A draft of a potential Uniform Civil Code named the ‘Progressive Uniform Civil Code’ (PUCC) was presented to the Chairman of the Law Commission, Justice (retd) BS Chauhan by a group of eminent citizens from various walks of life.
The signatories include TM Krishna (singer and artiste), S Irfan Habib (historian), Mukul Kesavan (writer), Dushyant (lawyer), Maj Gen S Vombetkere (retd), Nilanjana Roy (writer), Gul Panag (actor) and Bezwada Wilson (Safai Karamchari Andolan).
The draft was presented to Justice Chauhan by Dushyant, Krishna and Wilson on 11 October.
Last year, the government had asked the Law Commission to examine the issue of implementing the uniform civil code. The Law Commission sent out a questionnaire to several faith groups, leading to some hostility and concerns over ensuring that Constitutional values apply to all personal laws.
The Commission is reportedly working on the formation of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC).
What is a Uniform Civil Code?
Currently, there is a Hindu Marriage Act, a Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, a Christian Marriage Act and a Parsee Marriage and Divorce Act. Hindu Marriage Act applies to any person who is a Hindu, Buddhist, Jain or Sikh by religion.
There is also a Special Marriages Act, 1954 under which people can perform marriage irrespective of the religion followed by either person. These laws deal with the matters involving marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption, and maintenance of the respective religions.
Having a Uniform Civil Code will mean that all these laws will be replaced by a new law which will be applicable for all irrespective of their religions.
If UCC is brought into force, Triple Talaq, unequal rights of men and women to parental property, polygamy, and unequal privileges like the Hindu Undivided Family (HUF), which allows for special tax concessions to Hindus would go.
About the draft
Soli Sorabjee, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, has written a letter in support of the initiative to Justice Chauhan. His message reads: “The Law Commission should obviate any apprehension that anything uniform, would be majoritarian. Besides its recommendations need to be far-sighted and progressive.”
The draft aims to provide “equal rights in marriage, divorce, child custody, guardianship, inheritance and succession”, that too “irrespective of their gender, sex and sexuality, religious or cultural traditions or beliefs.” It talks of bringing about progressive uniform laws, “in line with globally accepted values of human rights”.
The draft code states that the spirit of the Preamble, upholding India as a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic cannot be honoured until the discrimination entrenched in all personal laws is consigned to the ash heap of history.
Article 44 of the Constitution (Directive Principle of State Policy) states that ‘The State shall endeavour to secure for citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India’.
The citizens who have drafted the code wholeheartedly believe that the UCC should be something that should ‘rejoice in humanity’ and not turn out to be majoritarian that would replace one set of inequalities with another set under the garb of UCC.