Uniform civil code
Uniform civil code

Uniform civil code is the ongoing point of debate within Indian mandate to replace personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in India with a common set of rules governing every citizen.

Article 44 of the Directive Principles expects the state to apply these while formulating policies for the country. Apart from being an important issue regarding secularism in India and the fundamental right to practice religion contained in Article 25, it became one of the most controversial topics in contemporary politics during the Shah Bano case in 1985.

The debate then focused on the Muslim Personal Law, which is partially based on the Sharia law and remains unreformed since 1937, permitting unilateral divorce, polygamy in the country and putting it among the nations legally applying the Sharia law. The Bano case made it a politicised public issue focused on identity politics—by means of attacking specific religious minorities versus protecting its cultural identity.

Personal laws are distinguished from public law and cover marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance. Goa has a common family law, thus being the only Indian state to have a uniform civil code. The Special Marriage Act, 1954 permits any citizen to have a civil marriage outside the realm of any specific religious personal law.

The demand for a uniform civil code was first put forward by women activists in the beginning of the twentieth century. Though a demand for a uniform civil code was made by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, his supporters and women activists, they had to finally accept the compromise of it being added to the Directive Principles because of heavy opposition.