Uttarakhand Takes Up Uniform Civil Code: Bill Explained

A government-appointed panel, led by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, has drafted a four-volume, 749-page report containing several recommendations.

The UCC draft encompasses various facets of civil life.

New Delhi:

The Uttarakhand government introduced legislation on the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the state Assembly today. Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, at the forefront of this move, said on Monday that the proposed UCC will not only be "for the good of all sections" but also align with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of 'Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas' and 'Ek Bharat, Sreshtha Bharat.'

A government-appointed panel, led by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, has drafted a four-volume, 749-page report containing several recommendations. The panel collected 2.33 lakh pieces of written feedback online and organised more than 70 public forums. During these meetings, panel members engaged with roughly 60,000 people to help develop the draft.

Among the many proposals in the UCC are a complete ban on polygamy and child marriage, a standardised marriageable age for girls across all faiths, and a uniform process for divorce. These recommendations, aimed at fostering gender equality and social cohesion, are set to be deliberated upon during the special four-day assembly session which began yesterday and will continue till Thursday.

READ | Uttarakhand Cabinet Approves Uniform Civil Code Draft On Eve Of Assembly Session

The UCC draft encompasses various facets of civil life, with recommendations extending to inheritance rights, mandatory marriage registration, and an increased marriageable age for girls, facilitating their pursuit of education before marriage. Additionally, couples failing to register their marriages will be ineligible for government facilities, in what is being seen as a push for legal documentation.

While the specifics of the draft remain undisclosed to the public, reports suggest that it will establish a legal framework encompassing marriage, divorce, land, property, and inheritance laws, irrespective of religious affiliations. If enacted, Uttarakhand will become the first state in post-Independence India to adopt the UCC, following in the footsteps of Goa, where it has been operational since the days of Portuguese rule.

The proposed UCC for Uttarakhand goes beyond religious boundaries, granting adoption rights to everyone, including Muslim women. It seeks to ban practices such as halala and iddat (Islamic practices a woman must go through after a divorce or the death of the husband), promote the declaration of live-in relationships, and simplify adoption procedures. 

The practice of iddat has been at the centre of Pakistan politics recently, with its jailed former prime minister Imran Khan's wife Bushra Khan accused of not completing the waiting period after divorcing her previous husband and marrying Khan in 2018.

Once the proposed UCC is in place, live-in relationships will have to be registered under law. Legal experts claim that registration of such relationships would benefit both men and women. 

"False cases registered by women would also come down. Legal sanctity would now be there in such cases," former DGP of Uttarakhand Ashok Kumar told NDTV.  

The draft excludes population control measures and the Scheduled Tribes, constituting 3 per cent of Uttarakhand's population.

Other key features of the UCC include equal property rights for sons and daughters, elimination of distinctions between legitimate and illegitimate children, and equal treatment for adopted and biologically born children. In the event of a person's death, the proposed UCC ensures equal property rights for the spouse, children, and parents, a departure from previous laws that limited such rights.