Uttarakhand is set to be the first state to implement the Uniform Civil Code Bill (UCC) after a bill was introduced in the state legislative assembly on Tuesday. With treasury benches having a clear majority in the Assembly, passage of the bill appears a mere formality.
The UCC bill proposes a common law on marriage, divorce, land, property, and inheritance for all citizens irrespective of their religion in the state, excluding the Scheduled Tribes.
The Uttarakhand Cabinet gave its approval to the conclusive draft of the UCC on Sunday. The proposed UCC aims to establish uniform civil laws applicable to all communities within the state.
The Uttarakhand UCC also rejects the practices of polygamy, iddat, and halal which are part of Muslim Personal Law. The minimum age for marriage for both men and women will remain at 18 years for women and 21 years for men).
REGULATES LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIPS
The UCC also regulates live-in relationships and require a mandatory declaration to start and terminate live-in relationships. Such marriages would be registered with the registrar and a break up would entail maintenance to the ‘deserted’ wife. It also proposes a jail term of up to six months for not procuring a certificate of ‘relationship’. Thus, the Bill essentially removes the difference between live-in relationships and marriage.
The Bill requires the partners to notify the “Registrar” within a month of entering into a live-in relationship and while terminating a live-in relationship. It prescribes a jail term of upto three months for not registering a live-in relationship. In case of failing to produce a certificate of live-in relationship, a term of six months is prescribed on conviction.
The Registrar will forward the record to the police station concerned and, in case either partner is less than 21 years of age, inform the parents or guardians.
For couples, in a live-in relationship for more than a month could be sent to prison for up to three months or a fine up to Rs 10,000 or both, if they haven’t registered the relationship. Also, the registrar will have to be informed in case of termination of the relationship through the submission of a “statement of termination of relationship”.
Live-in relationships are currently dealt by Domestic Violence Act, 2005 as “domestic relationships”. The law, which also has provisions for maintenance, only recognises relationships “akin to marriage” when women complain of domestic violence. But, it gives freedom to partners to stay together and move away at will. The freedom has been taken away by the UCC bill.
this Bill’s provisions will not apply to tribal communities. The Bill says, “Nothing contained in this code shall apply to the members of any Scheduled Tribes within the meaning of clause (25) of Article 366 read with Article 142 of the Constitution of India and the persons and group of persons whose customary rights are protected under Part XXI of the Constitution of India.”
The Bill lists five conditions for marriage. It says a marriage may be solemnised or contracted between a man or a woman if those conditions are fulfilled. The first condition is: “neither party has a spouse living at the time of the marriage”, thus prohibiting bigamy or polygamy.
Under the fourth condition, the Bill retains the “custom” exception from the Hindu Marriage Act for married parties within the “degrees of prohibited relationships”.
Two people are said to be within the “degrees of prohibited relationship” if they share a common ancestry or they are the wife/husband of a common ancestor. This exception applies to those communities, which have an established custom allowing marriage within the degrees of prohibited relationships.
MORE STATES TO FOLLOW
Though Uttarakhand becomes the first state in the country to implement UCC, more BJP-ruled states are expected to follow suit. Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma has already declared to introduce a similar law in his states. And so has Gujarat.
Goa already has a similar law already in place since 1961 – when Portulgalese quit. The Portuguese Civil Code of 1867, which is still in force, mandates equal rights on income and property to both husband and wife. Every birth, marriage, and death must be registered voluntarily. There are numerous provisions for divorce. Muslims who register their marriages in Goa are prohibited from engaging in polygamy and triple talaq.
A draft of the UCC was presented to the Chief Minister by a five-member committee led by retired Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai. The state cabinet adopted the draft bill on Sunday and it was introduced and put up for discussion in the state assembly the next day.
The UCC aims to establish a consistent legal framework for marriage, divorce, land, property, and inheritance laws, regardless of religious affiliation. The passage of the UCC Bill fulfills a significant promise made by the BJP during the 2022 Assembly polls.
POLL PROMISE FULFILLED
UCC was a key campaign promise made by the BJP in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The party promised to create a uniform set of personal laws, regardless of religion, to govern subjects like marriage, inheritance, divorce, and adoption. It was one of the three contentious issues – remaining two being reconstruction of Ram Janmabhoomi Temple in Ayodhya and abrogation of Article 370 – kept on the backburner by the party due to coalition dharma between 1998 and 2004.
The party again included it in its manifesto in the poll campaign for the 2022 Uttarakhand State Assembly elections, which was spearheaded by PM Modi and CM Pushkar Singh Dhami. With UCC, the BJP has fulfilled all three key poll promises.
This promise stems from Article 44 of the Indian Constitution, which says: “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”
It is part of the Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV of the Constitution), whose provisions are not enforceable by any court, but the principles laid under them are to be considered as “fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws.”
Thus Uttarakhand Assembly has converted de facto to de jure.