The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.

Debate Summary

Article 35, Draft Constitution of India

The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.

The Constituent Assembly took up Draft Article 35 for debate on 23 December 1948. As the text of the Draft Article suggests, it directed the State to bring about a uniform civil code across India.

The debate around the Draft Article triggered conflict. Most of the opposition to the Draft Article came from Muslim members who moved amendments to keep personal laws out of Draft Article’ scope and introduce a proviso that operationalised the Draft Article only with the prior assent of the community.

The arguments mobilised to attack the Draft Article included: first, that uniform civil code violated freedom of religion; second, the Draft Article would create disharmony within the Muslim community and third; it was wrong to interfere with personal law without the approval of religious communities.

The Draft Article did find support. Members argued that the UCC was important to uphold the unity of the country and the Constitution’s secular credentials. One member reminded Muslims members that this was not a provision that would affect the Muslim community alone – even the Hindu community had to deal with it. It was further added that women’s rights could never be secured without a UCC. Also, the argument that UCC would violate religious freedom under the Constitution was rejected - the Constitution gave space for social reform legislation. 

At the end of the debate, it was clarified that there was nothing new about the UCC: there was already a common civil code in India. The only difference with the new UCC was that it would cover marriage and inheritance – which were not under the scope of the existing code. It was also pointed out that the UCC was a Directive Principle, the State was not obliged to bring the provision into effect immediately and there was space for the consent of communities to be obtained.