Uniform civil code in India is to replace the personal laws based on the few aspects of scriptures and customs of major religious communities in India with a common set of governing every citizen of india. These laws are distinguished from public law and cover marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance. Article 44 of the Directive Principles in India sets its implementation as duty of the State. Apart from being an important issue regarding secularism in India, it became one of the most controversial topics in contemporary politics during the Shah Bano case in1985. The debate then focused on the Muslim Personal Law, which is partially based on theSharia law and remains unreformed since 1937, permitting unilateral divorce and polygamy in the country.
The Bano case made it a politicised public issue focused on identity politics—by means of attacking specific religious minorities versus protecting its cultural identity. In contemporary politics, the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janta Party and the Left support it while the Congress Party and All India Muslim Personal Law Board oppose it.Goa has a common family law, thus being the only Indian state to have a uniform civil code. The Special Marriage Act, 1954 permits any citizen to have a civil marriage outside the realm of any specific religious personal law.
Personal laws were first framed during the British Raj, mainly for Hindu and Muslim citizens. The British feared opposition from community leaders and refrained from further interfering within this domestic sphere. The demand for a uniform civil code was first put forward by women activists in the beginning of the twentieth century, with the objective of women's rights, equality and secularism. Till Independence in 1947, a few law reforms were passed to improve the condition of women, especially Hindu widows. In 1956, the Indian Parliament passed Hindu Code Bill amidst significant opposition. Though a demand for a uniform civil code was made by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, his supporters and women activists, they had to finally accept the compromise of it being added to the Directive Principles because of heavy opposition.