Uniform Civil Code

Lately there has been a lot of discussion about uniform civil code. And the discussion keeps popping up from time to time. Lot of the discussion happen without even understanding what does uniform civil code mean.

Article 44 of the Constitution of India states that

The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.

Now there it is in writing and it is often argued, why has it not been implemented when the constitution clearly states that?

How different are the laws for different communities?

Going by the intensity of the discussion around it seems that India has completely different laws for hindu, muslims, christians etc. While it is true that there are different laws but to what extent and for what category? It is difficult to say what % of laws are common to everybody in India but according to this article 99% of the laws in India apply to everybody.

The heated debate on Common Civil Code that one comes across today makes it appear that the greatest problem faced by India is nothing but the lack of a Common Civil Code. Political propaganda has obscured the fact that the rest 99 % of the laws in the country is ‘common’ for all and it hasn’t made any difference.

So if 99% of the law is common then what is different that needs a UCC? The controversy is about ‘codification of personal laws’.Personal laws imply laws relating to family like marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption etc. The discussions that I have had with many people often goes in the direction as if it is something to do only with the muslims and they somehow have a special privilege compared to others. This is not true. Every religion has its own laws that they want to preserve. A quick look at the wikipedia entry reveals the following…

Each and every religion does not want to lose its right to practice religious laws. Here are a few quick facts for you to understand the problem:

  • In Muslim personal law, they are allowed to have four wives, can give divorce by saying talaq three times, and after divorce the ex-husband is not responsible for ex-wife’s maintanace.
  • In Hindu inheritance rights, sons, and not daughters, can inherit the property. Or that a wife has fewer rights than her in-laws over her husband’s property, but a husband has more rights than his in-laws over his wife’s property.
  • In Christian law; a husband can get a divorce on grounds of adultery, while a wife has to prove adultery and cruelty.
  • Christians are not allowed from willing property for charitable and religious purposes (Section 118 of the Indian Succession Act).
  • In Islam, polygamy is permissible but not in other religions. According to the government statistics, only 5.2% Muslim men are polygamous while 5.8% Hindus, 9% Scheduled Caste, and 14% tribals have more than one wife.
  • In Punjab it is a common practice that all brothers marry one woman so that their property is not divided, and it is permissible by the Indian constitution.
  • Currently, Hindus, themselves, have different Hindu Personal Laws in every state of India. It will be a good start if Hindus have a Hindu Personal Law that is uniform for all Hindus in every state across the country.
  • A Sikh is allowed to carry a dagger (Kripan); if others carry it, they will be arrested by the police.
  • There is separate tax system for Hindu undivided families not for non-Hindu undivided families (Hindu Undivided Family code).

Most of the controversies related to UCC involve muslims and that is because their personal is the most visible in our society. I for one support the implementation of the UCC. There are many who support UCC as a reactionary step but I will dwelve into my reasons to support in a bit.

Do we already have a Uniform Civil Code?

Some argue that India already has a uniform civil code and this is true to a great extent. India has passed the Special Marriage Act according to which none of the restrictions of the personal law apply. The requirement howver is that one has to specifically choose to get married under the act. Meaning when a person gets married he can do so under any act i.e. the Hindu Marriage Act, Muslim Personal Law or the Special Marriage act.

Note that not every muslim is opposed to the idea of UCC and not every hindu is for it. But one wonders how many proponents of the UCC have their marriages registered under the SPA.

My Stand on UCC

As I have said before, I am for the implementation of UCC and that implementation can come in two modes. One where the parliament enacts a law and the other is where every community undergo reforms to make the laws fair. I am open to both. The only problem with the second one is that every community will take its own sweet time to come up with the reforms.

My main gripe against lack of UCC is the condition of women. In each of the personal law and in every community it is the women that are at a disadvantage. No community has worked at a satisfactory pace to improve that and hence I think the govt. cannot just sit on the side and let that happen. Empowered women in a society bring a big change. Like the say educate a man and he learns, educate a woman and the whole family learns. All the personal laws are so heavily biased against women that it will take ages to come out of it unless the govt intervenes. Communities are doing their bit although at a very slow pace. The formation of Women MPL was a step in that direction.

Some argue that we should not have UCC just to maintain the diversity that India has. The argument has merit and in an ideal case I would love to have that. But given the current scenario the logic to maintain diversity at the cost of women is not acceptable.

I have had many a discussions and here is one. Even though I support UCC, I don’t think that the lack of it is the biggest problem that India faces.

February 7, 2007 · Ajit · 12 Comments
Posted in: India, Uniform Civil Code

12 Responses

  1. Hiren - February 7, 2007

    some time ago there was some court ruling that saying Talaq three times cannot be enough for a divorce. Plain common sense says that one cannot have different laws for different citizens. What you have said anout women is true- they get a rough deal in parliament as well because of the 33% reservation not coming through.

  2. Thiagan - March 15, 2007


    You are wrong; every muslim will oppose it because UCC is against Koraan and Mohammed is a rabid misogynist. UCC is essential for the following reasons:
    > the muslim minority will have to integrate and even after sixty years, they can not remain outside mainstream;
    > Constitution stipulates it;
    > SC has enjoined on the government at least on four occasions, including in the famous Shah Bano case;
    > UCC will make women status slightly better;
    > Polygamy is an undesirable practice and should be abolished;
    > Secularism means separation of religion and societal matters; UCC is an essential pre requisite;
    > Islam will not accept it voluntarily; it should be imposed and as John Howard said in Australia, if people want Shariaa, they can go to the place of its birth;
    > it can be multicultural society; it can not have muti set of laws.

    Ali Sina and Daniel Pipes are right that Islam is a poison that will kill a plural society and the West is fast realising it. Few more terror attacks and you know who will be in the gas chambers

  3. Thiagan - March 29, 2007


    You have made a reference to the article in “Krishworld politics”. I have submitted a detailed rejoinder and I request PI to join the debate.

  4. Polite Indian - March 29, 2007

    I didn’t see you comment on that post. Maybe it is held for moderation.

  5. Thiagan - April 11, 2007


    The following comments were written as a rejoinder to the article Krish has written in his website and since he is referred to here and since he is not inclined to publish my comments, I am posting the comments in PI site for further debates.

    Krish has advanced two arguments in favour of multi civil codes:

    1) Assurances were given to the muslims, who stayed back in India after 1947, that their personal laws will be respected for ever.

    2) Indian democracy will become more meaningful, if different minorities follow their own personal laws.
    Krish has not said who gave such assurance. Muslims partitioned the country on religious basis and the muslims who stayed back in India were to be considered as illegal immigrants. No leader of any repute and even a madman would not given such an assurance at that juncture. Reason no.1 is the result of his own imagination and is a lie.

    The second reason is more bizarre. Does he mean the Christians, Jews, Parsis also will have different sets of laws and it will make Indian democracy more meaningful. It is absurd and weird; India is the only country in the world to have dual civil code and Krish wants multi civil code. He must have his head examined.
    I will come to the point. It is argued that in India muslims have been governed by shariat for centuries and it is immutable and god given. This is yet another myth. To the extent shariat applies today and some matters are judged even today according to shariat, it is because of a piece of legislation by Englishmen – The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act,1937, passed by the Central Legislative Assembly and Central Legislative Council. During the mogul period, shariat had its up and downs- from Akbar not using it, from Jehangir, whose own conduct was far from being in accordance with its prescriptions and Aurangazeb’s well known attempts to enforce them. The life of the people was generally outside the scope and provisions of shariat. The fiery and repeated exhortations of the revivalist leaders like Shah Abdul Aziz, Shah Wallilulla etc., reveal that shariat was more of an abstraction to be revered at from the distance and life was not organized according to it. As the British power consolidated, shariat became of course even less relevant. The Caste Disabilities Removal Act of 1850 removed the shariat provision that a muslim who is leaving Islam is not entitled to inheritance. Twelve years later, the Indian Evidence Act of 1872 removed the Islamic injunction that the evidentiary value of a male is twice that of female, that adultery is to established on the evidence of four male eye witnesses etc. The Married Women’s Property Act of 1874, the Majority Act of 1875, the Trasfer of Property Act of 1882, The Guardians Wards Act of 1890 and most comprehensively the Criminal Procedure Code enacted in 1898 extended uniform and modern laws to section of life to another. The laws were made applicable to all and they did not even pretend to model shariat. What was still called shariat was now an amalgam of what Islamic jurists said, of elements of Hindu laws and rulings of sundry British magistrates. It went by the name of Anglo Mohammedan Law and not shariat. The Succession Act of 1925, the Child Marriages Restraint Act of 1929 and similar acts proceeded to further modernize the legal system. In a way the Khilafat movement brought the orthodox muslims to the centre stage and the Tabligi movement started in 1920 further strengthened the orthodoxy. In 1936, Khazi Mohammed Ahamed Azmi introduced a bill in the Central Legislative Assembly, as a means countering the provisions of Saradha Act of 1929. The aim was to exclude muslims from the provisions of Saradha Act; the provision to ban child marriages was anathema to muslims, since Mohammed had married Aisha when she was six years old (she was playing in a swing and with dolls) and consummated the marriage when she was nine. The British government introduced the bill and allowed it to lapse. Claiming that the muslims yearned to be governed by shariat, the muslim members introduced a bill in Central Legislative Assembly in1935 to the effect that where the parties are muslims, “ notwithstanding any customs, usage or law to the contrary” be governed in all matters according to shariat. The bill was passed in 1937 into a law; despite many objections and the actual fact that in large parts of the country muslims were not practising shariat. In Madras Presidency the Governor wrote that the muslims were being governed by customary law from time immemorial. The muslims of Malabar and South Kanara were following the Marumakkalthayam and Aliyasanthana law, common to all communities of the region. Geoorge Joseph, member representing Madura and Ramnad, pointed out that muslims in the region were following the matriarchal laws and reversion to shariat will considerably weaken the status of women in the families. Justice Horiwill, the High Court Judge in his brief Minute remarked: “While it is doubtless a good thing that all muslims in India should have the same personal law, I do not see why they should look back to the 7th century and to the customs of other countries for their law. Reformers look forward to the time, when there will be a personal law common to the whole of India and I consider this Bill would be step backward .” The Sunni Bohras, the Memons of Kutch, the Khojas, the Muslim Girasias were all following the local Hindu laws as also the muslims in Oudh and other areas of UP. North Western Frontier Province and Assam, the muslims were following local laws. Shariat was thrust upon them even though the customary laws they were following were more women friendly. Thus it can be summed up, shariat came to India only in 1937 and it is not very ancient; it was passed by the British government and is not God given and more gender friendly laws were replaced by shariat under compulsion and protests.

    “ Therefore if it was found necessary for the purpose of evolving a single civil code applicable to all citizens irrespective their religions, certain portions of the Hindu law, not because they were contained in the Hindu laws but because they were found to be the most suitable, were incorporated into the new civil code projected by the Art.35. (later changed to 44). I am quite certain that it would not be open to any muslims to say that the framers of the civil code had done great violence to the sentiments of the muslim community.” The author is Dr.Ambedhkar. Krish, he was not definitely a Hindutva man. “ The idea is that differential systems of inheritance and other matters are some of the factors, which contribute to the differences among the different peoples of India” argued Alladi Krishnasamy Iyer and proceeded to say “ Each system of laws would , of course, influence others, that was already happening and no system of laws can remain self contained. There is no use clinging always to the past. We have decided to weld and unite ourselves into one nation. By asking for continuance of separate personal laws, are we helping those factors which help the welding together into a single nation or is this country to be kept up always as a series of competing communities? That is the question at issue.” Dr.K.M.Munshi was more forthright. “ There is one important consideration we have to bear in mind—and I want my muslim friends to realise this, that the sooner we forget this isolationist outlook on life, it will be better for the country. Religion must be restricted to spheres which legitimately appertain to religion and the rest of life must be regulated, unified and modified in such a manner that we may evolve, as early as possible, a strong and consolidated nation. Our first problem and the most important problem is to produce national unity in this country. We think we have got a national unity in this country. But there are many factors –and important factors, which offer serious dangers to our national consolidation and it is very necessary that the whole of our life, so far as it is related to secular spheres must be unified in such a way, we may be able to say, “ well we are not merely a nation because we say so, but also in effect, by the way we live, by our personal law, we are a strong and consolidated nation.” I again quote—“ Sir, I am afraid I can not accept the amendments which have been moved to this article. I do not propose to touch on the merits of the question as to whether this country should have a common civil code or not. That is a matter which I think has been dealt with sufficiently for the occasion by my friend Mr.Munshi as well as Shri. Alladi Krishnasamy Iyer.” The speaker is Dr.Ambedhkar. I quote – “ A primitive statute which still lingers in the law book is being attacked by a woman who is one of the victims struggling to squirm out of the legal tentacles of a broken marriage”, begins a typical High Court judgment of Kerala, in the Mary Sonia Zachariah vs Union of India. The other quote is more forthright —“ I want the consent of the minorities to change the course of history……Whatever may be the credit for having won a muslim homeland, please do not forget what the poor muslims have suffered……….. I respectfully appeal to the believers in the two nation theory to go and enjoy the fruits of their freedom and leave us here in peace” The speaker is Sardar Patel, clearly indicating that those who oppose common civil code should go to Pakistan and leave the others in peace. The fact is while muslim laws were being slowly changed and modernized during the British rule, the process came to an abrupt end with the independence and with that secular eunuch Jawahar Lal Nehru becoming the Prime Minister.

    Shah Bano had been married for forty three years and had borne five children. Her husband, a prosperous lawyer, threw her out. The magistrate ordered the husband to pay her a maintenance of Rs.25-00 p.m. This the High Court raised it to Rs.179-20. The SC confirmed it saying that the relevant section of Criminal Procedure Court applied to all. Hell broke loose and it was shouted that Islam was in danger. The mighty Islam is now sought to be in jeopardy, thanks to a frail old muslim lady. “ It is also a matter of regret that Art.44 of the Constitution has remained a dead letter”, the Supreme Court said, …………there is no evidence of any official activity for framing a Common Civil Code for the country. A belief seems to have gained around that it is for the muslim community to take a lead in the matter of reform of their personal laws. A Common Civil Code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to laws which have conflicting ideologies. No community is likely to bell the cat by making gratuitous concessions on this issue. It is the state which is charged with the duty of securing a Common Civil Code for the citizens of the country and unquestionably, it has the legislative competence to do so. A counsel in the case whispered, somewhat audibly, that the legislative competence is one thing, the political courage to use that competence is quite another. We understand the difficulties involved in bringing persons of different faiths and persuasions on a common platform. But a beginning has to be made if the Constitution is to have any meaning.. Inevitably the role of the reformer has to be assumed by the courts, because it is beyond the endurance of sensitive minds to allow injustice to be suffered when it is so palpable. But piecemeal attempts of courts can not take the place of a Common Civil Code. Justice to all is a far more satisfactory way of dispensing justice than justice from case to case basis.” Thus spoke the Supreme Court in the Shah Bano case. SC again lamented a few months later in Mrs.Jorden Diengdeb vc S.S.Chopra. “It was just the other day that a Constitution Bench of this court had to emphasise the urgency of infusing life in to Art.44 of the Constitution which provides that :The state shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code. The present case is yet another which focuses attention on the immediate and compulsive need for a uniform common civil code………”

    We now look at the realities at the ground level.
    > Islam treats women as commodity; initially father owns them and later taken over by the husband
    > Islam considers women as child producing factories
    > Islam considers women as deficient and inferior
    > Islam considers marriage as a contract, thus facilitating temporary marriages, read prostitution
    > Islam enjoins the payment of dowry by the groom, called dower, which means advance rent for the use of the body
    > Islam prohibits women from going out unveiled and without a male escort
    > Islam permits polygamy; this is medieval and should be abolished
    > Women inherit half of men’s share of the property; this unjust
    > A man’s evidentiary value equals of two women; this is unjust
    > Talaq stated in a drunken state is still valid; the couple can not unite except through an intermediate marriage. This is barbarism.
    > A girl is marriageable at the age of nine; this is pedophile and this should be banned.
    > Veil is a symbol of slavery and should be banned
    > Women can not divorce the husbands; only men can initiate. This is unjust and should be banned.
    > Female genital mutilation is done on girl children, 1-2 years old; this is barbaric. It should be banned.
    > Women can not start and run any business on their own; this is done to ensure their dependence on men; this should be banned.
    > Islam permits wife beating and the practice is widespread. This should be banned.
    > In addition to polygamy, Islam permits unlimited concubinage. This should be banned.

    It is not anybody’s contention that a uniform civil code will immediately abolish all the above evils. It will at least provide a legal frame work and support system for the women to get justice. This is what Winston Churchill said 1930; we can not claim that slavery has been abolished because it is there in Islam. Those who oppose uniform civil code in India are plain misogynists and apologists for Islam.

  6. Thiagan - April 13, 2007



    Let me have your response


  7. Polite Indian - April 15, 2007


    I had been on vacation for 2 weeks with limited web access. Let me go through the comments and I will definitely respond

  8. Thiagan - April 27, 2007


    Krish writes

    […] Polite Indian wants to have a sane discussion on the “Uniform Civil Code” issue. I thought I will put forward my views here. Since I am addressing everyone including the Hindutva goons here, I cannot have what Polite Indian refers to as sane debate. I will use my usual Hindutva bashing style to put forward my views. […]

    Thiagan retorts:

    I posted the above detailed refutation in your site. You refused to publish it, because you know you were defeated. It was my intention to expose you as as very superficially informed and superciliously arrogant person without a deep knowledge of the subject. Krish, I invite you to debate on the above post or any other. I find PI is honest; Krish and Sujai run for cover in the face of confrontation. I am a Hindutva goon and I will prove that you are both empty headed and loud mouthed.

  9. Polite Indian - April 27, 2007


    I agree with the need of UCC and I have made that amply evident in the post. I also agree that the personal laws of different communities are biased heavily against women. And I say that for Hindu, Muslim, Christian or any other community. That is my main reason for supporting UCC.
    UCC, in my view, is not just a Muslim thing but you make it seem so.

  10. Thiagan - May 6, 2007


    PI equates Hinudism and Christianity with Islam that all are anti women. It fails to point out the difference that while the former have and can change and correct the mistakes; Islam can never do it. It is a closed book. Politically correct and moral relativist Marxist secularists can never accept this distinction.

    UCC is a reform 99% aimed at muslims.

    I wrote the piece mainly to attract the ire of the overblown ego of Krish and shallow intellect of Sujai. Why they are not coming forward; otherwise you post a missing person notice.

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