Uttarakhand Uniform Civil Code Bill

4 takeaways from Uttarakhand's Uniform Civil Code Bill: on live-in relationships,bigamy and more

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a concept in Indian constitutional law that aims to create a uniform set of laws governing personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adoption for all citizens irrespective of their religion. The objective of the UCC is to replace the personal laws based on religious scriptures and customs with a common set of laws applicable to all citizens.

The idea of a Uniform Civil Code is enshrined in Article 44 of the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Indian Constitution, which states: "The State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India."

Opponents of the Uniform Civil Code, however, argue that it would infringe upon religious freedom and cultural autonomy by imposing a uniform set of laws on diverse religious communities. They argue that personal laws are an integral part of religious identity and should be respected as such.

Uttarakhand UCC Bill :

1. 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.

2. This development occurred during the ongoing four-day special session of the assembly, which commenced on Monday.

3. 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.

4. Arjun Ram Meghwal, the Union Minister for Law and Justice, stated on Monday that the Uniform Civil Code is currently undergoing the consultation process and is under review by the Law Commission of India.

A draft of the UCC was presented to the Chief Minister by a five-member committee led by retired Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai. 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 fulfils a significant promise made by the BJP during the 2022 Assembly polls.

Here’s what the Bill says on some major areas related to personal laws:

1. Provisions of the UCC Bill do not apply to tribal communities: The idea of the UCC is to create a set of uniform laws applicable to all the communities in India when it comes to personal laws on marriage, inheritance, divorce, etc.

However, 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.”Given the unique customary practices of tribal communities, many have criticised the idea of the UCC over the years.

2. The Bill aims to regulate live-in relationships: The Bill makes it “obligatory for partners to a live-in relationship within a State, whether they are resident of Uttarakhand or not, to submit a statement of live-in relationship under sub-section (1) of section 381 to the Registrar within whose jurisdiction they are so living.” For couples who have been in a live-in relationship for more than a month and have not submitted the statement, a punishment has been prescribed – with imprisonment up to three months or a fine up to Rs 10,000 or both.

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”. 

3. The Bill prohibits bigamy or marriages with more than one person: Under Section 4, 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.

4. Marriage age of men and women, and “degrees for prohibited relationship” exception remain:

The third condition under Section 4 on marriage relates to the minimum age for marriage. The marriageable age for men and women remains 21 and 18, respectively.

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.

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