ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Paving Way for Uniform Civil Code

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This is in response to the article “Rights and Wrongs of Anti-conversion Law(s): Juxtaposing ‘Honour’ with Women’s Agency” (EPW, 2 January 2021). The mainstream discourse around the Special Marriage Act, 1954 dubs it as a legislation availed by people wishing to engage in interfaith marriages. However, its potential to provide a viable template for what a uniform civil code could look like in the future is rarely acknowledged.

A criticism often levelled by sceptics of the uniform civil code is that even though the judiciary has stressed the need for a uniform civil code on many occasions, there is no cogent idea among its proponents of what it would look like in practice. Scholar Donald Eugene Smith observed in his 1963 work India as a Secular State that the Special Marriage Act can be seen as a “germinal version” of the uniform civil code. The uniform civil code could simply be the Special Marriage Act writ by and large. Under the Special Marriage Act, marriage is treated as a purely civil contract where the state takes no cognisance of the religion of the parties involved. It does not require the performance of any particular ceremony or ritual and is entirely secular and rational–legal in nature. It is equally agnostic to the religious practices of all communities.

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