Secularism and Uniform Civil Code

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The Constitution envisages homogeneity to be brought about in respect of all aspects of Civil Law applicable to all Indians and Article 44 says that “the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”. In fact, except for marriage, divorce, adoption and succession, all other aspects of personal Civil Law are covered by statutes, which apply to all Indians irrespective of their faith. For example, contract, transfer of property, tenancy relationships, service rules etc., apply to all citizens, irrespective of their faiths. Laws relating to marriage, inheritance and adoption cannot be said to be part of religion, however sacred, the source may be believed to be. It has been suggested with some force that the issue is really one of gender. Exclusion of personal laws limited to only these three aspects of personal law is not a question of constitutional power but political expediency. At present, the laws relating to these three subjects are governed by the personal laws of the different faiths. For example, we have the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, The Muslim Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936, the Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and the Indian Divorce Act, 1869. Article 25, itself, does not speak of the personal laws of any religious denomination. On the other hand, it contains a clause giving power to the State to regulate and restrict economic, financial, political, or other secular activities that may be associated with religious practice. To a large extent, uniformity has already been brought about within the different faiths. Hindus in different regions and belonging to different sects had different personal laws and practices. These were brought under one umbrella by the Hindu Code Bill, which made the various personal laws uniformly applicable all Hindus. The Shariat Act removed the differences between the different sects of Muslims with regard, inter alia, to inheritance. Under strict The Christian Marriage Act similarly applies equally to the various sects of all Christians. Therefore, the process of uniformity had long since started.

SECULARISM
"I do not expect India of my dreams to develop one religion, i.e., to be wholly Hindu or wholly Christian or wholly Mussalman, but I want it to be wholly tolerant, with its religions working side by side with one another.'' -Mahatma Gandhi

Secularity is the state of being separate from religion, or not being exclusively allied or against any particular religion. Secularism as a modern political and constitutional principle involves two basic propositions. The first is that people belonging to different faiths and sections of society are equal before the law, the Constitution and government policy. The second requirement is that there can be no mixing up of religion and politics. It follows therefore that there can be no discrimination against anyone on the basis of religion or faith nor is there room for the hegemony of one religion or majoritarian religious sentiments and aspirations. It is in this double sense--no discrimination against anyone on grounds of faith and separation of religion from politics--that our Constitution safeguards secularism, however imperfectly. These political principles imply also the acceptance of a somewhat more general principle: that the realm of validity of religion in the public arena and society is necessarily limited. Religion, being above all a matter of personal faith, cannot be used as the basis of settling questions of the real world, or of man in society. While individuals in society may base their values on particular religious tenets, where such questions impinge on society as a whole the basis of discussion and social consensus cannot be religion--much less one particular religion. This larger principle does not conflict with the historical fact that certain...
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