Ahead of the Gujarat Assembly polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state on Saturday decided to set up a committee to implement the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). The Gujarat cabinet will move a proposal to constitute a committee under a retired high court judge to evaluate all the different aspects of the UCC.
“The committee will be headed by a retired high court judge and will have three to four members,” Union minister Parshottam Rupala said.
Gujarat Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghvi said the state cabinet cleared a proposal to constitute the committee during its meeting held on Saturday.
This is considered the last meeting of the Bhupendra Patel-led cabinet as the schedule for the state elections is expected to be announced next week.
What is the UCC?
The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) calls for the formulation of one law for India, which would be applicable to all religious communities in matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adoption. The code comes under Article 44 of the Constitution, which lays down that the state shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India.
The origin of the UCC dates back to colonial India when the British government submitted its report in 1835 stressing the need for uniformity in the codification of Indian law relating to crimes, evidence, and contracts, specifically recommending that personal laws of Hindus and Muslims be kept outside such codification.
What is Article 44?
The purpose behind Article 44 is to strengthen the object of a "secular democratic republic" as enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution.
The objective of Article 44 of the Directive Principles in the Indian Constitution was to address the discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise diverse cultural groups across the country.
Dr B R Ambedkar, while formulating the Constitution had said that a UCC is desirable but for the moment it should remain voluntary, and thus Article 35 of the draft Constitution was added as a part of the Directive Principles of the State Policy in part IV of the Constitution of India as Article 44. It was incorporated into the Constitution as an aspect that would be fulfilled when the nation would be ready to accept it and the social acceptance of the UCC could be made.
The political debate around UCC
The issue has been the centre of BJP's political narrative and the saffron party was the first to promise the implementation of UCC if it comes to power. The issue was part of its 2019 Lok Sabha election manifesto.
Earlier, the BJP governments in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh had announced the implementation of the UCC in their states.
Status of UCC in India
Indian laws do follow a uniform code in most civil matters such as Indian Contract Act 1872, Civil Procedure Code, Transfer of Property Act 1882, Partnership Act 1932, Evidence Act, 1872 etc.
States, however, have made hundreds of amendments and, therefore, in certain matters, there is diversity even under these secular civil laws.
Recently, several states refused to be governed by the uniform Motor Vehicles Act, 2019.
As of now, Goa is the only state in India with a UCC.
(with PTI inputs)