States can enact laws on Uniform Civil Code (UCC): Union Law Minister

In order to achieve an unified civil code (UCC), states are permitted to introduce personal laws that address matters like succession, marriage, and divorce. This was stated before the Rajya Sabha by the Law Minister.

What did Law Minister say?

  • Entry 5 of List-III-Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution relates to personal laws such as intestacy and succession, wills, joint families and division, marriage, and divorce.
  • As a result, the States have the authority to pass laws related to them.
  • Additionally, many states have stated in their electoral manifestos that they will incorporate UCC.

Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

  • A UCC would establish a single personal civil law for the entire nation.
  • This would apply to all religious communities’ private affairs, such as adoption, inheritance, marriage, and divorce.
  • The state shall endeavour to secure a UCC for the citizens throughout the territory of India, according to Article 44 of the Constitution’s Directive Principles.
  • Although these, as defined in Article 37, are not justiciable (that is, they cannot be enforced by a court), the concepts outlined therein are crucial to good administration.

UCC vs. Right to Freedom of Religion

  • An individual’s basic right to religion is outlined in Article 25.
  • Each religious group, or any subset thereof, is guaranteed the ability to “conduct its own affairs in terms of religion” by Article 26(b).
  • The right to preserve distinctive culture is defined in Article 29.

Rational restrictions on the Freedom of Religion

  • A group’s freedom under Article 26 has not been subject to other FRs, although an individual’s freedom under Article 25 is subject to “public order, health, morality,” and other FR-related regulations.
  • There was disagreement in the Constituent Assembly over whether or not to include UCC in the chapter on fundamental rights. A vote was taken to decide the issue.
  • By a vote of 5:4, the fundamental rights subcommittee, which is chaired by Sardar Patel, determined that the clause fell beyond the purview of FRs, diminishing the significance of the UCC.

Enacting and Enforcing UCC

  • A court of law may enforce fundamental rights.
  • The phrase “state shall endeavour” appears in Article 44, whereas other articles in the chapter on “Directive Principles” use phrases like “in particular strive,” “shall in particular direct its policy,” “shall be responsibility of the state,” etc.
  • Article 43 states that the “state shall endeavour through adequate legislation,” however Article 44 does not include the words “by suitable legislation.”
  • All of this suggests that the state’s responsibility extends beyond Article 44 to other directive concepts.

Fundamental rights or directive principles

  • Fundamental rights are unquestionably more significant.
  • The Indian Constitution is built on a foundation of balance between Parts III (Fundamental Rights) and IV, the Supreme Court ruled in Minerva Mills (1980). (Directive Principles).
  • Giving one thing absolute precedence over another would disrupt the Constitution’s balance.
  • However, Article 31C, which was added by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, states that a law cannot be contested on the grounds that it violates the FRs under Articles 14 and 19 if it is made to implement any directive concept.

Why need UCC

  • All citizens would have same status under UCC.
  • Gender parity in Indian society would be encouraged.
  • The young population’s aspirations, which are influenced by liberal ideology, would be accommodated by UCC.
  • Therefore, its implementation would aid in national integration.

Obstacles to UCC implementation

  • Due to India’s diversity of religions and cultures, there are practical challenges.
  • Minorities frequently view the UCC as an infringement on their right to practise their religion.
  • It is frequently viewed as the state meddling in minority’ personal affairs.
  • The timing is not yet right, according to experts, for Indian society to accept such UCC.
  • These issues must be addressed because they are now being entirely disregarded by the noise surrounding UCC.
  • First, how can personal laws be made uniform without affecting the unique characteristics of each and every part of society?
  • Second, why do we think one community’s customs are outdated and unjust?
  • Thirdly, has other uniformities been able to eradicate inequalities which diminish the status of our society as a whole?

Way ahead

  • According to contemporary liberal conceptions, it should be the responsibility of the religious intelligentia to inform the community about its rights and obligations.
  • The government must create a favourable climate for the UCC by clarifying the details and importance of Article 44 while maintaining everyone’s trust.
  • Social changes don’t happen overnight; they happen gradually. They are frequently susceptible to media ills like false information and misinformation.
  • Our country’s social cohesion and cultural diversity must come first.
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