Mar 22,2023 | 8 min read

Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and the Personal Laws

What is Uniform Civil Code?

The Uniform Civil Code is a proposed law that aims to formulate and enforce a set of personal laws that apply equally to all citizens, regardless of their religion. This would mean that all individuals, irrespective of their religious beliefs, would be subject to a uniform civil code that covers various areas such as marriage, divorce, maintenance, inheritance, adoption, and succession of property.

The purpose of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is to replace the existing laws that apply to specific communities with a consistent set of laws that apply to all citizens. Currently, the laws applicable to different communities, such as the Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act, Indian Christian Marriages Act, Indian Divorce Act, and Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, are inconsistent with one another. In addition, some laws, such as Sharia, which are based solely on religious scriptures, have not been codified. The UCC seeks to address these discrepancies and provide a uniform legal framework for all citizens.


Constitutional Provisions:

Article 44 in the Constitution of India provides provisions for uniform civil code for the citizens- "The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India."

Article 44 falls in Part IV which deals with the Directive Principle of State Policy (DPSP). According to Article 37 of the Indian Constitution, "Application of the principles contained in this Part- The provisions contained in this Part shall not be enforceable by any court, but the principles therein laid down are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws."

Article 25 guarantees the freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion. It is argued that the enactment of UCC, even though it fulfills the provisions of DPSP, violates Article 25. However in the case of John Vallamattom v. Union of India, AIR 2003 SC 2902, Hon'ble Supreme Court observed, "Article 44 provides that the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India. The aforesaid provision is based on the premise that there is no necessary connection between religious and personal law in a civilized society. Article 25 of the Constitution confers freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion. The aforesaid two provisions viz. Articles 25 and 44 show that the former guarantees religious freedom whereas the latter divests religion from social relations and personal law. It is no matter of doubt that marriage, succession and the like matters of a secular character cannot be brought within the guarantee enshrined under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution."


Judicial Attempt to Implement UCC:

  • Shah Bano Case [AIR 1985 SC 945; 1985 (2) SCC 556]

Mohammad Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, popularly known as Shah Bano case, involved Shah Bano's appeal to the Supreme Court in 1985 to seek maintenance under section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Her husband had divorced her after 40 years of marriage by giving triple talaq and denied her regular maintenance. The Supreme Court ruled in Shah Bano's favor, applying section 125 of the Indian Criminal Code, which is applicable to all citizens regardless of their religion. Then Chief Justice, Y.V Chandrachud, observed that a Common Civil Code would help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to law. The court also directed Parliament to frame a UCC.

However, the Rajiv Gandhi-led government was dissatisfied with the court's decision and passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 to override the Supreme Court's ruling in the Shah Bano case and maintain the Muslim Personal Law in divorce matters. The Act specified that a Muslim woman is entitled to maintenance only for the duration of the iddat, which is three months after divorce, and thereafter shifted the responsibility of her maintenance to her relatives or the Wakf Board.


  • Sarla Mudgal Case [1995 AIR 1531; 1995 SCC (3) 635]

The Supreme Court has once again directed the government on Article 44, in the case of Sarla Mudgal v Union of India. The central question in this case was whether a Hindu husband, who was married under the Hindu law, could enter into a second marriage by converting to Islam. The court concluded that such a conversion for the purpose of remarriage was an abuse of personal laws. The conversion to Islam did not dissolve the prior Hindu marriage, but could be a grounds for divorce. The second marriage would be considered null and void, and the husband who converted would be subject to the provisions of Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code. Additionally, the court emphasized the need for India to adopt a Uniform Civil Code, which would ensure that personal laws are not violated. As a result, the Indian government was ordered to provide an affidavit detailing its efforts to establish a UCC for its citizens.


  • John Vallamattom v. Union of India Case [AIR 2003 SC 2902]

In 1997, a priest named John Vallamatton from Kerala filed a writ petition claiming that Section 118 of the Indian Succession Act unfairly discriminated against Christians by placing unreasonable restrictions on their ability to donate property for religious or charitable purposes through their wills. The bench, consisting of Chief Justice of India V.V Khare, Justice S.B Sinha, and Justice A.R. Lakshmanan, deemed the section unconstitutional and struck it down. The court observed:

“Article 44 provides that the State shall endeavour to secure for all citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India. It is a matter of great regrets that Article 44 of the Constitution has not been given effect to. Parliament is still to step in for framing a common civil code in the country. A Common Civil Code will help the cause of national integration by removing the contradictions based on ideologies”.


Uniform Civil Code in Goa:

After Independence, the State of Goa implemented the Portuguese Civil Code, which introduced Uniform Civil Code (UCC) for all its citizens. According to this code, any assets owned or acquired by a married couple are held jointly. Moreover, parents are unable to disinherit their children entirely, and must pass on at least half of their property to them. Additionally, Muslim individuals who have registered their marriage in Goa are prohibited from practicing polygamy.


Recent Developments:

The Uttarakhand Government made the decision to implement a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the state in March 2022. In May 2022, a five-member committee was formed for the implementation of the UCC. Following this development, Gujarat also established a UCC panel. It is important to note that the implementation of UCC throughout the country is one of the key promises of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.




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Esha Suraj Sanas

I have acquired my BSL LLB degree from Pune University and LLM in International Commercial Law from Cardiff University, United Kingdom. I am registered with Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa as well as Bar Council of India. We have extensive experience in real estate, family matters and corporate commercial transactions. We also advise and mentor startups with their legal requirements.