• India
  • Feb 08

Uttarakhand Assembly clears Uniform Civil Code

• The Uttarakhand Assembly passed the Uniform Civil Code Bill on February 7.

• The Bill was passed by voice vote after a two-day debate in the House which concluded on February 7. The opposition's proposal for referring the legislation to a select committee of the House on the ground that they did not get enough time to study its provisions was rejected.

• The Bill will now be sent to President Droupadi Murmu for assent after which it will become a law. 

• Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said the tribals have been exempted from the purview of the bill for the conservation of their traditions, practices and rituals. 

• Several BJP-ruled states like Gujarat and Assam are keen to model their UCCs on the legislation passed by the Uttarakhand Assembly.

• Uniform Civil Code has been operational in Goa since the days of the Portugese rule.

• Goa has been following the Portuguese Civil Code 1867, which is also called Goa Civil Code. After its liberation from Portuguese rule, the UCC survived through Section 5(1) of the Goa, Daman and Diu Administration Act, 1962.

• Under Goa Civil Code, all communities, including Hindus, Muslims and Christians, in the state are governed by the same law when it comes to marriage, divorce, succession, among others. 

• If implemented, Uttarakhand will become the first state in the country after Independence to adopt the UCC. 

What is Uniform Civil Code?

• The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) aims to establish a uniform legal framework for personal matters, including marriage, divorce, adoption, inheritance, and succession for all citizens, regardless of their religion.

• Article 44 of the Constitution relating to Directive Principles of State Policy provides that State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India.

• In view of the importance of the subject matter and sensitivity involved, and the matter requiring in-depth study of the provisions of various personal laws governing different communities, the Union government requested the 21st Law Commission of India to undertake examination of various issues relating to uniform civil code and to make recommendations thereon. The term of the 21st Law Commission ended on August 31, 2018.

• The matter was taken up by the 22nd Law Commission for its consideration.

• In June 2023, the Law Commission initiated a fresh consultation process on the UCC by seeking views from stakeholders, including public and recognised religious organisations, on the issue. 

• In May 2022, the Uttarakhand government constituted a panel headed by Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai to prepare a draft of the UCC.

• The draft was handed over to Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami by the committee last week.

Some key points of the Uttarakhand UCC:

• Uttarakhand will become the first state after Independence to get a common law on marriage, divorce, land, property and inheritance for all citizens, irrespective of their religion.

• The UCC Bill applies to the whole of Uttarakhand and to people from the state living outside.

• Like marriages, live-in relationships must be registered. Live-in partners must not be under 18. But if any one of them is under 21, the registrar is bound to inform their parents or guardians.

• The Bill stipulates a penalty of up to a month in prison or a fine of Rs 10,000, or both, if the partners do not submit a statement on their relationship to the registrar within a month. They will face a higher penalty if they submit false information.

• If a woman in a live-in relationship is deserted by her partner, she can approach the court for maintenance from him. There is also a provision to terminate a live-in relationship.

• The Bill makes it clear that a marriage between a man and a woman can be solemnised if neither party has a spouse living at the time of marriage. In effect, this bans polygamy and polyandry.

• It also spells out the right to remarry after divorce or the nullification of marriage, provided there is no appeal pending.

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