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UCC in Uttarakhand UPSC NOTE

 What was the debate surrounding the UCC in the Constituent Assembly?

  • A UCC seeks to create a uniform set of laws to replace the distinct personal laws of every religion pertaining to subjects.

  •  Subjects  are  marriage, divorce, adoption, and inheritance. 

  • This stems from Article 44 of the Constitution which mandates that the state “shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India

  • The provision is a part of the Directive Principles of State Policy, which although not enforceable, play a pivotal role in governance.

  • Whether the provision should be included as a fundamental right or a directive principle was the subject of intense debate in India’s Constituent Assembly

  • Opponents feared that it would dilute the rights of religious minorities in India and destroy its diversity. 

  • Member Naziruddin Ahmad from Bengal argued that it would come in the way of Article 19 of the draft Constitution (now Article 25).

  • Which guarantees the fundamental right to freedom of religion subject to reasonable restrictions such as public order, morality, and health. 

  • He also emphasised that such a uniform set of laws could not be implemented without securing the consent of the concerned communities. 

  • On the other hand, member K.M. Munshi contended that a UCC would not defeat the principle of freedom of religion since the state is empowered to make laws related to religious practices if they were intended for social reform.

  • He highlighted various benefits such as promoting equality for women, since personal laws often prevent the elimination of discriminatory practices against women.

  • Taking a more ambivalent stance, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said that although a UCC was desirable, it should remain “purely voluntary” during the initial stages. 

  • He stated that since the provision was merely recommendatory, it should not be imposed upon all citizens

  • The matter was settled by a 5:4 majority vote, with the sub-committee on fundamental rights headed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel deciding that establishing a UCC should not fall within fundamental rights.

Can a State government implement a State-wide UCC?

  • In June 2022, the Uttarakhand government constituted an expert committee headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai to examine ways for the implementation of a UCC

  • The move followed Mr. Dhami’s promise that he would implement a UCC in the State if re-elected

  • The committee was supposed to submit its report in November 2022 but the deadline was extended multiple times despite the Chief Minister announcing in June last year that a draft UCC was ready.

  • Right from the start, the proposal has been met with opposition from rival political parties.

  • Congress representatives from the State have alleged that the move is BJP’s poll plank and that it wants to keep the pot simmering to polarise voters ahead of the general elections. 

  • Pritam Singh, one of the two Scheduled Tribe (ST) MLAs of the State, pointed out earlier that the tribal community which comprises 2.9% of the State’s population had not consented to the UCC. 

  • The Van Gujjar tribe, a Muslim nomadic tribe with a population of around 60,000, has also expressed apprehensions over the law.

Why has the Supreme Court not given a definite order regarding the implementation of a UCC?

  • The Supreme Court has deliberated upon the UCC in several judgments, but refused to issue any directive to the government since law-making falls within the exclusive domain of Parliament

  • In its 1985 judgment in the Shah Bano Begum case, the Court observed that “it is a matter of regret that Article 44 has remained a dead letter” and called for its implementation.

  • Such a demand was reiterated in subsequent cases such as Sarla Mudgal versus Union of India (1995), and John Vallamattom versus Union of India (2003) among others.

  • Reviving the push for a UCC, six petitions were filed in the Supreme Court between 2021-2022 seeking uniformity in divorce, maintenance, and alimony laws on the ground that they discriminated against women, thereby violating Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 15 (right against discrimination based on religion and gender) of the Constitution. 

  • However, in March last year, a Bench headed by CJI D.Y. Chandrachud dismissed these petitions by observing that such issues fall within the exclusive domain of Parliament.

  • In January last year, the Court dismissed a petition challenging the Uttarakhand government’s move to set up an expert committee on the UCC by highlighting that Article 162 permits the exercise of such powers.

  • Article 162 of the Constitution indicates that the executive power of a State extends to matters with respect to which the Legislature of the State has power to make laws. 

  • In view of the provisions of Entry 5 of the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule, the constitution of a Committee per se cannot be challenged as ultra vires,” the order read. 

  • Entry 5 of the Concurrent List deals with “marriage and divorce; infants and minors; adoption; wills, intestacy, and succession; joint family and partition; 

  • All matters in respect of which parties in judicial proceedings were immediately before the commencement of this Constitution subject to their personal law.”

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UCC in Uttarakhand UPSC NOTE
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