UCC : Boost or roadblock to women’s rights

 Author: Mehul Narayan Dubey, a student at Symbiosis Law School, Noida                                          


The Uniform Civil Code in India is a complex and extensively debated issue. Its fundamental aim is to explore the possibility of replacing personal laws rooted in religion and community affiliations with a unified legal framework that would be uniformly applicable to all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs. The overarching vision of the Uniform Civil Code is to establish a structured legal framework that encompasses various aspects of personal religious and civil laws across India’s diverse religions, with the goal of ensuring consistency.

Supporters argue that the UCC could potentially offer uniform personal laws to all religious, racial, caste, and creed groups, thereby potentially promoting secularism while replacing the distinct personal laws associated with different religions.1

However, it’s important to acknowledge that India’s existing legal landscape features significant diversity in matters such as marriage, divorce, succession, adoption, and guardianship. Proponents of the UCC suggest that it could safeguard the interests of vulnerable sections, including minority religions and women, while also fostering a sense of national unity. Conversely, critics contend that the current diverse personal laws, including the Hindu Marriage Act 1956, Succession Act 1956, Sharia Act 1937, Indian Divorce Act 1969, among others, lack uniformity and often result in unequal rights based on religion or gender.

Thus, the debate surrounding the Uniform Civil Code in India is intricate, and opinions on whether it would enhance or hinder women’s rights vary. Advocates and critics present valid arguments, and further discussions are necessary to comprehensively understand the potential implications of implementing a UCC on women’s rights in India.2


The purpose of this article is to :

1) Assess if the adoption of UCC will advance or impede women’s rights in India.

2) Assess whether UCC will have a positive or negative effect on women. 

3)And to quickly discuss the effects UCC’s implementation will have on women’s rights.


For the purpose of this very article the authors have relied on case laws, research papers to analyze the potential viability of UCC on women by employing Comparison mechanism which will divulge potential positives and negatives of the move.


One of the most compelling arguments in favor of a Uniform Civil Code is its potential to promote gender equality by affording women equal protections and rights regardless of their religious affiliations. Furthermore, it could comprehensively address matters such as divorce, inheritance, and maintenance uniformly, offering women consistent legal rights. In contemporary India, women’s rights face hindrances due to various discriminatory practices embedded in diverse personal laws. Thus, the implementation of uniform laws holds the promise of substantial progress for women’s rights. 

Numerous instances underscore the pivotal role of implementing a Uniform Civil Code in safeguarding and advancing women’s rights in India. For example, the landmark case of Mohd. Ahmed Khan vs. Shah Bano Begum, AIR 1985 SC 945, established that a divorced Muslim woman can claim maintenance under Section 123 CrPC, citing that Section 125 CrPC is a general provision applicable to all, irrespective of religion. 

This decision served two vital purposes:

•It brought attention to the challenges faced by Muslim women in matters related to marriage, shedding light on the discrimination they encounter.

•Most notably, it ignited a broader discourse on women’s rights and the implementation of the principle of equality.3

This discourse engaged various stakeholders, including civil society, religious institutions, lawmakers, and the public. In a democracy, few things are as productive as a spirited debate Another pressing issue was evident when some Hindus converted to Islam primarily to engage in bigamy, as seen in the case of Smt. Sarla Mudgal, President Kalyani, and others vs. Union of India (Air 1995, SC 153). To address this abuse, it was emphasized that while our culture values religious freedom, repressive religious practices that infringe upon human rights and dignity should not be tolerated. This perspective was shared by Hon. Justices Kuldeep Singh and R. Sahay. Cases like Ms. Jorden Diengdeh v. S.S. Chopra and Danial Latifi v. Union of India, among others, underscore the imperative need for reform in personal laws and the existence of substantial gaps and opportunities for exploitation that result in the infringement of women’s rights.

The verdict in the Sabarimala case, permitting women of all ages to visit the shrine, represents a significant stride towards gender equality. It vehemently challenges deeply entrenched religious traditions and underscores the imperative for a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) to establish    

equitable legal standards across different faiths. This legal ruling underscores India’s unwavering commitment to secularism, affirming that religious doctrines cannot supersede constitutional liberties. The case serves as a clarion call for a more egalitarian legal framework, exemplifying India’s dedication to combating gender bias while upholding its foundational principles. This has a similar connotation with the Bombay High Court ruling in 2016 which observed that banning women from the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Shrine was discriminatory.


The ongoing fervor surrounding the adoption of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) continues to intensify and as beneficial the UCC seems to woman rights there are some other instances to look after;


In Goa, individuals belonging to the Hindu, Muslim, and Christian communities adhere to a uniform set of laws governing marriage, divorce, and succession. This legal uniformity stems from the Goa, Daman and Diu Administration Act of 1962, which was enacted following Goa’s integration into the Indian Union in 1961. Under this act, Goa was granted the authority to apply the Portuguese Civil Code of 1867, albeit with provisions for amendment and repeal by the relevant legislative body.

Frequently, one encounters viewpoints that reference the Goa Civil Code as a precedent for the prudent management of the intricate web of personal laws in India. This legal framework, notable for its equitable application across diverse religious communities within the state, is often cited as an exemplar of pragmatic and region-specific legal systems. Advocates contend that Goa’s legal structure underscores the possibility of harmonizing distinct personal laws without an immediate nationwide implementation of a Uniform Civil Code. This discourse reflects the intricacies involved in introducing a UCC within India’s multifaceted legal milieu.4


The issue of Triple Talaq (instant divorce) in India highlights the complexities and challenges associated with implementing a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and can be seen as an argument against its immediate implementation. 

The Shamim Ara v State of U.P. and Anr. case does not provide a straightforward “yes” or “no” position regarding the support or opposition to a Uniform Civil Code (UCC). This legal case specifically addressed the concern of divorce within the Muslim community in India and underscored the necessity for reforms within personal laws to safeguard the rights of women. It does not explicitly advocate for or against the implementation of a UCC.

In the 2002 landmark case Shamim Ara v State of U.P. and Anr., the Supreme Court invalidated arbitrary triple talaq, asserting that it did not dissolve a marriage or absolve a husband’s responsibility for maintenance (nafaqah). Despite its significance, this ruling received limited media attention. Subsequently, high courts, like the Bombay High Court in cases such as Dagdu Pathan v Rahimbi Pathan (2002) and Najmunbee v S.K. Sikander S.K. Rehman (2004), endorsed the view that husbands cannot arbitrarily repudiate marriages. However, the ground reality suggests that triple talaq persists beyond legal judgments, as many divorces occur outside the judicial purview. Access to justice remains a barrier for many women, and raising awareness about pro-women judgments like Shamim Ara’s is crucial for societal change.5


Therefore, it is abundantly obvious from the aforementioned article that the influence of UCC on women’s rights is a very delicate one, and it appears that there are two sides to this problem. As simple as it seems, the issue is much more complex. It all sounds good on paper, but the implementation and execution of this particular act is not as simple, and regarding UCC, if things don’t go as planned there could be serious repercussions. Ultimately, the impact of a UCC on women’s rights would depend on the specific provisions and how it is implemented, taking into account the complex sociocultural and religious diversity in India. It’s a nuanced issue with varying opinions, and finding a balanced approach is crucial to protect both women’s rights and religious freedoms. Gender justice could be ensured if we have a uniform civil code containing the best provisions taken from all religions, with the sole aim of doing gender justice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *