and to impart the best of religious doctrine in one rule without breaking the fundamental right of the constitution and being heterogeneity in nature is not an easy task to achieve. The masses who are either confused with the nature of such law or support one fraction of political agendas or fear the consequences of such implementation of the law have been a factor or reason behind the non-execution of UCC. In brief, Uniform Civil Code is not followed because of political, social, and religious reasons but the current government in their election manifesto spoke about implementation, and with the judiciary continuously in heels for getting it implemented it is just a matter of time before the government comes up with a policy for UCC.
Comparative Analysis of UCC of Different Countries
Before we do a comparative analysis of UCC with different countries we need to understand that India is a homogenous society constituting heterogeneous contents. With the diversity that India boasts of, no other country can be equal and the tolerance of India is the beauty and strength that no other country claims for themselves. (4) There is virtually every country that follows a singular law or UCC whether it is civil or criminal.
The European nations and the USA have a secular law that applies equally and uniformly to all citizens irrespective of the difference in religion. Islamic countries follow a singular law based on Sharia which applies even to the Non-Muslims in the country expect like Bangladesh, Indonesia, etc where the law is secular but in some cases, it follows sharia law. Canada can be named one of the few countries that follow UCC and implement the s PPSA (Personal Property Protection Act). These ideals have been adopted in all provinces except Quebec. In India too there is only one state that follows a singular law which is Goa. The Goa Family Law is a set of civil laws originally called the Portuguese Civil Code after their annexation in 1961 and it continued to be followed even after Independence.
Implementation of UCC is not an easy task and care must be given to preserving the rich heritage of the country which includes personal faith and religion. Before implementing, the communities or lawmakers should come up with a singular law that benefits all the sections of society. Efforts should be taken in such implementation that the degradation of women doesn’t happen in such law. And above all care must be taken that such implementation should not cause any communal violence or be biased to one religion or their culture.
1. S.Sadhana & Mrs.S.bhuvaneswari, ‘A Contemporary Study On The Uniform Civil Code‘, International Journal Of Pure And Applied Mathematics, 2018 Volume 120. No – 5 https://acadpubl.eu/hub/2018-120-5/4/383.pdf
2. Diva ai, ‘Comparative Analysis Of India And Countries That Follow The Uniform Civil Code’ Ipleaders, June 23. 2020, https://blog.ipleaders.in/comparative-analysis-of-india-and-countries-that-follow-the-uniform-civil-code/
3. Triple Talaq In India ,i kipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_talaq_in_India
4. Pavlov Upadhyay, Uniform Civil Code Around The World, Lexinsider, Dec.4.2015, https://lexinsider.com/uniform-civil-code-around-the-world/