Uniform Civil Code refers to implementation and application of such laws, personal in nature applicable to all the citizens equally irrespective of their race, religion, caste and creed. Ever since prior to India receiving independence, across the nation, the implementation and formulation of uniform civil code has always been a matter of controversy. In India, it is a significant issue regarding secularism in politics and today also it continues to be a disruptive matter for the political parties, some conservative religious sects and groups and Muslim groups in defense of the customs of their religion. At present, personal laws of different communities are different and it is governed according to their religious scriptures and text.
During the British rule, the codification procedure of Uniform Civil Code was first started. This set of rules were mainly for the Muslim and Hindu citizens. The British refrained from interfering in the domestic sphere as they feared opposition from the leaders of the community. In 1941, formation of B N Rau Committee took place in order to codify the Hindu Law post a long period. In 1956, a bill was adopted as the Hindu Succession Act on recommendations of B N Rau Committee after India’s independence. Thus, the law related to unwilled or undevised succession among the Jains, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs excluding the Muslims, Jews, Christians and Parsis as being distinct communities from Hindus, was codified and amended.
Uniform Civil Code is mainly concerned with the personal laws of all religions and communities. The laws personal in nature includes divorce, marriage, adoption, maintenance and inheritance. Under Article 44 of the Indian Constitution, the Indian states are expected to apply common laws and directive principles for all the citizens of India while formulating policies of the nation. On the other hand, Article 25-28 of the Constitution of India states religious freedom to all the citizens of India and allows the religious groups to keep up their own affairs.
The Uniform Civil Code is basically a set of three words i.e. Uniform, Civil and Code. Uniform refers to ‘same in all cases or not varying’, Civil refers to ‘associated with the people who live in the country’ and Code refers to ‘ a set of law or rules or a systematic law statement’. Thus, it can be inferred that the civil rules should not be different for all the people regardless of their religion. In Indian Context, Uniform Civil Code is the implementation of one such civil law that should be relevant to all the religious sects and communities in matters concerning marriage, maintenance allowance, divorce, adoption and inheritance. The Uniform Civil Code is mentioned under Article 44 of the Indian Constitution. The article states that, “the State shall endeavor to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India.” As stated under the Indian Constitution, the Uniform Civil Code’s appeal is accordant with the principles of fairness, equity, justice and human rights. In order to bring uniformity in the personal laws, the courts have held in their judgements that the government should shift towards a uniform civil code. The same has been observed in many cases, Shah Bano case being a popular one among these.
After the Shah Bano case in 1985, Uniform Civil Code emerged as an important topic of interest. The women’s right to life and dignity is adversely affected by the polygamy and triple talaq practices. These law sets were a matter of debate when there was question of making certain laws applicable to all the Indian citizens. The fundamental rights to practice any religion should not be curtailed by these laws. The debate was then shifted to the personal law of Muslims which is partially related to Sharia law which permits polygamy and divorce. The implementation of Uniform Civil Code was primarily opposed by the Indian Muslims and some conservative religious groups considering it as a threat to freedom of the religion.